Florida's stance against the Maduro regime in Venezuela touched off an exchange this week involving anticipated 2018 political rivals Rick Scott and Bill Nelson.
Next Wednesday, Scott and state Cabinet members will back a resolution declaring that until “it is otherwise prudent do so,” the future investment policy of the State Board of Administration will be to prohibit deals involving companies that have financial ties to the Venezuela regime.
John Kuczwanski, communications manager for the State Board of Administration, told Cabinet aides on Wednesday the resolution “prohibits the state board from investing in certain investments in or with Venezuela.”
In other words, no future deals.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who is expected to face a challenge in 2018 from Scott, said the Republican governor initially vowed --- as a show of solidarity with Venezuelans opposed to the leftist Maduro --- to seek to prohibit the state from doing business with any company with financial ties to Maduro.
While meeting Tuesday with reporters at Tallahassee International Airport, Nelson said the Cabinet resolution doesn't go far enough.
Nelson said Scott has “backtracked” on an initial statement calling for a blanket ban on deals, which would run counter to investments Florida has through Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs.
Scott hasn't named or targeted any individual companies, but state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, has been critical of Goldman Sachs Asset Management for a purchase --- on behalf of clients through a broker in the secondary market --- of $2.8 billion in bonds of Venezuela's state-run oil company.
Rodriguez filed a proposal (SB 70) on Wednesday that would require the State Board of Administration to divest from companies doing business with Venezuela.
Goldman Sachs, an investment manager of part of what is known as Florida's “long duration portfolio,” had as of July an allocation from the state of $478 million. It has upped its state lobbying efforts since Scott's initial Venezuela proposal.
Nelson said rather than issue a Cabinet resolution, a more effective measure may be to impose economic sanctions --- something that is being done at the federal level --- against members of a new Venezuela assembly elected under questionable circumstances to redraft the nation's Constitution.
“They all love to come to Miami, and they all love to stash cash in bank accounts outside Venezuela, Nelson said. “That would go a long way to ratchet up the heat.”
The governor's office responded by trying to paint Nelson as having done little to assist the South American nation.
“Instead of fighting to bring democracy to Venezuela during his long career in Congress, the senator instead chooses to criticize a prohibition on Florida doing business with the Maduro regime,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement. “Gov. Scott will continue to work to find ways to fight for freedom and democracy in Venezuela, and the senator should do the same.”
FLORIDA ROCKETING INTO A `GOLDEN AGE'
Florida has “glory days” ahead for space exploration, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam predicted on Tuesday.
“The golden age for space for Florida, (not) because of our legacy in space, but because of the private sector investment, our golden age is in front of us, not behind us,” said Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor next year, said during the Florida Chamber Foundation's Military, Defense & Veterans Opportunities Summit at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld.
Pointing to the emerging space race between Elon Musk's SpaceX, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Putnam said residents on Florida's Space Coast should expect to hear the rumble of up to 60 launches a year.
More than that, Putnam said Florida will need skilled workers to handle the entire supply chain for numerous companies that emulate Bezos' Blue Origin, which anticipates opening the 750,000-square-foot New Glenn rocket-production facility south of Cape Canaveral by the end of the year, with test launches expected by the end of the decade at the Space Florida-leased Complex 36.
That's where Florida's embrace of the military will help.
Putnam said Florida's support of the military is part of the reason it has been able to see growth of civilian rocket efforts tied to government programs.
“It didn't have to be in Florida,” Putnam said. “It could have been on the eastern shore of Maryland. It could have been Alaska. It could have been Texas. It could have been a lot of places. But Florida fought for it and won that increased investment. Military and defense spending in Florida is force multiplier for the private-sector investments we're seeing now.”
SHELTER FROM THE STORM
With a thunderstorm rumbling outside, Sen. Jack Latvala may have tempted fate last Friday.
Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, had invited the gruff chairman of the Appropriations Committee to the rural Panhandle community of Blountstown on a fact-finding tour.
“I asked Bill to do this now because I wanted to get it out of the way before we got into a political campaign or a political time of year,” Latvala, R-Clearwater, told the more than 75 people inside Rivertown Community Church.
But Latvala, who is close to an announcement on running for governor, was well aware of the setting.
“Also, this is an opportunity for Bill to get me inside of a church,” Latvala continued as an aside to Montford that drew some laughter. “You've been successful, where my wife has failed.”
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Keeping markets open and avoiding trade protectionism is critical to FL economy. Is Washington and Tallahassee listening?” --- Tony Villamil (@TonyVillamil), former U.S. undersecretary of commerce and economic-development chief under former Gov. Jeb Bush.