Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today held a media availability to correct widespread misinformation regarding the concealed weapon license program.
EXCERPTS FROM COMMISSIONER ADAM PUTNAM’S REMARKS: [Read more…] about ICYMI: Commissioner Adam Putnam Sets Record Straight on Concealed Weapon Licenses
Home repair scams, more specifically the assignment of benefits scams, are costing Floridians millions of dollars. Learn more about home repair scams and see how you can help stop them.
The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) separates facts from myths about the Nursing Reimbursement Plan. For more information, visit fhca.org
Learn more about workers compensation in Florida and the issue that affects both employees and employers. For more information, visit workwellfl.com
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report yesterday showing that the entire continental U.S. experienced its warmest May ever on record. The report comes on the heels of a 2017 NOAA report that found the average high tide flooding in the U.S. last year was also the highest ever recorded.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said today he wasn’t surprised, and once again called on Congress act to combat the effects of climate change and sea-level rise.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that climate change and sea level rise are putting people’s lives and their property at risk,” Nelson said today on the Senate floor. “It’s reality.”
Nelson told his Senate colleagues of the real threat that Florida faces from rising seas, and invited all of them to come with him to Florida so he can show them firsthand the impacts that sea-level rise is having on the state.
“This is a sunny day in Miami Beach,” Nelson said, showing a picture of a flooded street in Miami Beach during king tide.
“What’s happened in Miami Beach is happening in the Los Olos area of Ft. Lauderdale,” Nelson continued. “St. Petersburg – which is on the opposite coast, the Gulf coast, where the city has designed its new pier out of floating docks to accommodate the rising seas as they rise up and down in Tampa Bay. Or how about St. Augustine, where the public works department is seeing nuisance flooding from high tides that overwhelms their storm water system.”
Nelson said the solution is twofold: the U.S. needs to increase its investment in new technologies such as “wind, solar, electric vehicles and more efficient buildings” and local governments need to “make our communities more resilient.”
Nelson filed legislation earlier this year to make federal financing available to communities who need to upgrade their infrastructure to address climate change-related events, such as tidal flooding, beach erosion or saltwater intrusion caused by sea level rise.
“We’ve heard countless stories from local government officials that if they could have invested before the natural catastrophe that hit them, if they could have invested before, they would have saved the federal government a lot of money by avoiding the enormous cost of the disaster response and relief itself, not to mention reducing the risk of human life,” Nelson said.
Following is a transcript of Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor.
U.S. Sen Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
June 7, 2018
Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, I want to talk today about what’s happening to the coastal communities in Florida.
Now, the presiding officer represents the state that has the most coastline, Alaska, but next to Alaska, my state of Florida has more coastline than any other state, and I would venture to say that since Alaska has very few beaches, it ought to be very clear that the state of Florida has more beaches than any other state.
And that of course is an attraction that becomes an economic engine because people from all over the world want to come to enjoy the sands of Florida’s beaches and enjoy the bounty of nature that the Lord has provided but we better watch out because we’re starting to mess it up.
Yesterday, NOAA, that’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, released data that the contiguous united States had the warmest May on record. The entire continental U.S., warmest May on record. The heat is having real world impacts.
Also, NOAA released its 2017 State of High Tide Flooding and 2018 Outlook. During 2017, the average high tide flooding in the U.S. was the highest ever recorded. And in 2018, NOAA predicts that high tide flooding will be 60% more frequent across U.S. coastlines than it was 18 years ago in 2000.
Primarily because of the local sea level rise. Now, doesn’t this suggest something? In the lower latitudes, our seas are rising. It should not surprise us.
It doesn’t surprise this senator. And we got a glimpse of this when four years ago, I took our Commerce Committee to Miami Beach and in fact had a hearing. One of the witnesses was a NASA scientist, Dr. Pierce Sellers, a very prestigious scientist and former astronaut who, unfortunately, we lost to cancer just recently. And this is what he said at the hearing. He said by the end of the century, the intensity of hurricanes will increase, but even if hurricane frequency and intensity were not to change, rising sea levels and coastal development will likely increase the impact of hurricanes and other coastal storms on the coastal communities. And the resulting effects on their infrastructure.
Well, Mr. President, I’d like you to take a peek at a picture. You know, a picture tells the real story. This is a sunny day in Miami Beach, a sunny day that the king tide is flooding Miami Beach.
Okay, that’s obvious. Look it here. But this happens frequently at high tide. So what has the city of Miami Beach had to do? Spend tens of millions of dollars on big, big pumps, raise the level of the road to try to alleviate this problem.
This is happening with some frequency in south Florida where Dr. Sellers had testified back in 2014 that projections, no, forecasts, no, measurements actually showed that the sea had risen over the last four decades 5 to 8 inches. All right.
Let’s take another look at another flooding. Now, this is Miami Beach. That’s down at the southeast part of the peninsula of Florida. But this is downtown Sarasota. Sarasota is on the gulf coast, and it’s up closer to the middle of the peninsula. In other words, about 150 miles north of the latitude that Miami Beach would be. This, the Vice Mayor brought me these pictures of Sarasota. Look at this car on the street. Pictures don’t seem to tell a false story. And then we held another field hearing in West Palm Beach a year ago, and the Broward County Resilience Officer came to Palm Beach County for that hearing and showed a video of a man biking along the city of Ft. Lauderdale sidewalk submerged in water.
In other words, what’s happened in Miami Beach is happening in the Los Olos area of Ft. Lauderdale. Then we took the committee to St. Petersburg which is on the opposite coast, the gulf coast, where the city has designed its new pier out of floating docks to accommodate the rising seas as they rise up and down in Tampa Bay.
Or how about St. Augustine, where the public works department is seeing nuisance flooding from high tides that overwhelms their storm water system. But all of these examples of how sea level rise affects coastal Florida on sunny days, not rainstorm days, and the NASA scientists at our hearing were talking about how climate could exacerbate damage from hurricanes.
Why? Because if the water is warmer, that’s the fuel for a hurricane. That’s what is sucked up into that vortex as the hurricane feeds itself. The hotter the water gets over, the more ferocious and likely frequency of those storms. Warmer ocean water fuels hurricanes, making them more intense. And the sea level rise compounds the storm surge and the rain-induced flooding.
So let me show you another image. Here’s an image that shows what Florida’s coastal communities face when the sun is not this is during a rainstorm. Here’s flooding in Jacksonville.
Where is Jacksonville? It’s at the north end of the peninsula. It’s right next almost to the Georgia line. And you can see obviously a sign that says “No skateboarding” is almost completely engulfed by the rising water.
And then you think about what about a place further south on the latitudes, Puerto Rico? Hurricane Maria absolutely ravaged that island, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that climate change and sea level rise are putting people’s lives and their property at risk. It’s reality.
I am going to continue to extend an invitation to our colleagues — I want you to come with me to Florida and I want to show you these impacts. I’ve had the privilege of taking several of our colleagues to the Florida everglades to see this unusual ecosystem that we travel about in an airboat where alligators are plentiful. I want you to come and see what’s happening as a result of the rising water.
And the real question is, what are we going to do about it? There are two pieces to the solution. One is we’re going to have to stop putting so many gases into the air called greenhouse gases. CO2 carbon dioxide and methane are the two big culprits. And part of the solution is climate mitigation. It means we must invest in new technology in the economy of the future, things like wind, solar, electric vehicles, and more efficient buildings.
And we’re going to have to make our communities more resilient to the greenhouse gases and the warming that they already have done in the system. And this is called climate change adaptation. You don’t have to agree with climate science to know that it makes sense. It makes dollars and cents to do this. We’re talking about strengthening our building codes to withstand wind events. We’re talking about restoring the function of the floodplains so that when two to three feet of rainwater suddenly gets dumped in one place, it can absorb and gradually recede.
We’re talking about rebuilding natural flood protection, like sand dunes and beaches. And in the Commerce committee, we’ve heard countless stories from local government officials that if they could have invested before the natural catastrophe that hit them, if they could have invested before, they would have saved the federal government a lot of money by avoiding the enormous cost of the disaster response and relief itself, not to mention reducing the risk of human life.
Now, the proof is in front of our very eyes. The photos that we’ve shown — let’s show the rest of them here. The photos that we have shown, they don’t lie. And yet here we are upon another hurricane season. Of course, we hope the big storms don’t come, but the likelihood is that they are. And, remember, they don’t necessarily go just to Florida.
Remember Hurricane Sandy? Look what it did to the northeast. We hope we don’t see any more of these harrowing images, but as we hope, we’re going to have to act because what we’ve shown here in these photos today is not about projections. It’s about real-time observation. Let’s quit ignoring the obvious. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) took to the Senate floor today to blast Facebook for failing to disclose that it had shared users’ personal information with at least 60 companies, including four Chinese electronics manufacturers.
According to reporting from the New York Times, among the companies with access to Facebook user data was Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which has close ties with the Chinese government and may pose a threat to U.S. national security. Other companies with Facebook data sharing arrangements included the likes of Apple, Amazon, Blackberry, Microsoft and Samsung. The companies had access to vast amounts of detailed Facebook user data, including the information of friends who may not have consented to having their personal information accessed and shared.
“The bottom line is these revelations are yet another example of questionable business practices by Facebook that could undermine basic consumer privacy,” Nelson said in a speech on the Senate floor today.
In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees to answer questions in the wake of political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvesting private data from more than 87 million Facebook profiles. During the hearing Zuckerberg apologized for his company’s negligence and pledged to do better. He also asserted that consumers own their personal information and control it how it can be seen and used. But today’s reporting in the New York Times raised questions about the accuracy of Zuckerberg’s testimony.
On the Senate floor, Nelson pointed out that while Zuckerberg told lawmakers in April that app developers were prohibited from collecting friends’ information in 2014, he failed to mention that device manufacturers were still able to access the information and never revealed the data-sharing agreements.
“…it’s hard to know what’s true anymore,” Nelson implored. “What in the world is next and what in the world is going to protect Americans’ personally identifiable private information?”
Nelson’s remarks come just one day after he sent a letter to Zuckerberg demanding answers from Facebook in the wake of an earlier Times report that the company offered numerous device manufacturers special access to private user information. The letter gave Zuckerberg a June 18 deadline to answer.
The letter Nelson sent to Zuckerberg yesterday is available here.
Following is a transcript of Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor.
Senator Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
June 6, 2018
Sen. Nelson: Madam President, it’s interesting that the majority whip just spoke about China and this senator wants to talk about Facebook and some of the things that are threatening national security and our personal privacy.
I rise to speak on the recent press reports on Facebook and how the social media giant partnered with at least 60 mobile device manufacturers and shared user information with the likes of Apple, Amazon, Blackberry, Microsoft and Samsung.
And just today on the subject of China, the New York Times is reporting that Facebook also partnered with four Chinese electronic manufacturers, including Huawei which is known to have close ties with the Chinese government and may pose a national security threat to the U.S. According to the Times, these companies had access to vast amount of Facebook’s user data, including the information of friends who may not have provided proper consent to access and share personal and their personally identifiable information.
Madam President, we don’t know all the facts yet, but it’s clear what Facebook claims and what the New York Times is reporting, it doesn’t end up squaring up. As a result, the chairman of the Commerce Committee, Senator Thune, and I as ranking member wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking that he answer a number of questions about the New York Times reporting.
Specifically, Senator Thune and I want to know who exactly these business partners are and what are the nature of these agreements. We want to know what safeguards are in place and whether Facebook conducted adequate oversight to protect user customer information from unauthorized use and storage.
And we also ask whether Facebook users and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were aware of these business agreements. Currently, Facebook is operating under a 2011 consent order as part of a settlement with the FTC. And it’s not clear whether their data sharing agreements are in violation of that order.
The bottom line is these revelations are yet another example of questionable business practices by Facebook that could undermine basic consumer privacy . Remember, less than two months ago, Mr. Zuckerberg appeared in front of our committee and a joint committee hearing with the Judiciary Committee to answer questions in the face of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.
In that hearing Mr. Zuckerberg apologized for his company’s negligence and pledged to do better. He also asserted that consumers own their personal information and control it how it can be seen and used. I want to repeat what I said. He — this is Zuckerberg — asserted that consumers, their users, own their personal information and control how it can be seen and used. That’s what Zuckerberg told our committee. But the reporting in the New York Times suggests that’s not accurate.
While Mr. Zuckerberg asserted that developers were prohibited from collecting friends’ information in 2014, he failed to mention that device manufacturers were still able to access the information. He never revealed these data-sharing agreements in our hearing in April.
As a result, it’s hard to know what’s true anymore. And now we learn that Facebook gave Chinese companies believed to be national security risks access to user data. What in the world is next and what in the world is going to protect Americans’ personally identifiable private information?
Madam President, Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world with over two billion users. And in the U.S., over 200 million users. And those users interact with each other and post sensitive personal information. The company has a unique responsibility to its users to be vigilant caretakers of their personally identifiable information.
They also have a responsibility to be transparent. I look forward to Mr. Zuckerberg’s response to the letter that Senator Thune and I had sent to him just recently. And it’s high time that Congress act to provide all American consumers with the basic privacy protections that they expect and that they deserve to be protected. And they’re counting on us to do Madam President, I yield the floor.
Governor Rick Scott met with Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford and Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas to prepare for upcoming impacts from Subtropical Storm Alberto. At the meeting, Gov. Scott urged Floridians to watch the weather closely and make a plan. To make a plan, visit FLGetaPlan.com.
The Governor will continue to be in constant communication with state and local emergency management officials and state agency leaders to ensure the state is prepared to respond to any potential impacts from Subtropical Storm Alberto. In an abundance of caution as the State of Florida continues to monitor Subtropical Storm Alberto and prepare for impacts over the coming days, Governor Scott has directed that the State Emergency Operations Center activate to Level 2.
*NOTE: Gov. Scott made these remarks while the storm was categorized as Invest 90L. At 11am, the National Hurricane System classified the storm as Subtropical Storm Alberto.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) filed legislation today to hire more mental health professionals in schools across the country.
The move comes in the wake of recent school shootings in Florida and Texas, and a 2016 report from the Florida Association of School Psychologists that found Florida has only one school psychologist for every 1,983 students.
Compared to the nationally recommended ratio of between 500 and 700 students per psychologist, the data shows Florida has only one-fourth the number of school psychologists it needs to properly care for its students. And that lack of available mental health professionals in Florida’s schools is one of the reasons why only a small percentage of children in Florida who need mental health services receive them.
“We can’t allow what happened in Parkland and in Texas to become the new normal in this country,” Nelson said on the Senate floor Monday. “We have to do more to protect our kids in school and ensure that any student who needs mental health services is able to get them.”
If approved, the legislation would require the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a study to determine which areas of the country have a shortage of school mental health professionals. It would also provide federal education grants to colleges and universities that partner with low-income school districts to train school counselors, social workers, psychologists and other mental health professionals in the underserved school districts that need them the most.
And finally, to encourage metal health professionals to work in these school districts, Nelson’s bill would establish a federal student loan forgiveness program for mental health professionals who work at least five years in a low-income school district.
Nelson says he started working on the measure in the wake of the Parkland tragedy but last week’s shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas created a new sense of urgency in getting it approved.
The lack of mental health professionals at schools in Florida was one of several issues raised in the wake of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier this year. In response to the tragedy, the Florida Legislature approved $69 million to provide additional mental health resources in schools in Florida.
Some mental health professionals have said the funding approved by the Legislature is a good first step, but still not enough. They also say even more will be needed to hire mental health professionals in areas that have been traditionally hard to staff, such as rural and low-income school districts.
To help address those issues, among others, Nelson’s legislation would create federal-grant funding and student-loan forgiveness opportunities specifically for the counselors and higher-education programs that work to provide services in the districts that need them the most.
The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
Text of the bill is available here.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), in speaking on the Senate floor this afternoon, blasted the state of Florida for its refusal to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly 800,000 poor and disabled individuals in his state.
Nelson’s off-the-cuff remarks about Florida’s refusal to expand the program came in response to a speech Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) had just concluded about improving rural health care and Alabama’s “shortsighted decision” not to expand its Medicaid program.
“I also want to thank the senator for his comments about how shortsighted it is that the government, as he stated, of his state of Alabama and certainly the government of my state, the state of Florida, refuses to expand Medicaid and has so for almost seven years,” Nelson said.
“There’s almost $5 billion a year that is sitting on the shelf,” Nelson said, “that is Florida taxpayer money that is going elsewhere,” “In my state of Florida, that is 800,000 people, almost a million people, poor people, disabled folks that would be getting health care,” Nelson continued. “What do they do? They end up going to the emergency room.” “And of course, when treated at the emergency room – the most expensive place at the most expensive time – lo and behold it’s ‘uncompensated care’ and the hospital can’t eat all of that uncompensated care,” Nelson said. “What happens? All of the rest of us pay by increases in our premiums.”