U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent the following letter today to President Trump in support of the state of Florida’s request for a major disaster declaration for Florida counties that have been heavily impacted by Hurricane Michael. [Read more…] about Nelson & Rubio request all federal resources available for storm
Sen. Bill Nelson
High Support for Restoring Felon Voting Rights Among Likely Voters
The Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida has a new poll of likely voters that reveals Andrew Gillum in the lead for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Florida, with Ron DeSantis close behind, and Sen. Bill Nelson locked in a dead heat with Gov. Rick Scott in the upcoming Senate election for the state of Florida. [Read more…] about New UNF Poll Shows Gillum Ahead of DeSantis for Governor, Nelson/Scott Tied for Senate
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor today to urge Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to immediately schedule a vote on the Water Resources Development Act. The legislation includes a provision that would authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to begin work on the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. [Read more…] about Nelson urges GOP leaders to take up Senate water bill
The U.S. Senate today passed a sweeping bill aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.
Included in the measure were several provisions championed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). [Read more…] about Senate passes sweeping opioid bill
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor today to urge the placement of early voting sites on college campuses before the upcoming midterm elections.
Sen. Nelson’s speech comes on the heels of a recent report that indicates that it’s unlikely the University of North Florida will host an early voting site available to students in time for the upcoming midterm elections, despite a ruling issued by a federal judge in Florida last month that permits early voting sites on college campuses.
“I’m hopeful that the logistical and other issues can be resolved as quickly as possible and that Florida’s universities can host early voting during the general election,” Nelson said.
Here is a link to a video of his remarks: https://youtu.be/ZYa92X4QpMk
And you can find a rush transcript of his remarks and the WJCT article he referenced in his speech below:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
August 20, 2018
Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, folks are voting today in Florida. As a matter of fact, they’ve been voting for some now weeks since Florida has started voting, which started a couple of weeks ago, and they’re voting in early voting, a period of time of up to two weeks prior to the August primary, the 28th of August. They’re voting early in these elections. They’re exercising their most fundamental right, which is to vote. And of course there’s so much at stake for Florida and our country in this year’s elections.
Last month a federal judge in Florida overturned a 2014 ban on early voting, and it was a ban on college campuses. Back in 2014, the legislature passed and the governor signed into law a series of restrictions to make it harder to vote instead of easier. And one of them that was then implemented by the division of elections, secretary of state, was that there could not be a voting place on a college campus.
Well, Mr. President, we have state universities just like other states do that have huge numbers of students. And of course if you want to make it easier for students to vote instead of having to go out in the community, it’s quite logical to have a place for them to vote on the campus. Well, that has been the attempt in the past, was to ban the voting.
And the particular case that I weighed in on a few years ago was they were banning voting from the student union building at the university of Florida in Gainesville, a campus, by the way, that enrolls some multiples of tens of thousands of students. Well, a federal judge, in a scathing opinion, overturned this ruling, saying that the ban by Florida law was unconstitutional and that it seemed to put in place a prohibition of a geographical location of voting as a means by which to hinder younger voters, specifically students, from casting their ballots.
And because of the judge’s ruling, the federal judge, there now will be an early voting location on the campus of the University of Florida during the general election in this coming November.
But according to press reports, it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case in all places around Florida’s colleges and universities.
We have just read a newspaper report that Supervisor of Elections in Duval County — that’s Jacksonville — says he might not be able to set up an early voting location on the campus of the university of Florida in time for the general election due to logistical and financial concerns.
Well, I hope now that the federal judge has ruled in this case, making it very clear the judge’s displeasure of not making it convenient for students to vote by refusing to set up a precinct on the location of the college, in this case university campus, I’m hopeful that the logistical and other issues can be resolved as quickly as possible and that Florida’s universities can host early voting during the general election.
Early voting is a key to ensuring access to the ballot for all voters. What we’ve found with the early voting, and now with vote by mail, that increasingly larger percentages of the voting electorate are utilizing that opportunity to vote instead of waiting until the last day, election day, November 6.
Unfortunately we’ve seen some efforts in Florida over the last decade to curb access to early voting, particularly among young, low-income, and minority voters. We ought to be making it easier to vote, not harder. And I hope in all of the multiplicity of universities and colleges all around Florida that the supervisors of election will pay attention to the federal judge’s ruling and act accordingly.
Madam president, I yield the floor.
Duval Elections Supervisor: It’s Unlikely UNF Will Offer Early Voting By November Elections (WJCT)
By BRENDAN RIVERS
PUBLISHED: AUG 17, 2018
Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan says he is talking to the University of North Florida about a potential early voting site on the campus for the November elections, but it’s unlikely to happen due to logistical issues.
Local elections officials, like Hogan, have been put under pressure to get early voting sites on college and university campuses across the state. That comes after Secretary of State Ken Detzner told a federal judge that Florida would comply with an July 24 order that struck down a policy barring early voting sites on college and university campuses.
The ruling resolved questions over a 2014 advisory opinion by state Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews, advising elections supervisors that a 2013 law expanding early voting sites to various public facilities didn’t apply to colleges or universities.
The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and six University of Florida and Florida State University students filed a lawsuit challenging that guideline earlier this year.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker sided with those students and the voting-rights groups when he found that the Department of State’s ban against campus early-voting sites was “facially discriminatory on account of age.” While Walker’s ruling doesn’t require voting sites on college and university campuses, it makes it clear they are an option.
But the ruling came too late to get early voting sites set up at college and university campuses before this month’s primaries because supervisors of elections are required to publicize their early voting sites at least 30 days before elections begin. Hogan had already posted Duval’s early voting sites because early voting was scheduled to begin in the county on Monday, Aug. 13.
And Hogan said it’s not likely to happen by the November elections either. He said in addition to UNF, he’s been asked to open a site at historically black Edward Waters College.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said. “We might be able to pull this one off, but we’ve gotta do all our homework, and we’ve gotta do it in a hurry.”
Hogan said he’s not yet convinced it would be worth the money and effort.
“I’ve been in contact with the University of North Florida,” Hogan said. “We’ve met, physically, once, and we’re trying to work out some type of arrangement that will enhance voting opportunities for the students on the college campus.”
But he said that might not mean an actual early voting site on the campus.
“One of the things we’re talking about is maybe providing a shuttle from the student center to the early voting site, if it’s off campus.” He went on to say, “Maybe we’ll send a crew over there that will allow students to sign up for mail ballots. In Duval County we pay for the return postage. There are a host of things we’re looking at.”
Hogan said when it comes down to it, the decision will depend on the size and density of the UNF voting population.
UNF officials say nearly 3,400 students live on campus. That’s out of a total population of almost 16,500 – making UNF a commuter school, for the most part. That means most students wouldn’t be voting on campus anyways. They’d be voting in their neighborhoods or wherever they live.
And even if Hogan and UNF officials agree to set up an early voting site and they’re somehow able to hash out the details before the site posting deadline, which is Oct. 7, several logistical issues could still keep things from materializing before November.
One is money.
The Supervisor of Elections doesn’t have room in his budget to add any new sites, he said. But, the city is going through the budget process now and Hogan thinks the Council would agree to additional funding needed to cover salaries and equipment that would be required at any new sites.
Another issue is the equipment.
“I just had them do an inventory of equipment. We have enough equipment, if we had to open two new sites.” said Hogan. “But, we have no backups. And in elections you have to have backups, because, again, there’s no tomorrow. Everything has to be done that day.”
And Hogan said if he were to order new equipment, it could take two to three weeks for it to arrive if it’s even in stock. And, according to Hogan, “This is a time when their stock is depleted because everybody’s asking for stuff.”
“I want to make it perfectly clear that we enjoy the fact that we have another option on our list.” said Hogan. “And it’s not that we don’t want to do this, it’s that we don’t think we’ve got the time and the resources to get it done considering where we are in this election cycle.”
140 Members of Congress Call on the Trump Administration
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and more than 140 other members of Congress called on the Trump administration to immediately end its “morally reprehensible” policy of charging detained migrant parents who have been separated from their children as much as eight dollars per minute to speak to their child by phone. [Read more…] about U.S. Sen Bill Nelson’s Call to Action
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced the allocation of $22.8 million to 15 public transit systems across Florida impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The funding, sought by U.S Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), will help the agencies pay for hurricane response costs, including replacing and repairing damaged equipment and facilities and projects designed to reduce the risk of future storms.
“This is welcome news for a number of transit systems in Florida,” said Nelson. “For months they’ve had to struggle to find ways to pay for damages caused by last year’s devastating hurricanes. Thankfully, they’re finally getting some relief.”
Congress approved $330 million for the FTA’s Emergency Relief Program in February. In addition to Florida, the FTA today also announced transit agency allocations of $223.5 million for Puerto Rico, $23.3 million for Texas, $6.7 million for the U.S. Virgin Islands and $187,000 for Georgia.
Below are the Florida agencies receiving funding. Click here for the FTA’s funding announcement in today’s Federal Register.
Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority
Jacksonville Transportation Authority
City of Key West
Lynx/Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority
Manatee County Board of County Commissioners
Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
South Florida Regional Transportation Authority
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) renewed his call today for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to explain exactly what he meant when he said that Florida would be “off the table” to new offshore oil drilling.
The move comes in response to comments made last week by a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott who said the governor “supports a 125-mile barrier around Florida,” a move that would allow oil rigs to drill 110 miles closer to Tampa Bay than they are currently allowed under federal law. Nelson says despite a Jan. 9 news conference where both Scott and Zinke announced that they had reached a deal to keep Florida “off the table” to new drilling, more recent comments made by both men suggest that “off the table” may not necessarily mean maintaining the current moratorium.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) took to the Senate floor today to blast the state of Florida’s refusal to accept more than $19 million in federal funds to enhance the security of its voting equipment before the upcoming November elections.
“When you consider the risk and what Russia did, that the intelligence community all agree it did to us in the last election, why in the world would the state of Florida not apply for any of the $19 million set aside for our state?” Nelson said.
The funding was made available to states as part of a government spending bill Congress passed in March. That bill set aside more than $380 million to help state election officials strengthen their election security and update their election equipment. Of that $380 million that would be available to states, $19.2 million was specifically set aside for Florida.
Yet, despite an announcement today by the governor of Florida that he was directing Florida’s Secretary of State to start drawing down the federal funds, Florida has not done so. In fact, according to published news reports, Florida’s Secretary of State said recently that he doesn’t plan to make any of the federal funding available to local counties before the upcoming election.
“While at least a dozen of other states have taken advantage by applying for and receiving the funding to help them protect their systems from Russian intrusion, my state of Florida hasn’t even applied for one single dollar of the $19 million set aside for Florida. Not one,” Nelson said.
Following is a transcript of Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
May 23, 2018
Sen. Nelson: Madam president, the right to vote is one of the most precious rights that we have here in America. How we protect it is so cherished and it’s cherished by a lot of people all over the world that don’t get a chance to exercise that right.
Our constitutional foundation is built on a process of free and fair and unfettered elections. Well, what happened in this country two years ago put a crack in that foundation and it started to sow the seeds of doubt that if gone unchecked, could undermine our entire democracy.
After painstaking analyses by the intelligence community, we know complete agreement in the intelligence community, unanimous in the I.C., we know that Russia interfered in our 2016 election. And we know that Russia continues to meddle in the elections of not only our country now but in other countries around the world. We saw that in the elections in Europe last year.
Fortunately, what they tried in France backfired on them, and they didn’t get their candidate to win. We also know that if we don’t act now, they’re likely going to continue this interference and the election here in this country is coming up in just a few months.
So the threat that we face today from Russia meddling in our elections and attempting to undermine our democracy, it’s really one of the greatest threats that we face. Congress recognizes this threat, and we have taken action to protect that vote, but none of it matters if the states, the respective states won’t work with us and take this threat seriously.
So last March we passed a bill here that authorized $380 million to help states’ elections officials strengthen their election security and update their election equipment. Now, $19 million of that total, that total of $380 million for the country, $19 million of it was set aside for my state, the state of Florida. And while at least a dozen of other states have taken advantage by applying for and receiving the funding to help them protect therapy systems better from Russian intrusion, my state of Florida hasn’t even applied for one single dollar of the $19 million set aside for Florida. Not one.
In fact, the government of Florida through Florida’s secretary of state said recently that he’s not planning to apply for any funding to improve security during the upcoming November election. Obviously, when you consider the risk and what Russia did that the intelligence community all agree did to us in the last election, why in the world would the state of Florida not apply for any of the $19 million set aside for our state?
So we know that Russia had already intruded into the election mechanism and records of 21 states. The state of Florida was one of those states. And although we don’t know what kind of interference the Russians are going to try in this upcoming November, we do know that Russian president Vladimir Putin having interfered in 2016 and causing so much chaos and, therefore, attacking the very foundation of our constitutional democracy is likely to do it again.
So why wouldn’t the government of the state of Florida apply for $19 million of funds set aside for Florida to upgrade and protect our election system? We know we’re not the only country that has been attacked. According to the U.S. Intelligence community, he obviously is going to continue this so we better get ready. And that’s why we have such a heavy responsibility to defend America from these kinds of attacks.
And to defend our process of free and fair and unfettered elections. We need to rebuild trust in our elections and, at the same time, we need to ensure that every citizen who wants to exercise their right to vote has the confidence that their vote can be exercised. It also can be counted, and it can be counted as they intended it to count. Well, remember this goes back to 1965.
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect the right of every citizen to vote. But in a 5-4 supreme court decision, it declared that part of that law was outdated, and it removed much-needed voter protections that we’ve come to rely on for minorities, and we’ve come to rely on it for the last half-century.
And part of that supreme court decision struck down part of the law as it applied to protecting minorities in certain counties in the state of Florida. The justices voted to strike down that important part of the voting rights act on a 5-4 decision because they said it was outdated because we no longer have the blatant voter suppression tactics that we once did years and decades ago. Madam president, I disagree.
We’ve seen a lot of voter suppression. Just take since the 2010 election, we’ve seen a number of states, including my state of Florida, approve voting restrictions targeted directly at reducing turnout among young, low income and minority voters. Why? Because they traditionally support one particular party. In 2011, for example, the Florida legislature and state officials and the governor of Florida reduced the number of early voting days in Florida, including canceling the Sunday as an early voting date of the Sunday before the Tuesday elections.
And it’s not a coincidence that we find in the use of early voting days — particularly on weekends but particularly on that Sunday before the Tuesday election when people have now become sensitive and recognize that there’s about to be election day, particularly minority voters — African Americans as well as hispanics — in Florida took advantage of voting when they did not have to go to work. You heard the term “Souls to the polls.” So often many church members after church on Sunday would go to the polls.
And so they made voting more difficult for people, also who had moved to a different county. It became more difficult, even though we have a very mobile population moving within a state , and they also made it more difficult for young people, particularly college students, who changed their address because they moved and wanted to vote in the town where the university was but that their identification often was their driver’s license, and it showed their parents’ residence. Again making it more difficult instead of making it easier to vote.
And the state of Florida, they subjected voter registration groups, like the League of Women Voters that had been registering voters for three-quarters of a century, suddenly they subjected them to penalties and fines if they didn’t turn it in, the signatures, within a short period of time, which was impossible if you got the signatures over a weekend, and knit-picking on penalties and fines on some small mistake when they were trying to help someone register to vote.
Happily, the League of Women Voters took that to federal court, and the federal judge threw that law out as unconstitutional. But what happened, by the time of that decision, it was right before the election, and lo and behold the League of Women Voters had lost a year and a half of voter registration.
In 2014, an elections official — now, you can’t believe this. In Miami-Dade, which was coincidentally one of the more democratic counties in the state , a Miami-Dade elections official closed restrooms to voters who were waiting in line at the polling sites. As a matter of fact, there was so much chaos in one previous election, the election of 2012, that lines were upwards of seven hours long.
I’ll never forget the woman who was a century old — 100 years — everybody kept bringing her a chair, bringing her water. Well, some of those waiting in lines didn’t have the opportunity to go to the restroom yet, despite voting hours and hours.
And that same election cycle, 2014, the state’s top election official told a local elections supervisor not to allow voters to submit absentee ballots at remote dropoff sites, ordering that that elections official, that there could only be one site. That supervisor of elections, by the way, told the state of Florida to go take a hike, that they had a way of securing the ballots by dropping it in several different sites that were formally approved.
And then the state of Florida denied a request from the city of Gainesville to use a University of Florida campus building for early voting, a move seen by some as a direct assault on student voting. Now, can you believe that? We’re going to order the state of Florida government, through the secretary of state, is going to order the university of Florida not to allow the student center on campus to be a place of convenience for students to cast an early vote. And that order has stood. It stood — instead of making it easier for people to vote, making it harder. And too often here we have let these things go.
Well, this senator is not letting it go because the League of Women Voters in Florida has now taken the government of the state of Florida in to federal court on behalf of students at the University of Florida as well as Florida State, saying that you arbitrarily saying we cannot vote in a convenient place on campus in a public building, government-owned public building on campus, that you cannot order us that we cannot use that.
In anticipation, this court case of this coming November’s elections. So, too often we find ourselves divided on these issues of party politics, but that shouldn’t be the case. There should be no disagreement when it comes to protecting the right to vote and making it easier, not harder, for people to vote. Why? Because we ought to be Americans first, not partisans first. We should be Americans first. And the state of Florida should get its act in order to let the people vote. Madam president, I yield the floor.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation Tuesday that would require the federal government to explore the use of telehealth as a cost-efficient way to provide students with substance use disorders – such as an addiction to alcohol or opioids – the professional help they need at their school health clinics.
The legislation – known as the Telehealth for Children’s Access to Services and Treatment Act (TeleCAST Act) – would direct the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to study options to provide students Medicaid-funded telehealth services at their school health centers, especially in rural and underserved areas where the number of available doctors is more scarce.
“The nation’s opioid crisis is devastating our communities,” Nelson said. “Providing our students easy access to the treat these substance use disorders sooner rather than later is just another small step we can take in this ongoing fight against this growing public health emergency.”
Telehealth services allow patients to meet with a doctor via video conferencing or over the phone, instead of requiring them to meet in person.
By using telehealth services, one doctor can be available to students at multiple schools in a single day. It also eliminates the time and expense that often prohibits some rural patients from seeking help from a doctor located miles away.
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tom Carper (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Here is a copy of the TeleCAST Act.