Fighting for Florida

This week, I had the pleasure of touring Costa Del Mar, a rapidly growing business in Daytona Beach that manufactures specialized sunglasses for people who live, work, and want to be on the water. It is yet another example of a growing business in Florida. Costa Del Mar’s success is closely linked to recreational fishing, an important Florida industry tied to 150,000 jobs in the state. My family and I have made some great memories out on the water and fishing together.
 
While it was exciting to see the progress Costa Del Mar has made, they and their customers are grappling with excessive and overly burdensome government regulations.
 
Regulations have closed access to red snapper in the South Atlantic for two years in a row, and only 17 days were allowed in the previous six years. The Gulf of Mexico fared a little bit better, but is still largely restricted as demonstrated by only a nine day season this year. This is impacting visitors to both coasts of Florida, which in turn affects the many Floridians whose livelihoods depend on these tourism dollars. Some argue the data being used to determine the health of a fish stock is greatly flawed, and I have put forward ideas on how to improve the type and sources of data used. Recreational fishermen have much to contribute. So, it’s a big problem with far reaching economic harm when a fishery is off limits based on bad science.
 
Bureaucrats in the federal government are also proposing closing off entire bodies of water, such as Miami’s Biscayne National Park. That’s why Senator Bill Nelson and I are working on a compromise bill to address the federal government issuing decrees like this. We want to make sure that at a minimum, state wildlife authorities on the ground are involved in the conversation as these decisions can have a devastating impact on our economy.
 
I want to make sure we create the type of smart regulatory environment where more people can continue to enjoy the natural recreation off Florida’s coastlines and Florida businesses can create jobs and make things in America. Costa Del Mar is a made-in-the-USA brand that we are very proud to have in Florida, and I’m excited to see their growth and what they have planned for the future. We cannot allow their progress to be impeded by unnecessary roadblocks. I will continue to push for pro-growth policies and legislation that make sure local experts have a say in the regulations that protect our resources and our environment, without hurting our small businesses and the enthusiasts who come to Florida to be on the water.

Yesterday, I visited AMSkills, a trade apprenticeship program in Clearwater, to hear from Floridians about their experiences in trade apprenticeship‎s. I stressed the necessity of reforming our higher education system and reiterated my efforts to promote higher education and alternatives to four year colleges. As I mentioned at AmSkills, I had over $100,000 in college loan debt that was only paid off four years ago. I know what it’s like to carry the weight of this financial burden, so I’ve proposed numerous ideas to make higher education more affordable and accessible to all.

I’ve supported expanding apprenticeship and mentoring programs like AMSkills and allowing students to get academic credit for what they learn outside of the classroom. I have helped craft bipartisan legislation called the Student Right To Know Before You Go Act, which requires colleges and universities to tell prospective students how much they can expect to earn with a given degree before they take out the loan to pay for it.  I’ve also supported income-based repayment, which would allow each graduate to repay their loan at a different pace based on their income.

These issues are personal to me, which is why it was so important to visit Pinellas County to hear about these issues. The proposals for these solutions do not start in Washington, but in our local communities. Thank you to AmSkills for hosting me yesterday and for contributing to the future of Florida.‎

‎To read more about my visit, see this Tampa Bay Times article.

Happy Fourth of July

Jul 04 2016

On this Independence Day, I want to wish a safe and happy Fourth of July to the Floridians I have the honor of representing in Washington and to all Americans across the nation.

As we gather with family and friends to celebrate our country’s independence, I’d like us to pause to remember what an exceptional nation we call home.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, America was born as a free and democratic nation -- the first nation ever founded on the idea that our rights come from God and it is our government’s job to protect those rights. For 240 years now, our people have prospered and our nation has been uniquely blessed.

While we celebrate America's history on this Fourth of July, we must also look forward to our nation’s future. It is up to each generation of Americans to preserve the freedoms of our founding and leave behind an exceptional nation for the next generation to inherit.

May God bless you and your families on this Independence Day, may God bless the state of Florida, and may God always bless the United States of America.

Happy Father’s Day

Jun 19 2016

As we gather with our loved ones today, I would like to wish you all a Happy Father’s Day. While the work we do in the U.S. Senate is important for our nation, being a good father is even more important for America. The bedrock of a strong and prosperous America starts at home, not in Washington, D.C.

Although my father is no longer with us, the impact he had on my life will forever live on. My father led by example – making sacrifices, working hard, and providing for his children. He came to this country from Cuba with nothing but the American dream. Despite never imagining that his son would one day serve in the U.S. Senate, he knew that in America anything was possible. Just like millions of other fathers across America, he gave my family a better life. Today we pause to thank all fathers for the wonderful and important roles they play in our lives.

Finally, let us not forget the fathers who are serving our nation overseas. Although you may be far in distance, you are close in all of our hearts. It is because of our brave servicemen that we can enjoy the freedom that is America.

To all of my fellow fathers, Happy Father’s Day! May God bless you, and may God always bless the United States of America. 

During this Haitian-American Heritage Month, I was happy to speak this morning to students at Miami Edison Senior High School. I offered my best advice regarding the journey of life, and stressed that positive change within any community rests in the hands of its people. 

As we celebrate the history and culture of the people of Haiti this month, we should also bring awareness and a sense of urgency to present-day issues involving Haiti, which affect us here in the United States. The world has watched as Haiti has struggled to rebuild its nation following a devastating 2010 earthquake and ongoing political instability, but Haitians around the world continue to be supportive of their country’s transition and take pride in the resilience it has shown.

Nowhere is that truer than in South Florida, home to the largest Haitian diaspora community, including many at Edison High who are working hard to achieve their dreams. They inspired me to continue working hard on their behalf in the U.S. Senate.

As we mark the 114th anniversary of Cuban Independence, we must not forget the hardships the people of Cuba continue to face every day under Castro’s repressive regime. After 114 years of being an independent nation, Cuba continues to lack the qualities that most sovereign nations share. Throughout its rule, the Castro regime has oppressed its people in unimaginable ways. Families have been destroyed, human rights activists have been beaten in the streets and jailed, and censorship remains a defining part of society.

The only tangible form of independence for the Cuban people is freedom and democracy, and it is our duty to reassert our commitment to helping them overcome decades of oppression and achieve liberty. I also call on the international community to join America in urging that Cuba hold free, fair and transparent elections, release all political prisoners, and protect fundamental freedoms.

This past year, we’ve seen our own president turn his back on American values and embrace the dictatorial regime that deprives the Cuban people of freedom. These actions from the administration must not blind America to the harsh realities that are taking place on the island of Cuba. Before President Obama’s trip to Cuba in early March, over 300 Cuban dissidents were beaten and arrested nationwide, including members of the Ladies in White, and human rights activists calling for the release of political prisoners.

America cannot stand idly by as cruel and immoral crimes are committed against the people of Cuba on a daily basis. After over 50 years of the Castros' rule, we must never lose an opportunity to remind the world of their failed leadership and government. Despite President Obama’s disgraceful embrace of the Cuban government, we must fight for the people of Cuba to ensure they are granted the freedom they deserve.  

As the 2016 hurricane season approaches, my Senate office stands ready to serve you and your family in the event of a storm. Some estimate the upcoming hurricane season could be the most active since 2012. This Hurricane Preparedness Week is the perfect time for you and your family to prepare for a potential tropical storm or hurricane.

Here are a few tips to help prepare for the 2016 hurricane season, which officially begins June 1 and ends November 30:

  • Know your area and the evacuation routes. They are available on the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Website.
  • Have a plan to prepare your home and/or business with storm shutters or plywood. Bring items that could be picked up by the wind and break windows - like lawn furniture, toys, or trash cans - inside.
  • Make sure you know where your home’s safe room is located. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website details what a safe room should look like.
  • Keep your automobile fully fueled; if electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for several days.
  • Be prepared to survive on your own for a few days. Assemble a disaster kit with a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, blankets, clothing, food, water, and prescription medications and needed medical supplies. The Florida Division of Emergency Management points you to a good list of items to have ready.
  • Know how to shut off utilities. Know where gas pilots are located and how the heating and air-conditioning system works. If you have any questions, contact your local utility company.
  • Gather your personal documents - insurance policy information, emergency contact information, and any other vital documents - somewhere they can be easily located and ready to take with you should you have to evacuate your home.

Remember, if you need help or have questions, please contact any of our offices and we will do our best to help.

Some other useful resources: