Fighting for Florida

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:

On this World Press Freedom Day, we pay tribute to those journalists who have lost their lives and are unjustly imprisioned while following their passion to expose the truth. In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts, we must remember that this fundamental human right isn’t guaranteed to all.

Freedom of the press is a prerequisite for any flourishing democracy. The free flow of information and access to uncensored material serves as a check against censorship by the government. By nurturing and protecting this fundamental right, free peoples achieve democratic improvements in their societies.

Unfortunately, all around the world there are governments that continue to violate press freedom. In these nations, journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics have been imprisoned and even murdered while attempting to report the truth.

According to Freedom House, press freedom declined to its lowest point in the last 12 years in 2015.  Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys free press, while 46 percent live in "Not Free" press environments. Cuba, the country my parents left in 1956, remains the most repressive in the Americas, falling into the category of “Worst of the Worst.” North Korea ranks number one for most repressive press freedom conditions.

Americans are truly blessed to live in a country in which freedom of speech is not only our right, but our first amendment. This blessing also comes with responsibility. We have a duty to stand up for those around the world who continue to have their right to free speech and expression violated.

That is why my office launched the social media campaign #expressionNOToppression. Each week we highlight a political prisoner who is being persecuted for exercising their freedoms. We have highlighted political prisoners from China to Azerbaijan, and Cuba to Bahrain who have been detained, harassed, or even killed. Furthermore, I am the lead Republican sponsor of S. Res. 207, which recognizes World Press Freedom Day and reaffirms that freedom of expression and of the press is a top priority for the United States when promoting democracy and good governance overseas. I am proud to stand on the international stage to promote freedom of expression abroad and call on governments to free the innocent civilians whose only “crimes” were to expose harsh realities. 

Today our nation stands with those who fight against oppression to inform the public of the facts, and we continue to work toward our goal of creating a global media environment with less fear and more freedom.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the devastating Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.  On April 20, 2010, an explosion from the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well caused the largest accidental oil spill in history. The resulting 87-day flow of oil from the sea floor became a human, economic, and environmental catastrophe for the Gulf of Mexico and its bordering states, including my home state of Florida. 

First and foremost, it is important that we never forget the eleven lives lost on this tragic day. I keep the families so permanently affected by this tragedy in my prayers.

In Florida, the spill occurred in the midst of the state’s busiest beach and fishing seasons. When 88,500 square miles of the Gulf were closed off to fishing, the 131,000 jobs that support the $12.8 billion a year fishing and tourism industry were negatively impacted, and small businesses that relied on the tourism and fishing dollars suffered greatly. Hotel reservations were cancelled, restaurants sat empty, and beaches remained desolate.  In addition to economic devastation, the Macondo spill was also one of the worst environmental disasters our nation has ever faced.  For 87 days, an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil flowed through the habitat of over 15,000 species.

Today, the Gulf Coast and surrounding states continue to recover after this devastating event.  Just this month, a federal judge approved a settlement of $20 billion between the Obama Administration and BP. I was proud to be an original cosponsor of the RESTORE Act, legislation that was ultimately enacted to ensure that the majority of this settlement money is provided to Gulf states to address the outstanding impacts of the spill on both the environment and the economy.  While I believe this conclusion is fitting, it is important that the entirety of the money is issued and spent appropriately so that our state and local partners will be ready to move forward with several projects to continue restoring the Gulf Coast.

During a time of tragedy, those in the region were hopeful and proved to be resilient. In the past six years, an immense amount of progress has been made through ongoing recovery efforts.  Businesses have resumed and tourism is once again flourishing.

As we reflect on the past six years, the tragedy of the Macondo oil spill will never be forgotten, and the eleven men who lost their lives will forever live on in our hearts. As a nation, we must continue to look to the future and I stand ready to assist in any way possible in the ongoing recovery efforts. 

Today marks the second anniversary of the tragic Boko Haram kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria. Of the 267 girls who were originally abducted, only 57 have managed to escape. Two years later, 219 remain held captive by this Islamic terrorist group.

Boko Haram has enslaved these children and forced them to convert and become “wives” of Boko Haram fighters. These girls have faced unspeakable horrors such as sexual assault and rape. Additionally, Boko Haram has trained these girls to be suicide bombers in Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

This Administration has been fearful of calling out the crimes of Boko Haram as not only terrorist attacks but religiously motivated attacks. The majority of the schoolgirls were Christian- the school was chosen because it was in a Christian town, yet the Administration failed to recognize the religious nature of the crime.

On this sad anniversary, the United States needs to increase its assistance to Nigeria in order to ensure that every one of these girls is returned to their families. Additionally, the U.S. needs to continue to support the multinational effort to defeat Boko Haram.” 

This evening, the Senate passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.

In today’s global economy, American innovators are more vulnerable to trade secret theft than ever before. With hundreds of billions of dollars lost each year to the theft of corporate trade secrets, our nation’s security and economy are greatly threatened. Defend Trade Secrets Act creates a uniform national standard for trade secret misappropriation while empowering victims of trade secret theft to protect their intellectual property in federal court. In an age of globalization where innovation is crucial to driving economic growth, it is vital that American innovators have the ability to protect their information and property from theft. I’m proud to support this bipartisan legislation to provide innovators with the tools they need to protect their intellectual property and remain competitive on the international stage.

Happy Easter

Mar 26 2016

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"This Easter, my family and I join our fellow Christians in Florida and around the world in celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the salvation His sacrifice and unconditional love provides."
The number of Americans addicted to prescription drugs and heroin has been growing at an alarming rate, even in my home state of Florida. Loved ones are seeing their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction and dependency, desperate to get the care they deserve.
 
These cries for help deserve to not only be heard, but answered, which is why earlier this year, I joined Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to co-sponsor the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill to address the national epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse. This bill will ensure those who have fallen through the cracks can have access to proper treatment services and improved treatment options. CARA will help fight back against addiction by increasing prevention efforts and helping law enforcement fight this epidemic.
 
Washington has a role in the fight against drug abuse, and while CARA is a step in the right direction, the federal government must also do its part to help stop the illegal trafficking of drugs across our porous border while assisting our allies around the world in combatting the drug cartels that seek to push drugs into the U.S. I’m proud to have been a co-sponsor of this bill and proud of its passage in the Senate today.