Bill Nelson

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After cruising through the Republican primary, Gov. Rick Scott is heading into what’s expected to be a bitter and expensive showdown with Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Many believe the race ultimately could play a decisive role in which party controls the Senate.

Scott – who’s term-limited as governor – scored an easy win over California businessman Rocky De La Fuente, who earned attention this year by mounting U.S. Senate bids in multiple states at the same time. He did not campaign against Scott.

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In what likely was a surprise to virtually no one in Florida, Governor Rick Scott announced his next political campaign on Monday at an Orlando construction firm.

Scott, in his trademark sky blue shirt and Navy baseball cap, said he’ll seek the Republican nomination in hopes of challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” mantra, used in two gubernatorial campaigns, will transfer to this race.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appears to be doubling down on the confusion, about whether or not Florida is exempt from a five-year offshore drilling plan announced in January.

Appearing before the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, Zinke responded to Rep. Norma Thomas, a California Democrat, about why her state didn’t get an exemption like Florida.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Supporters and opponents of oil drilling closer to Florida’s shoreline refused Thursday to accept U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s declaration that the state wouldn’t be part of a White House plan to expand exploration.

Last Thursday’s hearing in Tallahassee, sponsored by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, is one of 22 being held through March 8 nationwide and was the lone such meeting to be held in Florida.

““I don’t want your kids ever to fight on foreign shores for a resource we have here,” said Zinke last month in Tallahassee.  

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The Trump administration’s decision to exclude Florida from the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling is drawing both clapping hands and raised eyebrows.

After meeting with Governor Rick Scott at the Tallahassee Airport on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off Florida’s Atlantic coast would be "off the table." 

Local, state and federal officials are continuing to urge all of the state’s residents to prepare for powerful Hurricane Irma, which is set to begin affecting South Florida by the weekend. Government authorities are gearing up, too.

In briefings on Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott called Irma a massive, possibly devastating storm, with extreme winds and a projected storm surge that could go for miles. He compared it to Hurricane Andrew, which was a Category 5 storm when it struck Florida in 1992.

"The storm is bigger, faster, and stronger than Hurricane Andrew."

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson visited Pensacola State College on Monday, meeting with local officials and residents on a number of issues. While there, Nelson had one bit of good news for the area’s military bases.

“BRAC’s not coming; it’s not going to pass in the next [election] cycle,” said Nelson. “So y'all can stop worrying about that.”

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

The high cost of going to college is the subject of legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who was at the University of West Florida Friday morning.

According to Nelson, student loans are the second-largest debt in America, only behind home mortgage debt.

“And if you took all the credit card debt in the entire United States combined, student loans are larger than that: $1.3 trillion,” said Nelson.

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

Opponents of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico are mobilizing to fight the most recent threat. In Northwest Florida, it’s about protecting military training in the Gulf and preventing future disasters like the like the one caused the 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Standing at the water’s edge, with arms raised, about three dozen people take part in the culmination of the annual ‘Hands Across the Sand’ event Saturday on Pensacola Beach.

“I’ve been doing this drilling issue ever since the BP Oil Spill,” said Monie Russo. “I’ve been out here religiously.”

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson was in Pensacola recently to get a firsthand look at the University of West Florida’s Center for Cybersecurity.

Center Director Eman El-Sheikh provided a briefing on the facility, one of only six National Center Academic of Excellence (CAE) Regional Resource Centers in the country, serving the Southeast and Puerto Rico.

“We’re thrilled about what we’re doing to cybersecurity, and we certainly want to help advance the state of it overall as a national leader in cyber-education,” said El-Sheikh.

Senate Republicans are wasting no time showing they have little use for the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Needing 216 votes for passage, the Republican-controlled House approved the plan 217-213, with 20 GOP defections. Among those voting “yes” was Republican Matt Gaetz – who represents the western Florida Panhandle.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

While the 2018 campaign for the U.S. Senate has not begun officially, it is clearly underway.

November 6, 2018 is still 18 months away but incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott, the presumptive Republican challenger, are already gearing up.

“Most people think that’s going to be the race; we don’t know if someone else is going to enter. But it will be a very expensive, highly competitive race,” says Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

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U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is imploring his colleagues not to take up any bills that could undo recent progress in fighting the nation’s growing opioid problem. Similar concerns are found in northwest Florida.

Opioid-related deaths in 2015, the latest available numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outnumbered those from gun homicides and vehicle crashes combined; and more than died from HIV/AIDS at its peak in the mid-1990s.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Almost a year after a rally in Pensacola, a resumption of passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast remains on the table, with some progress reported.

Amtrak’s “Inspection Train” pulled into the Pensacola depot last February, originating from New Orleans with stops along the Panhandle before ending in Jacksonville. Along with a host of VIPs, officials with Amtrak and CSX were aboard, checking both the infrastructure and the public’s desire to resume service which was ended by Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago.

NASA

  U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is sponsoring a NASA funding bill, which requires a human to set foot on Mars. 

Nelson spoke on the Senate floor earlier this year promoting the bill which was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, Senate bill 3346 provides the space agency $19.6 billion with a few strings attached. One of them is a commitment to a manned flight to the Red Planet. 

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Florida’s senior U.S. Senator was in Pensacola Monday morning, with a number of stops around town. 

Bill Nelson’s first stop was a tour of the federal courthouse downtown, which is closed because of health-threatening mold and water damage. In April, the Senate approved spending the $32 million needed to renovate the facility. The House followed suit, but something else has cropped up.

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One hundred and two people in Florida have been affected by the Zika virus since February, including seven pregnant women whose unborn children face the largest risk. Anti-Zika efforts are ramping up along the Gulf Coast, which 60 million people call home.

In the western Panhandle, only one case of the virus has been found, that was in Santa Rosa County, and the unidentified patient has since made a full recovery.

CDC

Senator Bill Nelson is filing legislation that would provide the $1.9 billion that President Obama says is needed to fight the spread of the Zika virus. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 358 Zika cases in the United States as of Tuesday. Agency Director Thomas Frieden recently told Fox News that their largest concern is how Zika may affect pregnant women.

  Okaloosa County Commissioners are in the process of drafting a resolution that would voice opposition to relocating Middle East Conflict Zone refugees to the county.  However, board members have asked staff to rework the language in the resolution before bringing it back for consideration at their next meeting.

  

The item was initially put on the agenda by Commissioner Trey Goodwin.

Florida’s U.S. Senator Bill Nelson was in Pensacola Monday to meet with local business and civic leaders on issues important to the community. It was also an opportunity to provide an update from Washington, including the latest on issues related to Syria.

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