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Senator Bill Nelson Visits Pensacola

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.

“They’ve come up with some other kind of jurisdictional logjam, of not being able to get in and actually do the rehab work for another year,” said Nelson. “That’s just pure balderdash. We will get that administrative hiccup taken care of.”

Part of that “hiccup” appears to be the fact that a private firm owns the courthouse for now. Nelson is calling for the project to be fast-tracked.

“The property doesn’t revert to the City of Pensacola until July of next year,” Nelson said. “But we’ve got federal courts, and marshals and judges that are scattered all over Pensacola; [and] we don’t have enough courtrooms.”

Nelson’s visit to the courthouse follows similar visits from Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Jeff Miller. After the courthouse, Nelson went to Pensacola City Hall to meet with local elected officials, including Mayor Ashton Hayward.

“How you’ve delivered every time we called, from the BP oil spill to anything that we’ve needed from Hurricane Ivan to Hurricane Katrina,” said Hayward. 

One of the main points of discussion was how Congress went on recess and did not address not providing federal money to fight Zika. Nelson’s a bill called for $1.9 billion. A compromise $1.1 billion was passed in the Senate. 

“So it goes over to the House, and then they wait until the last few days before the Congress was going to adjourn for the political conventions,” said Nelson. “And they tack on some riders that are unacceptable.”

Those riders involved displaying the Confederate flag; defunding Planned Parenthood and not replenishing the fund for Ebola. To replenish the Ebola fund, the House voted to raid the Medicaid fund of Puerto Rico – who along with Brazil are the areas hardest-hit by Zika. 

“They’re estimating that 25 percent of the entire population of Puerto Rico will be infected,” said Nelson.

Elsewhere, the discussion ranged from improving infrastructure, controlling stormwater, and how to spend the BP oil spill proceeds in general, and on helping minority-owned businesses in particular. 

Nelson wrapped up the session, saying he had one more stop to make in Pensacola. 

“Congratulations to you all on finding [Tristan] de Luna’s original location. And I’m going to get to go there next,” said Nelson.