Banyai goes into critical stretch with full debate schedule, new endorsements

Cindy Banyai

Sept. 24, 2020 by David Silverberg

With 40 days until the election, a crucial debate coming up and voting about to begin, Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai appears to be in the strongest position of any Democratic candidate since creation of Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2010.

“I’ve proudly changed the game by being authentic, putting my principles first and putting my status as a mom up front,” she told The Paradise Progressive. “I think this kind of truthfulness in an era of deceit will ultimately be the compelling factor that elects a Democrat in this district.”

The 19th Congressional District of Florida covers the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island in Lee and Collier counties.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Banyai (pronounced Ban-YAY, with a hard “a”) released an active schedule of debates with her opponent, Republican Byron Donalds. (See end of article for full schedule.)

“I want everyone in Southwest Florida to learn about my experience and readiness to fight for the people,” she said. “I know that once people in our region see that a mom like me wants to be their voice in Congress they’ll be excited to get out and vote.”

The fullest and most widely broadcast debate is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 28 at 8 pm. It is being broadcast by WGCU, the public television station on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. Banyai and Donalds will debate for one hour, questioned by Amy Bennett Williams, reporter for the Fort Myers News-Press, and John Davis of WGCU. Julie Glenn, news director of WGCU, will moderate. In addition to being broadcast it will appear on all of WGCU’s media platforms including radio, live streams and social media.

Since winning her primary on Aug. 18, Banyai has picked up numerous new endorsements: Andrew Ellison, Democratic candidate for Congress in the 17th Congressional District, just north of the 19th; Jacquelyn McMiller, Democratic candidate for mayor of Fort Myers; Sara McFadden, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 106; and Fort Myers Councilman Johnny Streets. Banyai has endorsed the candidates in turn. These join the numerous institutional endorsements she has received.

“On paper this district looks Republican, but it’s not necessarily Trumpian,” Banyai pointed out. “We’re reaching moderates and Bush Republicans through our message of family, service, and good governance. Our path to victory is clear and we have polling data that shows once people know there’s an option in me, we win.”

The day after the Banyai-Donalds debate, Tuesday, Sept. 29, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden will debate Republican President Donald Trump at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. It will be nationally broadcast.

Upcoming debates and candidate forums:

  • Sept. 24, 5:00pm – Florida Citizens Alliance Debate – First 150 people can join in person at 7100 Airport-Pulling Rd N, Naples, FL 34109 or view on the FCA website and Facebook page
  • Sept. 26, 7:00pm – Kappa Alpha Psi Candidate Forum – View on Youtube
  • Sept. 28, 8:00pm – News-Press/WGCU Debate – View on WGCU, News-Press website
  • Oct. 3, 6:00pm – Dunbar Community Candidate Forum – Join in person at Quality of Life Center, 3210 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33916, view on Fox 4
  • Oct. 7, 12:00pm – Tiger Bay Candidate Forum, $10 to join by Zoom, Register here
  • Oct. 7, 6:00pm – Estero Bay Republicans Debate – Elks’ Club – 3231 Coconut Rd, Bonita Springs, FL 34134
  • Oct. 26, 5:00pm – Collier Freedom Debate – Zoom, contact organization for details on joining

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

US House votes to keep government open; SWFL Reps. Rooney, Steube oppose, Diaz-Balart approves

The US House vote to keep govenrment open. (Image:C-SPAN)

Sept. 23, 2020, by David Silverberg

By an overwhelming majority, the US House of Representatives voted last night to keep the government operating until Dec. 11.

The bill, House Resolution 8337, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) continues to fund the government at existing levels past the Oct. 1 start of the new 2021 federal fiscal year at roughly $1.4 trillion.

The vote in the House was 359 to 57, with one member, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY), voting “present.”

Of Southwest Florida’s representatives, Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against the bill. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted in favor.

The bill was the subject of long and contentious negotiations, with the White House insisting on including aid to farmers through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Democrats were concerned the farm aid would actually be used by the administration to assist the oil and energy industry and also feared that President Donald Trump would use the CCC funds as what some termed a “slush fund” to buy votes with aid to farmers hurt by his trade wars.

The final agreement reached between House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Republicans added safeguards against abuse of CCC funding and added $8 billion in nutrition assistance for needy families and schoolchildren.

“To help the millions of families struggling to keep food on the table during the pandemic, Democrats have renewed the vital, expiring lifeline of Pandemic EBT [Electronic Benefits Transfer] for a full year and enabled our fellow Americans in the territories to receive this critical nutrition assistance,” Pelosi said in a statement.

In a brief statement, Rooney explained his opposition vote:

“This continuing resolution contains an excessive amount of spending which far exceeds what we need for Covid relief at a time when the government is already trillions in debt. Congress has not passed a budget for three years.  This abject lack of fiscal responsibility has pushed our country to the brink, with over $26 trillion in debt. Our children and grandchildren will suffer from our profligate spending. We have corrupted the ethic upon which our country was built; this wasteful spending must stop.

“I have continually fought against the irresponsible, excessive and injudicious appropriations from both parties. I have voted against legislation like this in the past and will continue to vote against it in the future. We simply cannot afford to be increasing government spending when we should be making cuts to reduce the deficit.”

Neither Diaz-Balart nor Steube issued statements explaining their votes.

The government shut down for 35 days in January 2019 following a similar budget standoff. At that time, Trump was insisting on funding for his border wall.

In Southwest Florida the government shutdown also meant a shutdown of national parks and preserves like Everglades National Park and a halt to US Coast Guard operations in local waters. It was also responsible for an estimated $11 billion in costs to the US economy, of which $3 billion was permanent.

This year, among its many other effects, a shutdown had the potential to disrupt federal monitoring of conditions leading to harmful algal blooms in Southwest Florida.

The bill has gone to the Senate, where it is considered likely to pass, given its overwhelming approval in the House and the desire of members to avoid a government shutdown on the eve of the election. Trump is expected to sign it.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Rooney slams Trump tax scheme–again

President Donald Trump signs an executive order deferring payroll tax withholdings for federal employees on Aug. 8. (Photo: AFP)

Sept. 15, 2020 by David Silverberg

Rep. Francis Rooney

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has again criticized President Donald Trump’s plan to defer payroll tax withholdings for federal employees until next year.

In a formal statement issued yesterday, Sept. 14, Rooney stated:

“I appreciate the administration’s attempt to bring financial relief to hardworking Americans during this difficult time, but this payroll tax deferral is not a good solution. It presents a short-term remedy that will engender long-term problems beyond the pandemic and could end up disrupting the historical employee-employer cost sharing for payroll taxes.

“It is impractical to expect that these deferred amounts could be paid by employees next April. The highest likelihood is that the government reimburses them, or worse, that employers are required to pay the employees’ part as well as their own.

“This order is not an appropriate means of repairing our damaged economy because however these deferred payments might be resolved, there will be serious damage to the employee – employer relationship at the very time when we need to strengthen it to provide economic opportunity for more Americans.”

Rooney initially tweeted his opposition to the President’s executive order deferring the withholdings on Sept. 3. The new statement formalizes and emphasizes Rooney’s objections.

On Aug. 8, Trump issued a memorandum to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin deferring the taxes for 1.3 million federal employees, which he has the authority to do. However, while the withholding is deferred for 2020, the taxes will have to be paid by the employees next year and would result in smaller paychecks.

To date there has been no public White House response or response from any other Republicans to Rooney’s criticism.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Last chance to vote in primary tomorrow; mail-in voting heavy in Lee and Collier counties

Lee County voting to date. (Chart: Lee County Supervisor of Elections)

Aug. 17, 2020 by David Silverberg

Tomorrow marks the last day to cast ballots for the Primary Election in Florida and the final count of ballots cast so far.

While very heavy mail-in voting by voters of all affiliations may have already decided the various contests, in tight races the last few votes cast tomorrow may make the difference between victory and defeat for some candidates.

Despite deliberate slowdowns in mail delivery engineered by US Postmaster Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump, mail-in voting proved very popular in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting clearly have not deterred Southwest Florida voters of any party affiliation.

In Lee County, as of this writing, 24.6 percent of 468,141 eligible voters have cast ballots.

Of those, the vast majority of 38,624 Democrats voted by mail (36,387) and only 2,240 cast ballots in person in early voting.

Of 60,980 Lee County Republicans who voted, 52,714 voted by mail and 8,261 voted early in person.

Among Lee County non-party affiliates, 14,065 voted by mail and 559 voted in person. Some 571 other voters voted by mail and 21 in person.

Collier County voting to date. (Chart: Collier County Supervisor of Elections)

In Collier County, 27.43 percent of 217,278 voters (59,594) have cast ballots.

Of these, of the 16,457 Democrats who cast ballots, the vast majority (15,323) did so by mail and only 1,132 voted early in person.

Of the 34,971 Collier County Republicans who voted, 28,838 voted by mail and 6,131 in early in-person voting.

Among non-party affiliated voters, 7,004 voted by mail and 468 voted in person. Some 281 other voters voted by mail and 22 voted in person.

Polls are open in person tomorrow from 7 am to 7 pm. In Collier County, vote-by-mail ballots must be returned to the Supervisor of Elections office at 3750 Enterprise Avenue, Naples FL 34104 by 7 p.m. Postage is not required for ballots that are dropped off.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Trump executive orders threaten SWFL seniors’ Social Security benefits

When debt becomes a realitySocial Security recipients ponder the future of their benefits following Trump’s executive order.

Aug. 10, 2020 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida seniors receiving Social Security payments and dependent on Medicare healthcare insurance are likely to suffer from President Donald Trump’s weakening of the social safety net programs in one of his latest executive orders.

The order, in the form of a memorandum to the Secretary of the Treasury, was one of four signed by Trump on Saturday, Aug. 8.

The memorandum directs the Secretary of the Treasury to “defer the withholding, deposit, and payment” of payroll taxes paid by people who make less than $4,000 per week ($104,000 per year) for the rest of the year.

Collection of the taxes is deferred, not eliminated, and they will be due in the following year. However, the memorandum directs the Secretary of the Treasury to “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes…”

These taxes pay for Social Security and Medicare. If eliminated, they would effectively end the programs.

Trump stated at the signing ceremony at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ, that he would seek to eliminate the payroll tax if he is re-elected.

(The other three documents signed by Trump provide $300 per week for eligible recipients for lost wages due to coronavirus using disaster relief funds (generically called unemployment benefits) plus $100 of state funds, minimize foreclosures and evictions, and waive collection of federal student loans for the rest of the year.)

Trump’s order on payroll taxes circumvents Congress’ role in setting tax policy and came in for immediate fire from critics. Members of the House and Senate had been negotiating the next coronavirus relief package. The previous unemployment benefit had been $600 per week.

In a joint statement, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted Trump’s action, stating: “We’re disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans’ problems, the President instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare.”

Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), stated:  “Social Security is more crucial than ever as Americans face the one-two punch of the coronavirus’s health and economic consequences. But, this approach exacerbates people’s already-heightened fears and concerns about their financial and retirement security. Social Security’s guaranteed benefits are indispensable. Families impacted by coronavirus urgently need help, and we believe bipartisan congressional action on another coronavirus aid bill is the right solution.”

Florida Democrats immediately denounced Trump’s actions.

“Amid yesterday’s train wreck of neglect, Trump still manages to needlessly imperil seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz  (D-23-Fla.) said in a statement.

Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.), tweeted that “The American people desperately need relief. Instead, the president decided to defund Social Security and Medicare.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-22-Fla.) stated that Trump is “using the pandemic to gut Social Security’s funding” and “if he gets a second term, vowed to defund Social Security once and for all.” He noted: “The road to the White House runs through Florida and Donald Trump is about to hit a wall of angry senior voters who have just had enough.”

In Southwest Florida, 19th Congressional District Democratic congressional candidate David Holden tweeted: “First of all, Trump does not control the purse. Secondly, we CANNOT tolerate raiding Social Security under the guise of pandemic relief. This is a ploy. We need direct cash relief to every American (yes, even the ones married to undocumented folks) now.”

Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai stated: “I’m dismayed by Trump’s executive overreach into the legislative process. The president doesn’t have the authority to fund programs, only Congress does, leaving many components of his most recent executive order unconstitutional. I’m particularly worried about the attack on Social Security and Medicare, which people in Southwest Florida rely on heavily. We must protect these vital programs, and our democracy, from the whims of a vanity president.”

As of this writing, none of Southwest Florida’s representatives in the 19th, 25th and 17th congressional districts had commented on the executive actions.

Of the nine Republican candidates running in the 19th Congressional District, only Darren Aquino responded to a request for comment, issuing a statement saying that he “stands with President Trump’s executive orders and President Trump’s refusal to remain hostage to the do-nothing Democrats.” He stated that the payroll tax cut was necessary to give workers extra money and as a member of  Congress, he “promises to pass legislation that will forgive all deferred payroll tax payments.”

Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson retweeted a Trump tweet simply announcing the action.

While precise public figures on the number of Social Security recipients in Lee and Collier counties were not immediately available, according to 2018 Census statistics, 28.6 percent of Lee County’s 618,754 people are 65 or older (which works out to 174,488 people). Of Collier County’s 321,521 people, 32.2 percent are 65 or older (103,530 people). Both counties’ populations have been steadily increasing.

According to DataUSA, a private consortium that repackages government data, 14.7 percent of Lee County’s population is on Medicaid and 20.8 percent is on Medicare. In Collier County that is 12 percent on Medicaid, 24.9 percent on Medicare.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

 

 

 

 

EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Rooney breaks silence, explains absences, says he’s still working for SWFL constituents

10-19-19 Rooney announces retirementRep. Francis Rooney announces his retirement on Fox News on Oct. 19, 2019.    (Image: Fox News)

July 31, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) states that he’s continuing to work on congressional issues related to his Southwest Florida district despite not having cast a vote between February and July and being largely silent in the media and with constituents.

“I am working right along, every day, on issues important to Southwest Florida: Everglades appropriations, dredging in Collier County, estuary renourishment, pushing the administration to support the offshore drilling ban (HR 205) that I sponsored in the House, and a host of other issues,” he stated in response to questions from The Paradise Progressive.

According to Rooney’s House website, he did not cast any House votes between Feb. 26 and July 29. This included all of the coronavirus stimulus and relief packages.

In an e-mail he stated: “Voting on things that are preordained to pass, otherwise the Speaker would not bring them forward, has not seemed to be worth the COVID risk to me. Look at Rep. Gohmert yesterday [July 30], for example. I was a supporter of proxy and remote voting from the very beginning, and have written statements and editorials to that effect. I had not exercised the proxy option because the House Republican leadership asked me to wait until the hearing on their challenge had been heard in court, which took place last Friday afternoon [July 24]. Now I am back to voting by proxy.”

(Rep. Louis Gohmert Jr. (R-1-Texas) announced on July 29 that he had contracted coronavirus and blamed mask-wearing for it.)

“I have never stopped working for the people of Southwest Florida and intend to continue doing so until my last day in office,” he stated.

Rooney announced his retirement from Congress on Oct. 19, 2019 after facing a backlash for announcing that he was open to hearing evidence in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Since then he has missed 33.7 percent of the votes in Congress, making him the third most absent member of the House, according to ProPublica, an independent, non-profit, investigative news organization.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

US House passes Water Resources Development Act; makes changes to SWFL water management, Lake O

US_Capitol_west_side 3-2-19

July 31, 2020 by David Silverberg

On Wednesday, July 29, the US House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), House Resolution 7575, by a voice vote.

A version of the bill having already been passed by the Senate, the bill now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature into law. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was a co-sponsor of the original bill.

The massive bill, which authorizes all water-related projects in the United States, has several sections directly related to Southwest Florida. (For earlier coverage of WRDA, see: “We tested SWFL candidates on their knowledge of a vital congressional issue. Here are the results.”)

In summary, the bill makes reforms to address problems raised by harmful algal blooms of the sort that plagued the area in 2018. At the time there were gaps in understanding and coordination among federal and state agencies; this bill addresses those.

It also tries to minimize the water releases from Lake Okeechobee (Lake O) that have been widely blamed for cyanobacteria blooms.

Lastly, it tries to speed work on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

In particular:

  • The bill orders a study of harmful algal blooms, which have plagued Southwest Florida and were particularly severe in 2018. This will be a demonstration program to study their causes, detection, treatment and prevention. Lake Okeechobee will be a particular focus along with the Great Lakes, New Jersey, Louisiana and California.
  • Projects related to CERP have been dragging on for many years. The bill orders their expedited completion, in particular feasibility studies for the C-43 reservoir. If the Secretary of the Interior determines that a project is justified, he can proceed directly to preconstruction planning, engineering and design. In addition to CERP, the bill expedites projects in Arizona, California and another South Florida project, the C-111 canal, in southern Dade County. It also makes changes to earlier WRDAs to authorize a proposed reservoir south of the Everglades Agricultural Area.
  • When it comes to regulating water releases from Lake Okeechobee, the federal government will finally take into account levels of cyanobacteria and “evaluate the implications” of stopping the releases and “seek to minimize unnecessary releases to coastal estuaries”—which in the case of Southwest Florida means the Caloosahatchee River. The Department of Interior will also coordinate the efforts of federal and state agencies responsible for “monitoring, forecasting, and notification of cyanobacteria levels in Lake Okeechobee.”
  • In addition to minimizing potentially algae-blooming water releases, the Secretary of the Interior is now required to issue a monthly public report about the volumes and statistics of Lake O water releases.

Despite its other changes, the bill is careful to ensure that nothing changes from the current situation around the lake—known as the “savings clause.” As the bill puts it: “nothing shall be construed to authorize any new purpose for the management of Lake Okeechobee or authorize the Secretary to affect any existing authorized purpose, including flood protection and management of Lake Okeechobee to provide water supply for all authorized users.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Deceptively altered Trump tweets against mail-in voting come to Southwest Florida mailboxes

07-27-20 Trump flyer 1 001

July 28, 2020 by David Silverberg

With mail-in voting already under way, the Florida Republican Party is trying to overcome President Donald Trump’s vociferous disparagement of mail-in voting by deceptively hiding his attacks on the practice.

In printed flyers delivered to Southwest Florida voters encouraging Republican mail-in voting, the Party tries to make Trump seem like an advocate of voting by mail by blurring the lines of tweets he issued on June 28 and July 10.

The tweets were contradictory, drawing a distinction between mail-in ballots and absentee ballots. In fact they are the same.

Quoting a June 28 tweet, the flyer quotes Trump tweeting (capitalization his): “Absentee Ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them.” Blurred out is the rest of the tweet: “Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. 19% of Ballots a FRAUD!

07-27-20 Trump flyer 1 001 (2)The June 28 Trump tweet as printed on the Republican flyer.
07-27-20 Trump tweet 1The Trump quote as actually tweeted.

In the July 10 flyer, Trump’s tweet (punctuation his) is quoted as: “….Absentee Ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege.” Blurred out is the rest of the tweet: “Not so with Mail-Ins. Rigged Election!!! 20% fraudulent ballots?

07-27-20 Trump flyer 2 001 (2)The July 10 Trump tweet as printed on a Republican flyer.

07-27-20 Trump tweet 2

The July 10 Trump quote as actually tweeted.

In Southwest Florida mail-in balloting for the Aug. 18 primary is already heavy. According to the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, as of this writing, 43,963 ballots have already been cast. Of those, Republicans have mailed in 21,132 ballots and Democrats 15,572. Non-party affiliated voters have returned 6,995 and “others” 264.

In Collier County, 27,457 mail-in ballots have been returned. Republicans have returned 15,291, Democrats 7,928, non-party affiliated voters 4,077 and others, 155.

07-27-20 Trump flyer 2 001
One of the flyers mailed out by the Florida Republican Party

07-27-20 Trump flyer 1 full 001
One of the flyers mailed by the Florida Republican Party.

In the two tweets quoted and in others, Trump has argued that mail-in voting is “bad, dishonest and slow,” will lead to massive fraud and a “rigged election.” Nonetheless, mail-in voting is crucial to Republican hopes of success.

Election officials are expecting a massive influx of mail-in balloting this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

US House passes major enviro bill benefiting SWFL; Florida senators, representatives split

07-24-20 Everglades Nat Pk SrThe Everglades.       (Photo: National Park Service)

July 24, 2020 by David Silverberg.

On Wednesday, July 22, the US House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act (HR 1957) by a vote of 310 to 107.

The bill, originally introduced by the late Rep. John Lewis (D-5-Ga.), establishes a National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to fund deferred maintenance on public lands like national parks, reserves and refuges and makes ongoing funding permanent and reliable.

Major Southwest Florida national parks and tourist destinations like Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve will benefit from the infusion of funds for upgrades, improvements and repairs.

The money will come from half the revenue the government receives from energy development including both fossil fuel and renewable energy sources. It will fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the money supporting conservation efforts, permanently providing it with $900 million per year. A second part of the legislation provides $1.9 billion every year for five years for public lands maintenance.

Having now passed both the House and Senate, it is likely to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Florida representatives and senators split on the legislation.

The Senate version of the bill passed on June 17 by a vote of 73 to 25. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) voted for it, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) voted against it.

Among Southwest Florida’s representatives, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted for it, Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against it and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent.

All Florida Democrats voted for the bill, which reconciled both an earlier House version and the Senate version. In addition to Diaz-Balart, four Florida Republicans broke party ranks to approve it: Reps. Gus Bilirakis (12) Vern Buchanan (16), Brian Mast (18) and John Rutherford (4).

Rooney’s absence was ironic since he was a co-sponsor of the original legislation and actively promoted it.

“Ensuring that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) receives appropriate and consistent funding is critical for the preservation of our nation’s parks and public lands,” he stated when the bill passed. “That is why I am a proud co-sponsor of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. This landmark legislation will establish the National Parks and Public Land Restoration Fund to make funding for the LWCF permanent and mandatory.

“Southwest Florida is home to some of the most beautiful and treasured natural landscapes. Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked to make certain that SWFL is given the resources needed to maintain its environmental quality. The Great American Outdoors Act is an extended effort to do just that.”

There had been strong support for the legislation by conservation and environmental groups.

The Nature Conservancy, a global non-profit environmental organization based in Arlington, Va., also praised the bill’s passage.

“At a time when our country needs to create jobs and rebuild local economies while also protecting nature and places where everyone can recreate outdoors, the Great American Outdoors Act answers the call on all fronts,” stated Jennifer Morris, chief executive office of The Nature Conservancy.

Environment Florida, a non-profit conservation organization, applauded the passage.

“With today’s passage of this bill, we’re one step away from putting a lock and key on funding that has always been intended for conservation projects — yet consistently diverted to other purposes,” stated Wendy Wendlandt, acting president of a national network of environmental groups that includes Environment Florida. “We’re closer to adopting a new consciousness for today’s world, that our lives are made richer if surrounded by more nature, rather than more extracted resources. We applaud the House’s bipartisan passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and ask that President Trump sign this important bill.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

Diaz-Balart, Steube split on vote to remove Capitol Confederate statues; Rooney absent

07-23-20 Robert-E-Lee-statue-capitol-768x557-768x557A statue of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee in the Crypt of the Capitol.  (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

July 23, 2020 by David Silverberg

Yesterday, July 22, the House of Representatives voted 305 to 113 to remove statues commemorating Confederate figures from the US Capitol.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted for the resolution. Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against it. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent.

As of this writing, none of the Southwest Florida members had issued statements on any platform explaining their votes or absences.

The bill, House Resolution (HR) 7573, introduced by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5-Md.), directs the Joint Committee on the Library “to remove all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America from display in the United States Capitol” and to replace a bust of Supreme Court Justice Roger Brooke Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall. (Taney was the chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1857 when wrote the decision in Dred Scott vs. Sanford  ruling that African Americans were not US citizens.  Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court justice.)

There are 11 statues honoring Confederate lawmakers and generals in the Capitol building in addition to the Taney bust.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Fla.) spoke on the House floor, saying that “in Congress and in the Country, we must maintain a drumbeat to ensure that this moment of anguish continues to be transformed into action.”

She continued: “As I have said before, the halls of Congress are at the very heart of our democracy.  The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and what we aspire to as a nation.  Monuments to men who advocated barbarism and racism are a grotesque affront to those ideals.  Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage.”

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg