Monday, July 13, 2020

Stephanie Murphy, Blue Dogs Champion the Preventing China From Exploiting COVID-19 Act

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As Republicans ramp up their rhetoric on China and introduce legislation to oppose that communist nation, Democrats are taking notice–and a congresswoman from Central Florida is pushing the U.S. House majority to do more.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., has joined several fellow Blue Dog Democrats in backing the “Preventing China From Exploiting COVID-19 Act” which would have the Director of National Intelligence study all of the methods China is using to exploit the pandemic in the U.S. and report those findings to Congress.

U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., introduced the proposal last week. The bill has a dozen cosponsors including Murphy and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla.

“Bipartisan concerns in Congress about Chinese government policies have only increased once COVID-19 emerged in China and spread to virtually every country in the world. Since the start of this pandemic, we have witnessed a pattern of alarming behavior from the Chinese government in a range of areas,” said Murphy. “This bill would provide U.S. policymakers with an intelligence community assessment of the different ways the Chinese government may be seeking to exploit the pandemic. Armed with this information, we can hold the Chinese government accountable and protect American interests.”

“No one should seek to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for political or economic advantage,” said Horn. “We must examine whether the Chinese Communist Party has used intellectual cyber-theft, misinformation campaigns, and aggressive territorial maneuvers, among other tactics to take advantage of the pandemic. We need to get to the bottom of where the Chinese government has exploited COVID-19 and undermined our fight against the global pandemic. Where they’ve crossed the line, they must be held accountable.”

At the end of May, Murphy and other Democrats wrote U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calling for bipartisanship when it comes to taking on China.

“It is imperative for members of Congress to work across party lines if we want to influence Chinese policy and to hold the CCP accountable when its actions cross the line, as they have in the case of COVID-19. If we retreat to our partisan corners, we will only weaken the United States, strengthen China, and play into the hands of those who want China to replace the United States as the world’s preeminent power,” they wrote.

U.S. House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., set up a panel to deal with China filled entirely with Republicans. The GOP has also introduced several measures that aim to hold China accountable, including the possibility of sanctions.

Horn’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.


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Florida Department of Education Orders Schools Opened in the Fall

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The Florida Department of Education ordered public and charter schools across the Sunshine State to have their campuses opened in the fall.

On Monday, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an executive order opening schools in August and having them open at least five days a week. Schools across Florida have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic since March.

“Education is critical to the success of the state and to an individual, and extended school closures can impede the educational success of students, impact families’ well-being and limit many parents and guardians from returning to work,” Corcoran insisted in the order.

Corcoran left the option available for parents who prefer “innovative learning environments,” including online education, to continue to use them.

The department also released a presentation offering some of the details on how schools can reopen.

“Districts and schools that wish to consider innovative alternatives to supporting their students’ and families’ unique needs – during this temporary state of emergency – will need to submit a plan,” the department noted. “Districts and schools that wish to open as usual do not need to submit a plan.”

Also on Monday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter, calling for schools to be open in the fall.


Leadership Florida Names Its Board of Directors for 2020-2021

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Leadership Florida announced its Board of Directors for the 2020-2021 program year:


Gregory Adam Haile, Chair, Cornerstone Class 30, President, Broward College, Fort Lauderdale

John Horne, Chair-Elect, Cornerstone Class 28, President/Owner, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Bradenton

Jim Gilmore, Past-Chair, Cornerstone Class 29, Managing Partner, Gilmore Hagan Partners, Jacksonville

Dominic Calabro, Secretary/Treasurer, Cornerstone Class 4, President & CEO, Florida TaxWatch, Tallahassee

Dionne Polite, Development Chair, Cornerstone Class 36, Manager of State Operations, AARP, Doral

Tim Hogans, Governance Chair, Connect Class 6, External Affairs Manager, Florida Power & Light Company, Plantation

Mark Wilson, Florida Chamber of Commerce Representative, Cornerstone Class 26, President & CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Tallahassee

Randall Vitale, Audit Chair, Cornerstone Class 32, College Class 3, President, Hoffman’s Chocolates, Fort Lauderdale

Amy Mangan, At-Large Member, Cornerstone Class 37, Director of Stakeholder Engagement, Duke Energy, Ocala

Aundra Wallace, At-Large Member, Cornerstone Class 34, President, JAXUSA Partnership, Jacksonville

Karen Arnold, At-Large Member, Cornerstone Class 36, COO Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, Tampa

Charley Caulkins, Florida Chamber of Commerce Representative, Executive Class 11, Partner, Fisher Phillips, Fort Lauderdale

Brian Goguen, Region Chair Representative, Cornerstone Class 30, COO, Barron Collier Companies, Naples

Roland Sanchez-Medina, Region Chair Representative, Cornerstone Class 29, Partner, SMGQ Law, Coral Gables

Susan Pareigis, Region Chair Representative, Cornerstone Class 19, Interim CEO & President, Southwest Florida Economic Development Council, Palm Harbor

Seth Daub, Education Class 5 Representative, Principal, Catalina Elementary School, Orlando

Andrew Fay, Past-Connect Chair, Connect Class 4, Commissioner, Florida Public Service Commission, Tallahassee

Doug Bartel, Cornerstone Class 39 Chair, Cornerstone Class 35, Sr. Director of Business Development, Florida Blue, Doral

Danielle Shull, Connect Class 11 Chair, Connect Class 9, Director of Client Experience, Gehring Group, Palm Beach Gardens

Kam Patton, Education Class 6 Chair, Cornerstone Class 31; Education Class 1, Superintendent, Collier County Schools, Naples

Lila Jaber, General Counsel, Ex-Officio, Cornerstone Class 23, Shareholder, LilaJaber Consulting, Tallahassee

Wendy Spencer, President & CEO, Leadership Florida, Ex-Officio, Cornerstone Class 24, Tallahassee

The Board of Directors is tasked with ensuring Leadership Florida can pursue its mission of convening a statewide community of leaders to recharge their leadership skills and to educate and inspire them to work for a better Florida.

For thirty-eight years, Leadership Florida has developed a reputation as a builder of a stronger, diverse statewide sense of community. As a respected non-partisan convener of committed individuals, Leadership Florida enhances the knowledge and leadership abilities of Florida’s leaders through educational programs and by encouraging collaborative work for the betterment of our state. These programs include the Cornerstone Class Program for leaders age 40 and over and the Connect Class Program for young leaders age 25-39. In addition, Leadership Florida conducts the Education Class Program for individuals invested in Florida’s educational system and the Executive Class Program for C-suite level executives that are new to Florida. The organization also provides Floridians essential information and a meaningful forum for their opinions and creates opportunities for shared experiences that are inviting, inspiring, and of lasting value.


Charlie Crist Announces Federal Funds for Homeless Veterans in St. Petersburg

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Last week, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, announced federal funds are headed to St. Petersburg to help homeless veterans.

Crist said the federal government is sending $332,402 to Boley Centers Inc. in St. Petersburg to help homeless veterans enter the workforce. The funds are through a  Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Our nation’s veterans have dedicated their lives to serving our country, but too often the wounds of war – both visible and invisible – make it difficult to transition back to civilian life. These struggles can leave our heroes out on the streets – and that’s simply unacceptable,” said Crist. “This funding provides a ladder out of homelessness for Pinellas veterans, giving them the support they need to reenter the workforce and live the American Dream they fought to protect.”

“Boley Centers, Inc., is a private, not-for-profit organization serving individuals with mental disabilities, individuals and families who are homeless, Veterans and youth in Pinellas, Manatee, Pasco and Sarasota Counties,” the congressman’s office noted.

Crist won three statewide offices as a Republican including winning the 2006 gubernatorial election. After being caught by Marco Rubio in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary, Crist continued his bid with no party affiliation. Crist joined the Democrats in 2012 and was his new party’s gubernatorial candidate in 2014, coming up just short against then Gov. Rick Scott. Two years later, Crist bounced back and defeated then U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., to be elected to Congress.


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Florida Society of Ophthalmology Focuses on Eye Injury Prevention During July

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The Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO) announced on Monday that it is working this month to share resources to help adults understand the importance of eye injury prevention and just how common accidental eye injuries can be.

“Most people think that eye injuries occur only in industries like construction or landscaping, but the truth is, nearly half of all eye injuries occur right at home,” said Dr. Darby Miller, the president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and who sits on the board of the For Eye Care Foundation, Inc. “With more and more Floridians staying at home this summer, we are working to bring awareness this month to the prevention of eye injuries and ensuring Floridians have the resources they need to stay safe on the job, at home, and during times of leisure.”

Summer months are full of moments that are ripe for eye injuries— from lawn maintenance and house improvements to tasks such as cleaning and cooking. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 90 percent of eye injuries can be avoided by simply using the correct protective eye gear, but only about three out of 10 people wear protective eye gear at home.

FSO will launch an information campaign this month that will share best resources on how Floridians can prepare themselves this summer from accidental eye injuries.

For more information on how you can protect your eyes, visit here.


Rick Scott Introduces Affordable Coronavirus Testing Act

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On Monday, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., showcased his proposal to ensure more Americans are able to have coronavirus tests covered by their insurance.

Scott introduced the “Affordable Coronavirus Testing Act” last week with U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., as a cosponsor. The Florida Republican’s office insisted the bill will help ensure “all Americans have access to affordable COVID-19 tests, that antibody tests are covered by insurance, and that testing information is efficiently shared among health care providers and public health officials” and Scott pointed to “reports that insurance companies are using loopholes in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to deny or restrict coverage for COVID-19 testing.”

On Monday, Scott weighed in on his proposal.

“Widespread coronavirus testing is one of the best ways we can fight this virus and get our economy re-opened. Reports that some health insurers are limiting or denying coronavirus testing coverage are unacceptable and dangerous, and my Affordable Coronavirus Testing Act will make sure every American has access to affordable coronavirus detection and antibody tests when they need them,” Scott said.

The bill would also have the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) keep finds in reserve to help test Americans who do not have insurance. Scott’s proposal would also ensure the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) update its data systems to ensure information is more accessible for medical professionals.

Scott’s bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee last week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. House.


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Florida Delegation Glad to See PPP Extended Through August

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Over the weekend, with the support of the Florida delegation on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump signed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which will now go through August 8.

Part of the $2.3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that the White House and Congress agreed to at the end of March, the PPP is geared to help small businesses during the pandemic. It had been scheduled to expire at the end of June before the extension was signed into law.

The extension through August 8 cleared the U.S. Senate without opposition. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee, weighed in on the extension, insisting it would help small businesses through the pandemic.

“The Paycheck Protection Program provided a critical lifeline to more than 4.8 million small businesses,” Rubio said last week. “As the scope of the financial damage done to small businesses by the pandemic and resulting lockdowns has grown, it has become clear that longer-term support is necessary. I thank Ranking Member Cardin and Senators Collins and Shaheen for their tireless work to ensure small businesses and their employees could survive the first wave of the coronavirus crisis. I will continue working with them and the rest of our colleagues to pass additional support for our smallest businesses, especially in our underserved communities, and provide long-term recovery resources for industries particularly hit hard by this crisis.”

The U.S. House also agreed to the extension without opposition. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., offered her take on extending the PPP last week.

“As coronavirus cases surge and businesses are forced to shutter, Floridians desperately need action to protect their lives and livelihoods. Last night, the House passed necessary short-term relief for local small businesses and their employees, extending the PPP application deadline to allow small businesses to apply for funds to help cover payroll and other critical expenses, which can be used through December 31,” Frankel said.

More than 380,000 small businesses in the Sunshine State have applied for and received PPP loans.


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Ron DeSantis, Enterprise Florida Look to Boost Trade With Canada, Mexico

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With the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) taking effect last week, Florida is looking to expand its trade with those two other North American nations.

Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) announced last week that it will expand its trade facilitation service with those countries. Following the modernized trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) is expanding its trade facilitation service to these border countries. The Virtual Business Matchmaking program is designed to help Florida’s small and medium-sized companies continue doing business overseas even as international travel is restricted and traditional marketing events are extremely limited.

“International trade continues to support millions of jobs for Florida’s export and import businesses,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “The expansion of Enterprise Florida’s Virtual Business Matchmaking program will provide Florida businesses the opportunity to engage new international markets and build their global client base with a reimbursable grant. This program is another example of how Florida is safely helping companies get back to work.”

“Enterprise Florida is excited to innovate our international trade and development programs by also offering a grant for Virtual Business Matchmaking,” said Florida Commerce Sec. Jamal Sowell, the president and CEO of EFI. “We are going to help a lot of small Florida businesses put their quality-made products and parts into the North American marketplace, despite the roadblocks that the COVID-19 pandemic created for them.”

Already available in 12 European countries, the Virtual Business Matchmaking program will now support the state’s exporters to reach new and existing customers in markets neighboring the United States. Both Mexico and Canada are signatories to the USMCA which modernized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and supports robust and more balanced reciprocal trade between the three countries with significant advantages for Florida exporters.

The Virtual Business Matchmaking service includes virtual introductions via teleconference or videoconference of up to five interested agents, distributors, or partners in various target markets who have been pre-screened and pre-qualified. EFI’s trade grant will cover the full cost of the matchmaking on a reimbursable basis, making the service completely free.

Florida companies have two options, depending on their market of interest.

  • Virtual Business Matchmaking will be provided by EFI’s international representatives through the Virtual Export Concierge Service. This service is currently offered in the European markets of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, and now in USMCA signatories Canada and Mexico. In each market or region, EFI’s international representatives will connect Florida companies with five pre-qualified partners/distributors through teleconference or videoconference.
  • Similar services are offered in additional markets through Enterprise Florida’s partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service and their International Partner Search Plus Virtual Introductions. The U.S. Commercial Service program includes virtual introductions with up to five pre-qualified contacts, with options for additional introductions.

As the second and third largest destinations for Florida-origin exports, Mexico and Canada play a key role in helping Florida’s international business community succeed. With growth of 14.6 percent in 2019, Canada received $4.3 billion of Florida-origin exports, while $3.3 billion worth of goods were shipped to Mexico. In addition to being major trade partners, both countries invest heavily in Florida, creating jobs and an economic boost for the state. Canada is Florida’s most important economic partner overall, and is the state’s second-largest global foreign investor, supporting 44,700 Florida jobs. Mexico is the state’s largest Latin American investor, creating another 5,200 jobs.


Ted Yoho Helps Gets Hong Kong Autonomy Act Through Congress

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U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman’s, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho’s, R-Fla., proposal offering “sanctions on foreign individuals and banks that participate in China’s oppression of Hong Kong” is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Last month, Sherman introduced the “Hong Kong Autonomy Act” with Yoho, the top Republican on the U.S. Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, as the main cosponsor. Yoho’s office insisted the bill “will take a number of important steps in response to a new national security law for Hong Kong put forward by Beijing last week that would revoke many of the island territory’s political freedoms, criminalize foreign interference, and ban sedition and subversion.” The proposal is in response to China’s recent crackdown on freedom speech and the right to strike in Hong Kong.

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) complete disregard for internationally binding agreements is clear. The Handover Agreement gave the Hong Kong territory until 2047 to come back under mainland control,” said Yoho when the bill was proposed.  “By destroying any sense of autonomy in Hong Kong, the CCP has admitted to the world that “one country, two systems” does not work, and it will resort to underhanded tactics and the use of force in getting what they want. The truth is, Xi and the CCP cannot survive with people that have the liberty of free thought. The United States must stand with the people of Hong Kong and work with our allies to put pressure on Beijing to honor their past agreements.”

The bill is being championed in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Mary.

“I commend our Senate counterparts for moving quickly to address Beijing’s unilateral move to impose a new national security law after years of unsuccessful attempts to use the local Hong Kong legislature to pass other anti-democracy measures. Congress must act to support the residents of Hong Kong, and uphold the key obligations that China made to Hong Kong in the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” Sherman said when he introduced the measure.

The Senate cleared the proposal on a voice vote at the end of last month and cleared the House without objection last week.

“Today, Congress has spoken strongly in favor of standing with the people of Hong Kong by unanimously passing the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and place mandatory sanctions on those responsible for undermining the territory’s guaranteed autonomous status.,” said Yoho after his bill passed last week. “The Hong Kong we see today is unrecognizable from before, where ‘One Country, Two Systems’ has been forcibly molded into ‘One Country, One System.’ This bill is a strong measure in holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its abuses towards Hong Kong, and I join my colleagues in Congress from both parties in urging President Trump to sign this legislation.”

“I commend Speaker Pelosi for moving quickly to pass the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and commend Senators Toomey and Van Hollen for leading this effort, to address Beijing’s unilateral move to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong,” said Sherman. “Over the last year, we have seen Hong Kongers come to the streets in record numbers in response to mainland China’s actions — the latest of which is nothing short of a complete violation of Hong Kong’s autonomy. No one in Hong Kong should face life in prison for going to the street to voice their opposition to their government’s decisions. We need to reject the recent actions by the Chinese Communist Party and impose consequences on Beijing for its actions towards Hong Kong.”


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Rick Scott to Prime Minister Modi: the U.S. Stands with India Against China’s Aggression

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Last week, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing condolences for the loss of 20 Indian soldiers last month during the Chinese assault on Indian troops in the Galwan Valley, and offering his support as India continues to stand strong against Communist China and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi. This follows  Scott’s call last week with Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu.

Scott’s letter, which was sent on Thursday, is below.

Dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

I want to first express my condolences for the loss of 20 Indian soldiers last month during the Chinese assault on Indian troops in the Galwan Valley. My heart goes out to the families of those lost.

The United States stands with India as you fight against Communist China’s aggression, and I commend your continued efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution.

Unfortunately, we know Communist China never lives up to its commitments. The tyrants of Communist China continue to steal technology and refuse to open their markets to foreign goods as required by their agreement to be part of the WTO. They continue to attack religious freedom by detaining more than one million Uyghurs in internment and re-education camps, and have not lived up to the agreement to give Hong Kong autonomy and freedom. They are militarizing the South China Sea, even after they promised President Obama they would not, and now, they continue to try to assert their military dominance wherever they think it would serve their quest for world dominance.

Communist China believes that in order for them to be stronger, America, India and other freedom-loving countries must be weaker. They’re cracking down on freedom and autonomy in Hong Kong, and continue to threaten Taiwan and India. If they continue down this path, Communist China’s neighbors will have no choice but to treat them as a serious threat that uses military force against peaceful democratic powers.

As you continue to stand strong against Communist China and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi, I want to offer help in any way I can to the Republic of India, the world’s largest democracy and our ally. The United States will always defend our allies and those fighting for freedom. Please do not hesitate to reach out if there is anything you need in this fight.