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Activists protest Senate Health Care Bill in Downtown Orlando

Activists gathered outside of the Downtown Orlando offices of Senator Marco Rubio on Wednesday morning, to protest the upcoming Senate vote on a health care bill that aims to ultimately replace the Affordable Health Care act, better known as “Obamacare”.

There was a skit played out where members of the protest dressed up as billionaire Republicans hoping to profit from the sick. There was also a program of speakers that would be affected by any changes to current Health Care policy, and additional protesters waiving signs to drivers along Orange Avenue.

The bill is expected to come to a vote before the July 4th Holiday weekend. Democrats have been critical of the process, with the bill being drawn up by the GOP majority behind closed doors. An Obamacare replacement bill has already passed the House of Representatives, mostly along party lines with some Republicans also voting against it because of possible changes to Medicare. A similar fight is expected in the House.

Rubio is expected to vote in favor of any possible changes. His colleague, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, has already spoken out against the expected legislation.

“We’re here to let people know we don’t want the ACA repealed” said Estefany Londono, a local student participating at the protest “If it’s repealed, we’re not going to be able to get the care we need and we want Senator Rubio to hear out voices and vote to keep ACA.”

Stephanie Murphy presents Service Awards to Family of War Hero at Oviedo ceremony

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy was in Oviedo on Saturday afternoon, to honor the memory of a World War II sailor Paul J. Linton, at an awards ceremony where she presented several posthumous service awards to Linton’s daughter, Marie Delaney.

Murphy also presented Delaney with an American flag she had flown over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington in his honor. The ceremony was held at post 243 of the American Legion, were Delaney’s children and grandchildren were also present.

“Paul served his country to defend freedom and democracy, and I’m proud to help recognize his distinguished service,” said Murphy. “My family was rescued at sea by a U.S. Navy vessel when we fled Communist-controlled Vietnam, so I have incredible admiration for sailors like Paul and all those who serve in our military. It’s important we take the time to show our appreciation to the men and woman who risk their lives to keep our nation safe.”

Before the ceremony, Murphy spoke to reporters regarding the attack that took place earlier this week in Alexandria, Virginia, during a practice for a Congressional baseball game. The shooting wounded several people including Murphy’s colleague, Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, before the gunmen was killed by capitol police. Scalise remains in critical condition.

“My thoughts have really just been praying for the recovery of Mr. Scalise and all of the other folks that have been affected by this tragedy.” said Murphy “As a country we really need to continue to pray for the victims of gun violence and think about how we can address this issue.”

Bipartisan Coalition pushes for Puerto Rico statehood in Orlando following plebiscite vote

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, businessmen, and activists held a press conference in Downtown Orlando on Wednesday morning; to push for Puerto Rican statehood following a recent plebiscite vote that took place on the island illustrating residents were strongly in favor of the commonwealth becoming the nation’s 51st state.

The group included Democratic State Lawmakers, Senator Victor Torres, Representative John Cortes, Anthony Suarez, President of Puerto Rican Bar Association, and Republican Businessman Peter Vivaldi. Torres and Vivaldi ran against each for State Senate last year before uniting for the cause on Wednesday.

“This group has come together before you today, not as Democrats and Republicans, but as American Citizens of Puerto Rican descent with the purpose of calling on both Congress and President Trump to act on behalf of 3.5 million American citizens on the island of Puerto Rico and the 5 million that live in the U.S” said Vivaldi.

While Orlando members of Congress, like Darren Soto, the area’s first Puerto Rican member of the House, and Stephanie Murphy have voiced support for statehood, the group was asking citizens to call on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and other members of the House to act.

“We’re in the 21st century and we need to think of Puerto Ricans as human beings and American Citizens.” said Cortes “This is all about getting better. It doesn’t matter about which political party we’re in”

There has been little movement in Congress towards any initiatives towards Puerto Rican statehood, despite heavy lobbying efforts from Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosello and their Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez.

Poor economic conditions on the island have led to many Puerto Ricans moving to Central Florida for a new start in the heavy entry level job market. The group believes statehood could improve conditions on the island and cites contributions by its people as cause for consideration, such as the millions of Puerto Ricans who have served in the military.

“This isn’t a Puerto Rican thing. It’s an American thing.” said Suarez in closing.

Orange County Commission weighs changes to Fertilizer ordinance

Orange County Commissioners received a briefing on suggested revisions to the county’s fertilizer ordinance policy on Tuesday morning. The changes are being prompted by the “Springs and Aquifer Protection Act” passed at the state level, requiring the municipalities to take steps to avoid further damages to their region’s water supply.

Some of the suggested changes include an increase in the amount of distance needed for fertilizer applications from bodies of water, soil testing for any fertilizer applications involving phosphorus, and a summertime phosphorus blackout period.

The debate brought out both advocates and opponents to the revisions from all over the state with environmentalists pushing for a strong ordinance that includes the phosphorus blackout, and opposing businesses looking for corporate exemptions from any new policies.

A discussion with stakeholders indicated that neighboring Seminole County’s ordinances garnered support from both groups, but the summertime blackout period included in their agreement has left the two sides at an impasse.
No vote was taken after the presentation. Orange County Soil and Water Supervisor, Eric Rollings, provided public comment during the meeting and believes education plays a major role in the discussion.

“It’s my belief that if we’re going to educate Central Florida and we’ve got a different ordinances in Orange, Lake, and Seminole, it’s going to make it much more difficult.” said Rollings “We just want to make it so it’s all the same.”

The next step will be a public hearing scheduled to take place on June 20th. A new ordinance must be in place by July 1st to be in compliance with the statewide law.

Downtown Orlando Small Businesses near Pulse Nightclub reopen after shooting

Florida Governor Rick Scott and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, were in the Downtown South area on Tuesday morning, to encourage residents to support the businesses near the Pulse Nightclub. The area was reopened to the public yesterday, ten days after the deadly shooting with many of the nearby businesses suspended during the time of the investigation.

“We have to think about how we get these businesses back to work” said Scott at a press conference held at the Ragin Cajun Bike Shop “A lot of people think it’s just a business. No, it’s people that need to get paid. The truth is we’ve got to get these businesses back to work”

Some of the businesses surrounding Pulse also include tire stores and small restaurants, as well as some professional service offices and larger chain organizations. There is still a perimeter surrounding Pulse that has turned into a memorial for the 49 victims that lost their lives there.

“The people behind me are grieving, but they’re also ready to get back to work.” said Mayor Jacobs “The purpose of terror is to force us into cocoons, we have come together as a community to show that this killer did not disrupt this community and we cannot let him disrupt our way of lives.”