Discussion Points: 

Starting the Conversation...

America IS STILL great because the American people are great.  When I’ve traveled around the District and talked to people, I see Americans who, 24/7, do what they can to support and protect their families, communities, ideals, and country.  I’ve seen business owners taking care of their employees, retirees working in their communities, teachers buying school supplies for their students, young parents struggling with a million demands on their time, college grads with mountains of debt who still crack jokes, veterans who still salute the flag even when they feel that veterans aren’t getting enough help, and last and very certainly not least, first responders giving their all to protect our communities.  I saw thousands of Floridians step up and speak out after the recent tragic events to call for peace and unity. Most do it with both spirit and energy but also common sense and civility. 

The main thing that I’ve seen that isn’t so great:  elected officials who don’t live up to the greatness of our people. They don’t exhibit common sense and they certainly aren’t civil.  Rather than serving the public and getting the honorable business of government done, they serve the wealthy and privileged and try to divide us to serve their purposes.  They treat government as a game to be won.  Not surprisingly, the American people aren’t winning.  This government by the people for the people is still the best option in the world, but we must work together to progress.  Fear mongering to promote personal and party profit must stop.

I will be a public servant who listens, reflects the best of Florida’s people and gets things done. 

It’s time to get back to making these ideals real:

To work toward these goals, I’d like to start a conversation about the actions that we should take now.   Here are my ideas, but I’d like to hear more ideas and hear your views.

- Bill

 

Economic Opportunity & Security

Living Wages and Fair Taxes:  Our economy needs a healthy middle class to drive economic growth and income growth has not occurred for all Americans.  No one who works full time should have to live in poverty.  Let’s fix the minimum wage at $15/hour and then assure that people who work get a living wage.  To pay for many of the proposals below, we need to ask wealthy Americans to pay their fair share of taxes.  Americans in the top one-tenth of one percent of income levels now have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of Americans combined.  The 20 wealthiest people in this country now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people.   Many of these wealthy people use tax loopholes, deductions, offshore holdings, and other tactics to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  We need to work toward fairness in federal income taxes by closing these loopholes and unfair tactics.

Protecting Social Security and Medicare:  I will oppose every effort to cut or privatize Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age or to diminish benefits by cutting cost of living adjustments. Corporations have greatly reduced their contributions to 401K retirement plans, to as low as 2%, shifting almost the entire burden on the employee.  We need to make sure Social Security’s guaranteed benefits continue for generations to come by asking those at the top to pay their fair share, and achieve this goal by sharing more of the load with the over $250,000 annual income group.

Work to Assure Universal Health Insurance:  No American should suffer or even die because they cannot afford medical care.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has resulted in nearly 1.6 million Floridians receiving affordable health insurance coverage (as of February of this year) and was a great start.  However, with the support of Governor Scott, Florida “opted out” of the part of the Act that extends Medicaid to the poorest Florida adults—those with incomes that are less than 138 % of the Federal Poverty Level.  About 567,000 people in Florida have not received health care insurance because of this Medicaid gap.  About 57% of these people are African Americans and 54% are among the working poor.  The federal government would have paid for coverage of people in this gap, but the state has refused these funds.  A conservative estimate, based on the state’s Estimating Conference data, finds that in 2015 Florida lost $10 million in federal funds every day because lawmakers did not accept the money to extend Medicaid coverage, and this loss continues.   We need to, at a minimum, work toward insuring that everyone has health insurance.  Closing the Medicaid gap would be a good start.  

As originally proposed in the ACA, we should give Americans in every state the choice of a "public-option" insurance plan to augment the private insurance plans. We should also allow people below Medicare age to opt into the program by offering it to those who are 55 and older. 

Put People to Work Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure:  Congress was recently able to come together to pass a major act to address road and bridge infrastructure.  If Congress can cooperate to pass this new law, I know we can get together to solve other infrastructure problems such as needed improvements in our drinking water, sewage treatment, electric grid, port, and airport infrastructure. 

Free Trade must include Fair Trade: China and other countries are using unfair trade practices to tilt the playing field against American workers and businesses.  Foreign countries and their businesses dump cheap products into our markets, steal our trade secrets, devalue currencies, and discriminate against American companies.  Many allow extreme industrial pollution and horrible working conditions.  All of this puts American companies at a disadvantage and hurts our middle class.  We need to hold our trading partners accountable and insist that new trading treaties protect Americans.  

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Educational Excellence

Support Our Teachers:  Good teachers are essential to improving student learning and helping all students meet high academic standards. Years of cutting expenses on the back of teachers has caused a critical shortage of them.  We need to recruit and retain high-quality teachers through providing them the pay they deserve and the tools and ongoing professional development they need.  We must lift up and trust our educators, continually build their capacity, and ensure that our schools are safe, welcoming, collaborative, and well-resourced places for our students, educators, and communities.  Additionally, standards for schools must be reasonable and all schools receiving government funds must meet the same standards. 

College Educations That Don’t Bankrupt Our Kids:  All students who want to get a college education should be able to do so without taking on unmanageable debt.  In recent years, middle class incomes have stagnated, costs have increased, and states have reduced their spending on public universities.  In addition, banks, private loan companies and even the federal government got into the business of making profits from student debt.  Some ideas for addressing existing debt includes allowing students to refinance their loans at the lowest rates possible.  For future students, we need to cut interest rates, thereby preventing the federal government from making billions of dollars in profit from student loans. We also need to hold lenders and loan servicers to high standards in the way that they treat borrowers and assure they help borrowers in default to rehabilitate and repay their debts.  We should also change the law back to prior standards in bankruptcy law, allowing borrowers with student loans to declare bankruptcy only as a measure of last resort.   

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Clean & Safe Environment

Clean Water for Floridians:  Much of Florida’s Everglades, the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Johns River, and our springs are polluted.  Algae blooms and fear about our waters being safe hurt our people and our economy.  These problems will continue unless our environmental agencies are given the resources and political support to do their jobs.  We need more investment in cleaning and restoring our waters. Governor Scott and the Legislature must follow the directive of Amendment 1 to purchase needed conservation lands.  I will do everything I can to protect and restore our bays, rivers, springs and to implement the already existing plan to restore the Everglades.  Additional delay will result in continued pollution and damage not only to our environment, but also to a primary driver of our economy--Florida tourism.

A Business Approach to Climate Change:  15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred this century.  Rising sea levels threaten our beaches—the beaches that provide Florida with millions of dollars in tourism revenue.  I will support regulations that set reasonable limits on carbon pollution. United States businesses must be encouraged to do what they have done for decades in response to environmental regulations—innovate with new technologies and techniques to achieve the regulations in the cheapest and most efficient ways, all the while creating valuable new technologies.  Implementing regulations that reduce climate pollution, will also protect public health from air pollution.  I also believe that we need the support our local governments as they plan for and work to protect our citizens from the unavoidable impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, drought, and heat.  

Making Clean Energy Work for Florida’s Economy:  With ample sunshine, only 2 other states, California and Texas, have more rooftop solar power potential than Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  Yet the state ranks 13th in installed solar capacity and our state government appears to be actively discouraging our citizens from installing their own solar panels.  We need to encourage clean energy sources, especially solar; not only to protect the environment, but to assure that the state is in the forefront of job-creating new technologies. 

(Take a look at these articles:  http://fcir.org/2015/04/03/in-sunshine-state-big-energy-blocks-solar-power and http://fcir.org/2015/12/26/a-tale-of-two-governors-florida-climate-change-denial  Stunning!)

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Safety & Security

Keep Our Military Strong and Our Citizens Safe:  A strong military is critical for the safety of our people.  America must continue to have the strongest military in the world. I support a smart, predictable defense budget that meets the strategic challenges we face. We must prioritize military readiness by making sure that our armed forces remain the best trained and equipped and that the Department of Defense invests its budget wisely.  At the same time, the military should only be sent into combat when the terms of engagement are clearly presented to the American people and our troops have what they need to fulfill their mission.  War must always be the last resort, never the first choice.   For veterans, we need to push for more educational benefits and job training, end chronic homelessness and suicide, and protect and preserve the post-9/11 GI Bill for future generations. I am deeply disturbed by the systemic problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and will fight for every veteran to have access to timely, high-quality health care.  After 15 years of almost continuous deployment, the families of veterans also need our support and help.

Support Our Police and Other First Responders:  Our police and other first responders need the very best equipment, training, and support that we can give them.  As with teachers, the police and first responders have suffered at the hand of expense cutters. We need to offer competitive wages to attract and retain more competent personnel. The terrible events in Orlando and Dallas show the dedication of our first responders and we must give them our strongest support. 

Implement Reasonable Gun Controls:  I grew up in a family that hunted and I am a gun owner, but the statistics on gun violence leads me to believe that we must take action.   According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun violence, every day, 297 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides andsuicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.  89 of the people who are shot die.  48 of those shot were children, and, every day, 7 of them die.  It is perfectly possible to respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe. We need to expand background checks and close dangerous loopholes in our current laws, hold irresponsible dealers and manufacturers accountable keep weapons of war—such as assault weapons and high-capacity magazines—off our streets, and ensure guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and those with severe mental health issues.

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Elected Officials We Can Trust & Respect

Clean up Campaign Finance:  I support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United; I would name it “Citizens Only”.  We need to end secret, unaccountable money in politics by requiring, through executive order or legislation, significantly more disclosure and transparency—by outside groups, federal contractors, and public corporations to their shareholders.  We need to strengthen the Federal Election Commission so that there is real enforcement of campaign finance laws. We need to fight to eliminate super PACs and outside spending abuses.

Elected Officials Who Listen to You and Believe in Public Service:  While I intend to address the issues I’ve mentioned above, only you can assure that this action is taken.  

Vote and vote for candidates who believe in public service.  

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