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Florida:  Hurricane committee focuses on seniors, power grid 

Florida:  Hurricane committee focuses on seniors, power grid 

(AP) - Florida's first major hurricane in 12 years has spawned 78 recommendations from lawmakers seeking to improve the state's readiness before the next big one.   The 21-member House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness approved its final report Tuesday. It says strengthening the power grid, better management of shelters and increased care for seniors should be the top priorities.    The committee was formed by Speaker Richard Corcoran after Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville. The first major storm to hit Florida since Wilma in 2005, Irma knocked out power to much of the state, affecting millions, including a South Florida nursing home where 12 people died after electricity and air conditioning went out.    'We experience changes from each storm that hits each area. Irma is different because it hit everyone and we all had those lessons at the same time,' said Rep. Kristin Jacobs, a committee member.    Committee chair Jeanette Nunez said the report is not a comprehensive and exhaustive list but the best starting point for various House committees to pursue. Nunez also notes that the list includes most of the recommendations are long-term projects.    'We tried to balance some of the short-term needs alongside the long-term recommendations not only because of the fiscal considerations but also things are going to take time for study and analysis,' she said.    Both the House and Senate have bills in committees that would make backup generators mandatory at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Both chambers are getting closer to finding common ground on proposals to help pay for the generators, such as increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates or using state money or tax breaks.    The committee also thinks that the state can do more to better train county and local officials in managing storm shelters before the next hurricane season starts on June 1.    'We're making sure that locals are better prepared,' Nunez said.    The process of restoring and hardening Florida's power grid will take longer, such as installing more underground lines. More than 6.7 million residents were without power during Irma and many faced prolonged outages. The committee's recommendations stopped short of recommending underground power lines but did recommend the state's Public Service Commission study all feasible measures as well as funding some storm hardening projects.    Jacobs, a Democrat from Coconut Creek, said she welcomed any steps to improve power infrastructure but was concerned he hadn't see the issue of more underground power lines being addressed yet.    'I am confident the issue will be addressed but I don't know the timeline,' she said.    After a record 6.5 million people were evacuated because of Irma, there are recommendations to establish petroleum distribution centers throughout the state and provide residents with a real-time, web-based evacuation route tool.    Nunez, a Republican who represents a Miami district, said she was proud of the committee's work in trying to provide a framework for as many issues as possible.    'I believe that we did get a little comfortable in our planning and resiliency efforts since we had not been impacted by a storm in over a decade,' she said. 'Human nature is you move on to next big issue. From the Legislature's perspective we need to keep bringing it to the forefront and not ever get comfortable again.

Conservatives balk at GOP plan to avert government shutdown

Conservatives balk at GOP plan to avert government shutdown

Hard-line conservatives are threatening to scuttle Republican leaders' plans to prevent a weekend government shutdown and saying GOP leaders lack the votes to push their proposal through the House.The setback late Tuesday came as a deal between President Donald Trump and Congress to protect young immigrants from deportation also remained distant.The intransigence by the House Freedom Caucus came as Republican leaders raced against a Friday deadline for pushing a short-term spending bill through Congress. If they fail, federal agencies would start shutting their doors over the weekend. That's an election-year debacle that GOP leaders and many Democrats are eager to avoid for fear of alienating voters.The leader of the Freedom Caucus emerged from a Tuesday night meeting to say its members — and other GOP lawmakers as well — want a short-term bill keeping federal agencies open to contain added money for the military.'There's not enough support to pass it with GOP-only votes in the House,' the group's leader, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters. He said he planned to discuss their concerns with Republican leaders.The GOP focus on keeping government open comes as it's become certain there's no time to cut a deal by Friday on protecting young immigrants.Those talks were soured by Trump's incendiary remarks about 'shithole' countries in Africa last week. Democratic leaders said they would not promise to vote to keep the government open past Friday without a plan to preserve a program that protects the young immigrants known as 'Dreamers.'We don't want to shut down the government. ... We want to keep the government open,' Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. 'But we're not going to be held hostage to do things that we think are going to be contrary to the best interests of the American people.'House Republican leaders tried to win over wary conservatives with a promise to repeal unpopular taxes as part of the bill preventing a shutdown.They sweetened the plan with a two-year delay on implementation of unpopular taxes on medical devices and generous employer-subsidized health care plans. The taxes, also unpopular with many Democrats, are part of former President Barack Obama's marquee health law.The temporary funding bill would also include a long-delayed, six-year renewal of a popular health insurance program for children of low-income families. It would fund the government through Feb. 16.House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled the plan at a Tuesday evening GOP meeting. Lawmakers and aides initially said it was received well, raising hopes that a potential shutdown would be sidestepped with relative ease. A Ryan spokeswoman declined later to comment on the Freedom Caucus' opposition.Many Democrats said they're still unlikely to support the measure without an agreement on immigration. The prospects for such a deal were complicated as Democrats appeared to see scant reason to bargain with a president many in their party view as holding racist views.'There's no trust there,' said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.Negotiations on immigration were to resume Wednesday but Marc Short, a top White House aide, said an agreement was very unlikely to come this week. 'We're optimistic that we'll get a deal,' Short said. 'I think this week would be fairly Herculean.'Even if they succeed in the House, Republicans would still need at least nine Democratic votes to push a spending package through the Senate, which the GOP controls 51-49. Democrats seeking leverage are forcing that bill to require 60 votes for passage.When the Senate approved a similar short-term spending bill in December, 17 Democrats plus Maine independent Angus King voted to keep the government open. Seven of those Democrats face re-election in November in Trump-won states — including West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana, which have small numbers of minority voters.Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said Tuesday he'll vote for a short-term spending bill without a plan to assist the immigrants facing possible deportation.'I think everyone has the empathy and compassion to want to help these young people who are stranded and we're trying to find that, but shutting down the government isn't going to help them,' Manchin said.Democrats voting against that December bill included some senators — such as Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California — who might seek the presidency in 2020 and would love support from their party's liberal voters.On the left, liberal groups are ramping up pressure on Democrats to resist any spending plan. Groups like MoveOn, United We Dream and CREDO shifted their focus from Republicans to Democrats earlier in the month, threatening primary challenges and public ridicule for Democrats unwilling to risk a government shutdown to save the program for young immigrants.Meanwhile, the bipartisan group of senators continued work to build support for a plan to protect the 'Dreamers' and toughen border security, including funds to start building Trump's long-promised border wall.Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, late last year but gave Congress until March 5 to pass legislation extending the initiative created by President Barack Obama. It has protected around 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought to highlight the later deadline, suggesting there was more time to work out a deal. A shutdown now would be 'a manufactured crisis,' he argued.___Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Marcy Gordon and Steve Peoples contributed to this report.

Jacksonville bakery sends turnovers to Steelers QB Roethlisberger

Jacksonville bakery sends turnovers to Steelers QB Roethlisberger

The Jacksonville Jaguars not only beat the Pittsburgh Steelers this past weekend to send themselves to the AFC Championship game, but they tacked on a few more turnovers during the victory. Now, a Jacksonville victory wants to give Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a literal taste of those turnovers. Cinotti’s Bakery posted on Facebook that they’re sending a thank you to Big Ben. “We appreciate the turnovers you gave us over our season so in return we wanted you to get a TASTE of 7 turnovers,” the post says. The bakery also posted a photo of the label which shows they sent apple, blueberry, and cherry turnovers to Roethlisberger at Heinz Field. Seven turnovers represents the two from the Jags this past weekend added to the five they racked up when they beat the Steelers earlier this season. Jags fans are not shy about voicing how they feel about the team.  Fans recently gained national headlines for sending trash cans to Jadeveon Clowney of the Houston Texans, because he called Jags QB Blake Bortles trash. With their win over the Steelers, the Jags now face the Patriots in the AFC Championship Sunday in Foxborough at 3:05PM.

It was chilly in Jacksonville, but that didn’t stop thousands of Jaguars fans from crowding in to EverBank Field Sunday night to welcome home their team- which had just earned a spot in the AFC Championship.  GALLERY: Jags homecoming celebration The Jags topped the Steelers in Pittsburgh 45-42 to win the Divisional match. Soon after the game ended, the City and Jags announced they would be opening up EverBank Field for a celebration. Despite only having a few hours notice, fans came out in force. Head Coach Doug Marrone and several players addressed the crowd, with Defensive End Calais Campbell drawing big cheers by promising “we ain’t done yet”. Still others led fans in a “DUUUVVAAAALLL” cheer. While waiting for the team to arrive, fans were entertained by music, the ROAR of the Jaguars cheerleaders, the D-Line drum line, Jaxson de ville, and highlight and hype videos. The Club Level was also packed inside, as fans kept warm while waiting for their team. Huge cheers rang out when a plane flew over the stadium- which was soon confirmed to be the team plane. From that point, fans were treated to frequent live looks at the team as they deplaned and made their way to EverBank Field. As soon as they got to the field, they came out immediately- with many players heading straight to the fans for high fives. Many fans told us they’ve been waiting to see this spirit for years. One- who wears customized Jags gear to music raves- tells us he has seen more respect recently, including people yelling “Duval” at him. Other fans are new converts. We found a person in Steelers gear who said now that the Jags had knocked out the Steelers, she would be rooting for Jacksonville moving forward. The Jags play the Patriots in Foxborough Sunday at 3:05PM for the AFC Championship. Our partner Action News Jax is the official Jaguars station and will have full coverage throughout the week, including special shows at 7PM and pre- and post-game coverage. Players react:
It was chilly in Jacksonville, but that didn’t stop thousands of Jaguars fans from crowding in to EverBank Field Sunday night to welcome home their team- which had just earned a spot in the AFC Championship.  GALLERY: Jags homecoming celebration The Jags topped the Steelers in Pittsburgh 45-42 to win the Divisional match. Soon after the game ended, the City and Jags announced they would be opening up EverBank Field for a celebration. Despite only having a few hours notice, fans came out in force. Head Coach Doug Marrone and several players addressed the crowd, with Defensive End Calais Campbell drawing big cheers by promising “we ain’t done yet”. Still others led fans in a “DUUUVVAAAALLL” cheer. While waiting for the team to arrive, fans were entertained by music, the ROAR of the Jaguars cheerleaders, the D-Line drum line, Jaxson de ville, and highlight and hype videos. The Club Level was also packed inside, as fans kept warm while waiting for their team. Huge cheers rang out when a plane flew over the stadium- which was soon confirmed to be the team plane. From that point, fans were treated to frequent live looks at the team as they deplaned and made their way to EverBank Field. As soon as they got to the field, they came out immediately- with many players heading straight to the fans for high fives. Many fans told us they’ve been waiting to see this spirit for years. One- who wears customized Jags gear to music raves- tells us he has seen more respect recently, including people yelling “Duval” at him. Other fans are new converts. We found a person in Steelers gear who said now that the Jags had knocked out the Steelers, she would be rooting for Jacksonville moving forward. The Jags play the Patriots in Foxborough Sunday at 3:05PM for the AFC Championship. Our partner Action News Jax is the official Jaguars station and will have full coverage throughout the week, including special shows at 7PM and pre- and post-game coverage. Players react:
It was chilly in Jacksonville, but that didn’t stop thousands of Jaguars fans from crowding in to EverBank Field Sunday night to welcome home their team- which had just earned a spot in the AFC Championship.  GALLERY: Jags homecoming celebration The Jags topped the Steelers in Pittsburgh 45-42 to win the Divisional match. Soon after the game ended, the City and Jags announced they would be opening up EverBank Field for a celebration. Despite only having a few hours notice, fans came out in force. Head Coach Doug Marrone and several players addressed the crowd, with Defensive End Calais Campbell drawing big cheers by promising “we ain’t done yet”. Still others led fans in a “DUUUVVAAAALLL” cheer. While waiting for the team to arrive, fans were entertained by music, the ROAR of the Jaguars cheerleaders, the D-Line drum line, Jaxson de ville, and highlight and hype videos. The Club Level was also packed inside, as fans kept warm while waiting for their team. Huge cheers rang out when a plane flew over the stadium- which was soon confirmed to be the team plane. From that point, fans were treated to frequent live looks at the team as they deplaned and made their way to EverBank Field. As soon as they got to the field, they came out immediately- with many players heading straight to the fans for high fives. Many fans told us they’ve been waiting to see this spirit for years. One- who wears customized Jags gear to music raves- tells us he has seen more respect recently, including people yelling “Duval” at him. Other fans are new converts. We found a person in Steelers gear who said now that the Jags had knocked out the Steelers, she would be rooting for Jacksonville moving forward. The Jags play the Patriots in Foxborough Sunday at 3:05PM for the AFC Championship. Our partner Action News Jax is the official Jaguars station and will have full coverage throughout the week, including special shows at 7PM and pre- and post-game coverage. Players react:
It was chilly in Jacksonville, but that didn’t stop thousands of Jaguars fans from crowding in to EverBank Field Sunday night to welcome home their team- which had just earned a spot in the AFC Championship.  GALLERY: Jags homecoming celebration The Jags topped the Steelers in Pittsburgh 45-42 to win the Divisional match. Soon after the game ended, the City and Jags announced they would be opening up EverBank Field for a celebration. Despite only having a few hours notice, fans came out in force. Head Coach Doug Marrone and several players addressed the crowd, with Defensive End Calais Campbell drawing big cheers by promising “we ain’t done yet”. Still others led fans in a “DUUUVVAAAALLL” cheer. While waiting for the team to arrive, fans were entertained by music, the ROAR of the Jaguars cheerleaders, the D-Line drum line, Jaxson de ville, and highlight and hype videos. The Club Level was also packed inside, as fans kept warm while waiting for their team. Huge cheers rang out when a plane flew over the stadium- which was soon confirmed to be the team plane. From that point, fans were treated to frequent live looks at the team as they deplaned and made their way to EverBank Field. As soon as they got to the field, they came out immediately- with many players heading straight to the fans for high fives. Many fans told us they’ve been waiting to see this spirit for years. One- who wears customized Jags gear to music raves- tells us he has seen more respect recently, including people yelling “Duval” at him. Other fans are new converts. We found a person in Steelers gear who said now that the Jags had knocked out the Steelers, she would be rooting for Jacksonville moving forward. The Jags play the Patriots in Foxborough Sunday at 3:05PM for the AFC Championship. Our partner Action News Jax is the official Jaguars station and will have full coverage throughout the week, including special shows at 7PM and pre- and post-game coverage. Players react:
DACA deal on sidelines as GOP floats new short term funding plan to avoid shutdown

Waving off a push by Democrats to force action this week on a compromise over the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” Republicans in Congress said they wanted to wait for further negotiations on DACA, as House GOP leaders unveiled a short term funding plan that would keep the federal government running into mid-February, but that measure faced resistance from some more conservative Republicans.

“There is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issues of illegal immigration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said a resolution on DACA could wait until February or March.

But even without DACA [More]