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Friday, March 25, 2011

Pool Report: Vice President At Florida DNC Fund Raiser Event

Vice President Biden, attending an event for Senator Bill Nelson, made the following remarks at a lunchtime fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s 2012 re-election campaign. Items he spoke on include updating and renewing our infrastructure.

“No business is going to build its own ports, its own runways, its own broadband networks. None are able to that,” Biden said. “The government provides seed money. That’s how we built the transcontinental railroad. That’s how we got the Internet", said Biden. "That’s why Sen. Nelson and I both thought the high-speed rail made sense.”

As you know, not everyone is in agreement of the Obama Administration's vision of creating modern, faster rail options.  The state's republican governor, Rick Scott rejected the $2.4b in federal funds offered to Florida for such use, saying the project would lose money and become a state liability.

Biden said the administration’s strategy is to address the national debt long-term, and said Republicans are trying to address it short-term, which he said means eliminating investment in growth. In particular he called in investment in education and technology.

“Does anybody think we can lead the world if we don’t pioneer the next generation of communication technology. IF we don’t invest in research and development in the private sector by encouraging it in the public sector?” Biden said. “This is about more than just jobs. This is our future.”

An estimated 150 people donated a minimum of $500 apiece to hear Biden at the Winter Park home of developer and philanthropist Alan Ginsburg, in a sprawling estate on the south shore of Lake Maitland.

In Ginsburg’s home theater room, against a backdrop of blue curtains and Florida and American flags, Biden gave a 25-minute speech, mostly praising Nelson and the accomplishments of President Barack Obama.

He said he came to raise money for Nelson not just because they are friends and long time political allies but also because, “as goes Bill Nelson in Florida, go Barack Obama and Joe Biden in Florida.”

The vice president has had his hands full lately as the lead White House lead negotiator in the talks with Congress over passage of a new spending bill, which has seen House Republicans press for $60 billion in cuts while Democrats have offered about $10 billion. Meanwhile, Obama has been in South America this past week while the U.S. Joined Great Britain and France in attacking Libya’s air defenses and creating a no-fly zone to protect Libyan rebels.

Biden never mentioned Libya and only talked about the budget fight in broad terms.

Biden said the Obama administration took over the country at a time when the world is changing dramatically, economically and geo-politically. It was the closest he came to discussing Libya, when he noted the sweeping regime changes and protests spreading through the Middle East.

“The world is changing with or without us,” he said.

Biden blasted nay-sayers who claim China’s economy is outpacing the United States.

“I want China to do well. The simple truth is our economy is two and a half times as big as China’s,” he said.

Under the theme of changing strategies for a changing world, Biden declared the federal bail-outs of American banks and auto companies as successes, and predicted faster economic growth.

He said Obama is responding to world geo-political changes the same way.

Also said Vice President Biden, “Today, because of Barack Obama, we’ve regained respect in the world.”
He declared improving situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and predicted good outcomes.

He called Nelson a principled man who brings civility to the Senate.

“He’s a truly, truly decent guy who has the absolute respect of his colleagues, and I’ve heard that from both sides of the aisle,” Biden said.


More on Nelson

In his own brief remarks, Nelson also raised the issue of high-speed rail, which finally closed last week although Nelson attempted several strategies to convince Scott to change his mind.  (More here).

“If I had to stand up and try to find a way around the governor and still keep high-speed rail going then I was going to do it,” he said. “You give me the privilege of standing up and fighting for Florida and fighting for you.”

The Ginsburgs have long supported Nelson, though their political contributions have been scattered across the spectrum, donating thousands of dollars over the past decade to both Democrats and Republicans, as well as $10,000 last year to the Tea Party of Florida, a group largely disavowed by many Tea Party activists.

Their charitable donations have been more dramatic. In 2007 the family gave $20 million to Florida Hospital for its new cardiovascular institute, now located in a new building named the Ginsburg Tower. The family also has donated millions of dollars to Rollins College and the University of Central Florida, including $4 million to the university’s new medical school.

In introducing Nelson, Ginsburg declared the responsibility of big campaign donors to step up early in that and other races.

“We have a job to do,” Ginsburg said. “If we’re happy with the way things are going and we want to see more changes and more improvements, it’s our job as Americans to try to do what we can to be heard and to help elect people who speak for us.”


More on Scott

Today, Scott signed teacher merit pay legislation into law.

Under the new legislation,  teacher evaluations and pay will be based onstudent test performance and will eliminate multi-year contracts for new teachers. 

The law comes just one year after former governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill after teacher protests.

"We must recruit and retain the best people to make sure every classroom in Florida has a highly effective teacher," Scott said, during a signing ceremony at a charter school in Jacksonville.

The new law will immediately impact new hires who come on board starting July 1. They will have to sign only annual contracts. Those new teachers with advanced degrees will not get more money unless their degrees are in the "area of certification."



In Other Governor News

Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell chose not to support legislation requiring elementary students to get a mandated 150 minutes of physical activities per week.

He added that government cannot pass legislation to solve childhood obesity problems, and that children need to be taught to pick active lifestyles by parents, teachers and mentors.

“I have instructed officials in my administration to look for creative and innovative means by which we can promptly help get our children more physically active, and motivated to exercise on their own,” he said.

Since state government (at least Virginia state government) is not in support of elementary physical fitness in schools, that makes The First Lady's Let's Move! initiative all the more necessary.   The initiative has almost everybody (including U.S. Mayors, the NFL and NHL) supporting the effort to get America's children exercising for at least sixty minutes a day.

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