Senator Rick Scott makes a campaign stop in Ocala

Sen. Rick Scott, center, is greeted by Jose Juarez, right, as Craig Curry of the Marion County Commission, left, and Michelle Stone, also of the Marion County Commission, second from right, look on as Scott arrives for a private re-election stop and Q&A at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown, Ocala, Fla. on Thursday, August 10, 2023. The private, non-fundraising event was part of Scott’s 67 Counties Tour Event. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

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Posted August 18, 2023 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

At a private campaign stop Aug. 10 at the downtown Ocala Hilton Garden, Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott received a warm welcome from approximately 100 citizens and elected officials, some of whom raised concerns about the impacts of recent state legislation dealing with immigration and the local workforce.
The owner of the hotel, Danny Gaekwad, as well as Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn reminded the crowd that Scott had showed up for the groundbreaking of the hotel in 2018 while he was serving then as governor of Florida.
“He waited two hours to participate” in the ceremony, recalled Gaekwad, with “snipers” positioned at buildings to ensure Scott’s safety.
Scott told the crowd that Florida needs to remain committed to job creation.
At least two hoteliers in the audience raised concerns about filling existing jobs and complained that the recent immigration policy of Florida Senate Bill 1718, which took effect on July 1, was impacting them negatively.
In addition to creating funding to relocate immigrants, the sweeping anti-immigration bill created strict limitations for undocumented immigrants, including limited social services, invalidating driver’s licenses issued by other states, and requirements that hospitals ask for a patient’s immigration status.
Additionally, the measure created penalties for business owners who violate new employment mandates that some of the owners say are unjust.
Raman (R.P.) Rama, of Sarona Holdings, reminded the audience that tourism is a very important industry in Florida, and businesses are having a very difficult time staffing to meet demand. “We cannot find labor to work,” Rama said.
Rama told Scott, “I would like you to propose a bill where we can get temporary helpers on a work visa that they have to renew every year if they work “x” number of hours and prove it with a paycheck.”
“I agree with that,” replied Scott, adding, to the applause of the crowd, that there are a number of able-bodied people who are not working and who should not be allowed to collect government assistance. Scott did not give any details as to what government programs were providing this assistance or how people were unfairly gaining access to these funds.
Gaekwad also decried the recent immigration policy that had scared away many workers from job sites, “workers that did jobs no one else wants to do.”
Following the event, the “Gazette” asked Scott to identify any policies he has initiated or is supporting that would encourage more people to work in essential areas such as public safety and education that are experiencing critical staffing shortages across the nation.
Scott spoke generally of attracting new businesses to Florida by offering quality schools and keeping a low crime rate. When pressed about essential service positions, Scott reiterated that all able-bodied people should be working and not relying on government assistance.
In a follow-up email on the question, Scott wrote, “For the United States to be a leader for jobs, we must have a skilled workforce, good schools to prepare our students for their futures, and an economy where they can thrive. When I was Governor of Florida, that is exactly what I did. We created an environment for Floridians to get great jobs, keep their families safe, and made Florida a top state for education. We became the #1 state for higher education according to U.S. News & World Report and improved the performance of our K-12 students at every level. We helped Florida’s economy boom by reducing regulations, cutting taxes, and incentivizing economic growth. Then, we invested in education, the environment, transportation, and public health and safety. Those are the things that matter most to families. Our Florida playbook can be replicated on the national level, and that is what I am fighting for in the U.S. Senate. I won’t stop until we have an economy where if you work hard anyone can thrive.”
During welcoming remarks earlier in the event, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told the audience he is endorsing Scott, describing the senator as a “sincere” leader, citing examples of how Scott, in his prior role as governor, made himself readily available. Woods said that all but one of Florida’s sheriffs, was endorsing Scott’s re-election bid for senator.

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