Sunburn for 10/24 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

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THE LAST 24 HOURS

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called President Obamaon Wednesday demanding answers over reports to her government that U.S. spy operations had peered into her cell-phone use. Obama promised the spying isn’t currently happening and won’t in the future, but he did not deny that it had happened previously. The spying revelation adds to a miserable week for Obama, who is under attack for his health care law’s failing website. Elsewhere, Pakistan admitted it has secretly been approving many of the U.S. drone strikes on its soil, even as its leaders protest them publicly; House Speaker John Boehner left the door open for Congress to take up immigration reform; and Sen. Ted Cruz’s trip to Texas proved plenty revealing.

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DWS ‘DISAPPOINTED’ BY ALAN GRAYSON EMAIL via Lucy McCalmont of POLITICO 

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she is “disappointed in the use of that imagery” with regards to a controversial fundraising email sent by Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson that compared the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan.

“Obviously I am disappointed in the use of that imagery. Both sides need to dial back that kind of rhetoric and look to bring more civility into politics,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

However, Wasserman Schultz stopped short of calling upon Grayson to discontinue to use the email, which was sent Monday to supporters and included a burning cross depticting the “T” in Tea Party.

POLL: GOP’S UNFAVORABLES AT ALL-TIME HIGH

A new CNN/ORC poll finds that 64% of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the Republican party, an all-time high dating back to 1992 when CNN first asked the question. Only 30% say they hold a favorable view of the party.

Also, 56% say they have an unfavorable view of the tea party movement, another record high in CNN polling.

REPUBLICANS SET TO UNVEIL .GOP via Elizabeth Titus of POLITICO

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a group that focuses on electing Republicans to state-level offices, won custody of the domain in the spring after an Internet-governing body invited groups to vie for hundreds of new domains. Now, the committee is soliciting information from Republicans interested in having .gop sites. It is operating on an internal timeline that would allow those sites to get up and running by the first quarter of 2014

…Most people and groups seeking sites with .gop domains will be able to register them in ‘real time,’ said President Chris Jankowski in a statement … [But some] premium sites – register.gop and jobs.gop are two possibilities – won’t be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. Rather, the committee says it will seek to find the right custodian for those sites, to take the lead on developing them, or to forge partnerships between multiple Republican groups to manage them.

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PRESSURE ON SEBELIUS REACHES BOILING POINT via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times

Her appearance on CNN did little to win Kathleen Sebelius new defenders. The HHS secretary dodged the “will you resign” question twice and said Obama did not know of the problems with HealthCare.gov until after its rollout. As the GOP coalesces around its talking points condemning her job performance (and Jon Stewart joins the fracas), the White House remains steadfast in their backing of Sebelius. 

SEN. BILL NELSON SAYS “SOMEBODY OUGHT TO BE FIRED” OVER BOTCHED HEALTH CARE WEBSITE

Nelson said the website fiasco tainting the new health care law “is inexcusable” and “somebody ought to get fired.”  But before any action like that, he said, the administration first needs to do everything it can to fix the online rollout of the health insurance program.  

The Florida Democrat, who is a supporter of the health care law, said the administration can determine later “whoever was responsible [ for the website ] and continued to misinform the president.” 

The lawmaker’s comments came this afternoon during an interview with reporters in his Tampa regional office.  They echoed ones he made late yesterday in an interview with one of the state’s veteran political journalists, Michael Putney. 

“They should wait and get the thing up and running, and then determine and let somebody be held accountable,” Nelson told Putney, who hosts “This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney” on Miami’s ABC affiliate, WPLG-Channel 10. 

“That’s the problem in government today,” Nelson said.  “People are not held to account.” 

Nelson declined to place blame on any one individual, agency or company for problems with the website.  Via the website, consumers were supposed to be able to shop for private health insurance policies on exchanges that opened Oct. 1.  But the website has been fraught with infrastructure problems.

TOM ROONEY RIPS OBAMACARE AFTER FLORIDA BLUE DECISION via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

U.S. Rep. Rooney ripped President Obama‘s federal health-care law after Florida Blue ended health insurance for more than 300,000 Floridians who were dropped from their rolls due to the new law.

“President Obama promised repeatedly that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep it,’ even though he knew that wasn’t true – and it certainly is proving false for these 300,000 Floridians who are being forced off their plans due to Obamacare,” Rooney said. “Floridians are seeing their costs go up, they’re losing plans they have and like, and the website at the centerpiece of this failing law is a complete bust. These problems can’t be fixed with delays, exemptions or website patches – they can only be fixed with a full repeal. I look forward to the day when we have a Senate and president who will help us accomplish that goal.”

WHO’S TO BLAME FOR 300,000 POLICY PURGE? FLORIDA BLUE OR OBAMACARE OR BOTH? via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Florida Blue’s decision to cancel about 300,000 individual-market policies has stirred up some customers and renewed criticism of President Obama’s claim that those who like their insurance policies can keep them. What Obama didn’t say as much: The decision was largely up to the insurance companies. Under Obamacare, companies were allowed to grandfather some existing health plans, even if they didn’t comply with Affordable Care Act rules.

Insurance companies took advantage of the option by grandfathering plans that were profitable for the insurers and popular with the insured. Many plans, though, didn’t fit this definition. In Florida Blue’s case, about 80 percent of its individual plans were folded, and customers have been notified since August, angering some.

Some companies may be “doing this as an opportunity to push their populations into the exchange and purge their systems” of policyholders they no longer want, Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog in California, told Kaiser Health News.

Chances are, conservatives will blame Obamacare for the cancellations. Liberals will blame the insurance companies and everyone else will likely make up their own minds based on their circumstances and the facts as they see them. 

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FLAGS TO BE FLOWN AT HALF-STAFF TODAY FOR CONGRESSMAN YOUNG via Amy Hollyfield of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott has directed flags of the United States and Florida to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Thursday at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout Florida “as a mark of respect for the memory” of U.S. Rep. Young, whose funeral is today.

“Young reached across the aisle to champion improvements in the sciences, public health, military readiness, the beaches, transportation, and access to drinking water.” Scott wrote in a memorandum. “C.W. Bill Young embodied the ideals of public service, representing the citizens of Florida for almost 53 years.”

MUST-READ FROM BILL ADAIR: REMEMBERING C.W. “BILL” YOUNG AND HIS LEGACY here.

BILL YOUNG’S BRO MULLING CONGRESSIONAL BILL via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Retired construction company owner Tom Young, the 79-year-old brother of Young, (says) he’s seriously considering running for his brother’s seat.

“I’ve had probably a hundred calls from people telling me I should do that,” said Young, a Pinellas Park resident who said he understand how Washington works better than most people because of his brother.

We noted that the race could be a tad awkward if Young’s son, Bill Young II, runs, he agreed: “It probably would be weird. Beverly could run too,” he noted, referring to Rep. Young’s widow.

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BLOG POST OF THE DAY: WHY DO DEMOCRATS TREAT THEIR DONORS LIKE IDIOTS via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

The folks in blue who churn out fundraising emails now swamping inboxes must think their fellow Democrats are dumb as rocks.

No details in the pitch, no names, just a hint of something scary followed by “contribute now.”

Take the latest electronic mailcall Tuesday morning from Mandi Karp of Patrick Murphy for Congress:

“Two newspapers have just reported that Allen West is getting in the race against Patrick again this year – but this time to put his considerable fundraising muscle behind one of Patrick’s opponents.

“West could be a real game changer in this race – he’s already helping our opponent raise money – and if he’s involved, we can be sure that our opponent’s views are as reckless as West’s are.

“We need your help to keep pace with West. …”

What newspapers? What opponent? Seriously, does a pitch like this actually get results?

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GOV. SCOTT ANNOUNCES 150 NEW JOBS AT NANOTHERAPEUTICS 

Scott yesterday announced that Nanotherapeutics, Inc. is expanding in the City of Alachua.  Nanotherapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company that currently has 45 employees and will create 150 jobs at their new manufacturing facility with a capital investment of $122 million.  

Governor Scott said, “Florida is experiencing an incredible economic turnaround thanks to our job creators like Nanotherapeutics.  Florida is committed to building up manufacturing, and because we made it a priority to remove the tax on manufacturing equipment this year, businesses can continue to expand and create jobs and opportunities for our families.  With nearly 370,000 private sector jobs created since December 2010, Nanotherapeutics’ expansion is adding to our state’s success and we know IT’S WORKING in Florida.” 

Headquartered in Alachua and operating in Progress Corporate Park, Nanotherapeutics began as a start-up at University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator.  Nanotherapeutics will integrate into a new state-of-the-art facility with flexible, single use, disposable equipment that can provide the military’s national security requirements for Medical Counter Measures.

WHY RICK SCOTT MAY NOT JOIN THOSE CRITICIZING LAUNCH OF OBAMACARE via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

An expensive government website that failed to launch properly, despite years of preparation. Frustrated users who will be penalized if the site doesn’t get up and running. Questions about how transparent those responsible for the website are.

No, this isn’t the troubled debut of the HealthCare.gov site that is dominating cable news these days.

It’s Gov. Scott’s roll out of Florida’s new $63 million unemployment benefits website. Launched last week and initially called a success by a Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman, it’s becoming increasingly evident that it’s having Obamacare-esque problems of its own.

On Wednesday, the Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the state’s processing of claims for an average of 235,000 recipients, issued its most detailed acknowledgment yet that all is not well with the new website.

“Last week, the new system, CONNECT, was launched, and while tens of thousands of claims are being properly processed within the new system, the initial phase of the update has also caused delays for many users,” said an e-mail from the DEO late Wednesday. “DEO sincerely regrets any delays or frustration experienced by claimants and we are working around-the-clock with program experts from (project contractor) Deloitte to fix technical problems as they arise.”

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ALARMING HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Diarrhea Super Bug Is Spreading Through Broward, Health Officials Warn” via The New Times

APPOINTED: Michael Swindle to Board of Commissioners of Hendry County.

JUDGE’S RULING WOULD BLOCK NET BAN via The News Service of Florida

Nearly two decades after voters approved a constitutional amendment placing strict limits on the use of commercial-fishing nets, a Leon County circuit judge this week issued an injunction against enforcement of the amendment. The state, however, quickly appealed the ruling by Judge Jackie Fulford, according to an online court docket. The appeal will allow enforcement to continue as the case proceeds, a spokeswoman for theFlorida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Tallahassee Democrat. Fulford, in part, found contradictions between the constitutional amendment and the way the limits have been applied by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She wrote Tuesday that a “legal absurdity” has been created.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the so-called “net ban” in 1994, but parts of the fishing industry have continued to fight it.

POLICY NOTES h/t to The Florida Current

The Department of Children and Family Office on Homelessness:  Meets at 9 a.m. to continue developing proposals to include in its 2014 report to the Legislature. The meeting will be held in the Veterans Conference Room in the Orlando City Hall, 400 South Orange Avenue, Orlando.  

Florida Public Service Commission:  Holds an agenda conference in Tallahassee to consider issues including a petition by Florida Power & Light Co. to build a new natural gas pipeline across the state. The conference will be held beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Betty Easley Conference Center, Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way. A copy of the agenda can be found here. The commission will consider utilities’ 10-year site plans during an internal affairs meeting that begins immediately after the agenda conference in Room 105 of the Gerald L. Gunter Building, 2540 Shumard Oak Blvd.  

Florida School Board Association‘s Legislative Committee:  Meets 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Orange County School Board Office, 445 W. Amelia St., Orlando to review, debate, amend, and adopt the final 2014 FSBA Legislative Platform. Meeting information, registration and the proposed platform can be found here

The Agency for Healthcare Administration: Holds a workshop beginning at 3 p.m. in Building 3, 2727 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee to discuss the January 2010 handbook on chiropractic services coverage under Medicaid. The handbook can be viewed here

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APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS PIP REFORMS via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel

A state appeals court Wednesday upheld major changes to the state’s personal injury protection law passed by lawmakers in 2012 designed to lower the cost of no-fault auto insurance.

The 1st District Court of Appeal, in its ruling, reversed the decision of Tallahassee Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, who ruled this spring that the changes made to the state’s no-fault auto insurance law were unconstitutional. 

Personal injury protection insurance, otherwise known as no-fault insurance, pays the first $10,000 in medical expenses for car accident victims, no matter who caused the accident. That way no one has to sue. But, by giving up the right to sue, people must receive something of value in return.

In 2012, lawmakers changed the law to outlaw payments to massage therapists or actupuncturists. They also required accident victims to seek treatment within 14 days and limited payments to chiropractors. 

Those changes were designed to curb fraud and decrease the price. But, only a few months after all of the changes became law Lewis had ruled that the changes  decreased the value of PIP and were not worth giving up the right to sue.

The 1st DCA, however, invalidated the entire decision by arguing that the plaintiffs in the case — chiropractors and massage therapists — didn’t have the right to sue because they couldn’t show that their constitutional rights had been harmed.

Michael Carlson, the executive director for the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, which represents several big insurance companies including State Farm, released a statement applauding the decision. 

“The PIP reform law is intended to ensure that a motorist with emergency medical needs receives the maximum PIP benefit of $10,000, but applies brakes on the costs for non-emergency medical treatments,” he said. “The Legislature took great pains to balance the goals of the PIP law: to provide prompt payment of critical medical and related benefits against the rampant fraud and overbilling plaguing the system.”

BILL WOULD REQUIRE FLORIDA TO BUY, FLY U.S.-MADE FLAGS via The News Service of Florida

U.S. and Florida flags purchased for public use by the state and local governments would have to be American-made, under a proposal by Rep. Ritch Workman.

The measure (HB 201), filed Monday, would require the U.S. and Florida flags to be made from materials grown, produced and manufactured in the United States. If approved, a person found violating the requirement would face a second-degree misdemeanor. No Senate companion has been filed to the bill, dubbed the “All-American Flag Act.” A similar measure has previously been proposed in the U.S. House with the intention of stopping the federal government from buying and flying American flags made outside the country.

The federal measure was initially filed in 2012 after the Los Angeles Times reported that in 2011 there were $3.6 million in U.S. flags imported into the United States, most from China.

PAGING SENATOR JEFF BRANDES — STUDY: EVEN A SMALL UPTAKE OFF SELF-DRIVING CARS WOULD REDUCE TRAFFIC DEATHS via contributor Karen Cyphers

If only 10 percent of cars on the roads were self-driving, they could reduce traffic deaths by 1,000 per year and produce nearly $38 billion in economic and other savings, according to a new study. If 90 percent of vehicles were self-driving, close to 22,000 lives per year could be saved, ringing in economic and other benefits at a massive $447 billion.  Why? Because over 90 percent of all crashes are due to driver error, and over 40 percent of fatal crashes involve alcohol, distraction, drugs or fatigue. This doesn’t account for other human factors such as speeding, aggressive driving, or slow reaction times. The Eno Center for Transportation released their findings to the Associated Press, detailing the advantages of “autonomous” vehicles.

Through the advocacy of Senator Jeff Brandes, Florida became one of three states to pass laws regulating the licensing and operation of self-driving cars.

SENATOR AARON BEAN TO HOST MANDARIN TOWN HALL MEETING 

Sen. Aaron Bean and Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg will be co-hosting a Mandarin Town Hall meeting on Thursday, beginning at 6:00 p.m. in the mini-auditorium at Loretto Elementary School. The meeting will be held in the mini-auditorium at Loretto Elementary School, 3900 Loretto Road, Jacksonville.

TWEET, TWEET: @Adam_Babington: @FLSenate Gaming workshop – it’s pretty clear what Broward County wants in the gambling bill #itsnotdestinationresorts

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DEMOCRATS FILE TO FACE ERIC EISNAUGLE, MARYLYNN MAGAR

Two Republican front-runners in Florida House races, one looking to return to the Legislature and one in their first-term, recently drew Democratic opponents.

Lee Douglas, a Winter Park Democrat and workforce manager at Disney, filed on Monday to run for House District 44. Douglas will face Shaun Raja in the Democratic primary, and the winner will take on Republican and former House member Eric Eisnaugle in November. Raja has raised $500 as of the last reporting period. Eisnaugle has over $150,045 in the bank. Douglas ran against Steve Precourt in 2010 and lost with 38 percent in a three-way race. 

A little farther south, in House District 82, Democrat Mary Higgins filed last week to face incumbent Republican MaryLynn Magar. Higgins is a political newcomer from Port Salerno. Magar was elected in 2010 following a five-person primary. She has raised about $53,000 as of Sept. 30.  The district has a Republican advantage by voter registration and previous election returns.

FOWLER WHITE BOGGS TO HOST FUNDAISER FOR HEATHER FITZENHAGEN  ON OCT. 30

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CITY OF DELTONA HIRES CAPITOL INSIGHT

Capitol insight, the Tallahassee lobbying firm led by former House Speaker Dean Cannon, has added the City of Deltona as its newest client.

Cannon’s company won out over at least two other firms to start representing Deltona in the Legislature, reports Mark Harper in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

In support of the decision, Commissioner Webster Barnaby said Capitol Insight has “a vast amount of experience” and wisdom.

“(Capitol Insight) was my top pick,” Commissioner Fred Lowry also told the News-Journal.

Ballard Partners Inc. was also in the running.

“Ballard has a great reputation, Lowry added, “but that was a huge firm, where this firm was a little smaller and maybe could give us more time.”

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Troy Batterton: Florida Society of Health System Pharmacists, Inc.

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette, Ron Book PA: United Home Care

James Boxold: Department of Transportation

SLATER BAYLISS, CARDENAS PARTNERS TEAM SIGN UP SEVERAL HIGH-PROFILE LOBBYING CLIENTS

To quote LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback.

Don’t call the signing of several high-profile lobbying clients by Slater Bayliss and the rest of the team at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners a comeback, because Slater and Co. were never on the mat, no matter what certain bloggers may have implied.

Sure, sure, they recently lost the contract to represent Pasco County, but, according to the lobbying registration directory, Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Justin Day and Stephen Shiver have inked contracts this month with Hilton Worldwide, Inc., and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. Perhaps more important, the firm won out in competitive bid processes for the right to represent both Tampa International Airport and the Tampa Port Authority. Those last two signings indicate Cardenas Partners has established more than just a beachhead in the increasingly lucrative Tampa Bay market.

Mark this all up as good things happening to good people.

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TAMPA BAY TIMES EDITORIAL: THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS PAYOFF  

A study that found Florida Boys and Girls Clubs participants do better academically and have lower juvenile detention rates than their peers will not surprise local residents involved with the clubs.

They see how the clubs provide youngsters a sanctuary where they learn life skills and discipline, in addition to having fun. The independent economic analysis by Florida TaxWatch compared Boys and Girls Club participants with a demographically similar peer group. 

Taxwatch reports the club students “achieved higher median FCAT Reading scores, and only 2.96 percent were referred to the juvenile justice system, compared to 7.49 percent of their peers. Participants are 14 percent more likely to be promoted than their peers.” 

TaxWatch points out such accomplishments save taxpayers money, given that grade retention costs taxpayers “$9,000 per student, juvenile processing costs approximately $5,000 per youth and incarceration can cost up to $46,305 for an average eight-month stay.” So there is a strong return on investing in the clubs. Fortunately, Hillsborough has a long history of supporting the clubs. The Boys and Girls Club of Tampa commemorated its 85th anniversary last year. 

Through the years, the clubs, which once stressed sports, have evolved. Now, after-school programs include tutoring, computer classes, art lessons and many other programs aimed at developing kids’ academic and social skills. There also is no shortage of sports and fun activities. The clubs serve youth from 6 to 18 and are available in 61 Florida counties.

Hillsborough is fortunate to have 17 facilities that serve more than 10,000 kids. The TaxWatch report found that since 1997 more than 2.5 million children have participated in Florida’s Boys and Girls Clubs, which have received roughly $41 million in state funds. This year the Legislature appropriated $9 million for the clubs, the largest allocation yet. 

But as the TaxWatch study shows, this wise investment is not simply throwing money at good intentions. It is helping steer at-risk youngsters to productive lives. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Andrea Penton and Southern Strategy Group’s Kelly Cohen.  

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.