A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms. You need their team on your side during this Legislative session for media, grassroots and netroots support. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team and how they can help you.
HAPPY 204TH BIRTHDAY, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: On this date over two centuries ago,the 16th president of the United States was born in Hodgenville, Ky.
OBAMA MAY USE EXECUTIVE ACTION FOR SOME PRIORITIES: GAY RIGHTS, CLIMATE, HOUSING MOVES WOULD BYPASS CONGRESS by Zachary A. Goldfarb, with Ellen Nakashima
Obama is considering … executive actions aimed at working around a recalcitrant Congress, including policies that could allow struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages, provide new protections for gays and lesbians, make buildings more energy-efficient and toughen regulations for coal-fired power plants … [O]ne White House official said the moves to boost housing, retrofit buildings, offer same-sex protections or issue new environmental rules were not imminent. … Obama is weighing whether … to give more of the country’s nearly 11 million struggling homeowners a chance to refinance at today’s ultra-low interest rates … The plan, if adopted, would likely be aimed at homeowners who have otherwise kept up with their mortgage payments but have been unable to refinance because the loan against their home exceeds its depressed value.
STATE OF THE UNION TONIGHT
President Obama will concentrate his State of the Union speech Tuesday on the economy, shifting the emphasis away from the broad social agenda of his second inaugural address to refocus attention on a set of problems that vexed his first term.
Several senior administration officials involved in the speech say he will use his fourth State of the Union address to talk about jobs after the national unemployment rate ticked up last month. He will propose ways to make college more affordable to more people. And, the officials said, he will argue for the need to spend public money — on research, on roads, on education — to prepare Americans for a world where a warming climate, a nomadic labor force and new technology are shutting doors and opening new ones across the national economy.
LOIS FRANKEL TO BRING MOTHER OF NEWTOWN VICTIM TO SOTU via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post
Frankel will bring the mother of a 7-year-old killed in the Newtown massacre to Tuesday night’s State of the Union as her guest.
Frankel’s office announced that Lynn McDonnell, whose daughter Grace was among the 20 children and six staff killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, will attend … as Frankel’s guest. McDonnell’s husband will attend as the guest of U.S. Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod.
Said Frankel: “Like so many Americans I have been inspired and moved by the families who lost loved ones in the Newtown tragedy. When I look into the eyes of Newtown parents like Lynn and Chris McDonnell, I want to be able to tell them that our kids should have the freedom to be safe at school and that our Congress is ready to pass meaningful laws that will help prevent future gun violence tragedies.”
PREBUTTING THE REBUTTAL by Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz led a conference call to bash Sen. Marco Rubio, who’ll deliver the GOP’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech tomorrow.
“Senator Rubio and I both represent the state of Florida and we work well together on behalf of our state, which is why I find it shocking that someone who represents millions of seniors who depend on Medicare’s guaranteed coverage would support the Ryan Budget and ending Medicare as we know it,” Wasserman Schultz said. Full audio here.
The call, arranged by the DNC, featured a woman named Annette Cappella, who described her self as one a Rubio “constituent.” She’s also, as the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett noted on the call, a Democratic operative. Capella recently stepped down as chair of the St. Johns County Democratic Party and remains a state committeewoman.
IS RUBIO THE ANSWER FOR REPUBLICANS?
The Washington Post says Rubio “is indeed a politician of unusual gifts. But the spotlight that has fallen on this relatively new arrival to the national scene says as much about the state of the Republican Party as it does about the 41-year-old senator. And it remains to be seen whether he represents the solution to the GOP’s problems, or whether the party’s sky-high hopes in an untested newcomer are just another measure of its drift.”
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you inpart by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***
JIM GREER PLEADS GUILTY
Greer pleaded guilty Monday morning to four charges of grand theft and one charge of money laundering, avoiding trial in a case that could have potentially embarrassed former Gov. Charlie Crist and much of the state’s Republican elite.
Jury selection had been expected to begin this morning.
Instead, Greer stood next to his lawyer Damon Chase a little before 10:30 a.m. and entered guilty pleas as part of a last-minute deal with prosecutors.
Greer decline to comment as he left the courtroom. Said Chase: “Sometimes clearing your name is not as important as taking care of your family.”
As part of the deal, Greer faces a maximum of 42.6 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled March 27.
FLORIDA GOP TRIES TO HANG GREER ON CRIST
“Today, Jim Greer, the man Charlie Crist personally picked to lead the Republican Party of Florida, admitted his guilt to five felony charges. For the past three years, Jim Greer has tried to damage the reputation of the Republican Party and its leaders, but the truth is now known that Jim Greer broke the law, stole from RPOF and our donors, and then said and did everything he could to cover up and distract attention from his crimes. Everything Jim Greer has said and done over these past few years should be considered in that light.”
HERALD EDITORIAL: Florida’s GOP should learn from Greer’s guilty plea as it looks at ethics, campaign reforms
Public corruption is not the purview of one political party, but with the GOP in control of the Legislature and governor’s seat for more than a decade in Florida, actions speak louder than press statements.
The party did away with the credit cards after the Greer scandal, a good first step.
But when they had a chance to tackle transparency and ethics by strengthening the state’s Commission on Ethics to give it authority to investigate officials without waiting for a citizen to file a complaint, legislators failed the smell test. Other proposals to strengthen public corruption laws also went nowhere.
MUST-READ: Adam Smith’s scathing analysis of L’Affaire Greer.
MUST-SEE VIDEO: Delmar Johnson, the state’s star witness in the Jim Greer political corruption trial speaks to the Orlando Sentinel’s Rene Stutzman. Here.
Senator Marco Rubio: “No comment.”
Former Senate President Mike Haridopolos: “Our position has been, from the very beginning, that Jim Greer was not entitled to any severance so long as he committed a crime, and today he’s admitted his guilt to theft.”
Florida Democratic Party spox Brannon Jordan: “Republicans in Tallahassee breathed a collective sigh of relief this morning, but they have nothing to feel good about.”
TWEET, TWEET: @BillCotterell: “I’ve seen prosecutors drive hard plea bargains, but how did they get the pope to resign as part of Jim Greer’s deal?”
FDOT’S FINAL BUDGET WILL BE NON-STIMULUS RECORD OF $8.5 BILLION via Sunshine State News
lorida will unleash its largest ever nonfederal-stimulus transportation budget later this week, Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad said Monday.
Prasad, during the opening of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Transportation Summit at the Honey Lake Plantation in Greenville, said his agency will outline its final budget plan for 2013 that comes to an $8.5 billion budget package.
The plan will be up $200 million from the proposal for transportation that Gov. Rick Scott included in his $7.42 billion fiscal plan.
“With the exception of the economic stimulus year, this budget is at record levels in the state’s history,” Prasad said.
The reason for the increased focus on transportation is to create short-term construction jobs and lay the foundation to attract businesses to Florida, Prasad said.
INDUSTRY LEADERS GATHER TO DISCUSS STATE’S TRANSPORTATION FUTURE
The Florida Chamber Foundation, in partnership with Florida Department of Transportation, hosted more than 150 business and industry leaders interested in Florida’s transportation future. The one-day event addressed the topics of freight, logistics and trade; mobility, moving people and goods; funding and investment.
“The transportation industry is a huge part of Florida’s economic development and ability to be competitive in bringing jobs to our state,” said Bentina C. Terry, Gulf Power and Chair of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “Florida is expected to grow, not only in population, but in visitors which puts great strain on our current transportation systems. Solutions to handle that growth were a big part of today’s discussion.”
Attendees had the opportunity to hear from Speaker Will Weatherford, U.S. Congressman John Mica, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and a host of panelists with a vested interest in the future of Florida’s transportation systems.
INTEGRITY FLORIDA FALLOUT via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Barbara Petersen, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, resigned her seat on Integrity Florida’s board after questions were raised about the propriety of sponsored research. Immediately afterward, Integrity Florida’s Dan Krassner stepped down from his seat on the First Amendment Foundation.
“We agreed it was best for Barbara to resign, and Dan offered to resign and I accepted the resignation,” said Tim Nickens, editor of the Tampa Bay Times editorial pages and chairman of the First Amendment Foundation board.
Petersen said: “I found myself in the uncomfortable situation of being asked by citizen groups and the media to justify recent decisions by Integrity Florida that, to some, inaccurately folded [the First Amendment Foundation] into Integrity Florida’s decision-making process … This put me in a very difficult position and I decided it would be best if I resigned.”
***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Ron Sachs Communication. Ron Sachs Communications provides its clients with a competitive advantage built on strategic relationships, dynamic creativity and smart and aggressive communications strategies that generate superior results. If you want to win, you’ll want to have Ron Sachs Communications on your side. www.RonSachs.com***
HOUSE ADVANCES CAMPAIGN-FINANCE BILL by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
Beating back Democratic amendments, a House panel on Monday gave the first affirmative vote for a campaign-finance reform that would outlaw some third-party slush funds and raise campaign contribution limits to candidates to $10,000.
The bill, HB 569, is a response to the perceived abuses of what are called Committees of Continuous Existence, which lawmakers use to raise unlimited checks from industries, interest-groups and unions and then funnel into campaigns, or in some cases, use to help pay for their own lavish lifestyles.
The bill does away with CCEs, but also raises the $500 campaign-contribution limits which were imposed on Florida state candidates in the 1990s to try and curb the influence of wealthy donors and control campaign costs.
***The PA Team of Jack and Keyna Cory and Erin Daly would like to congratulate their new client, SmartWater CSI www.smartwatercsi.com who recently launched its product in the City of Fort Lauderdale. Mayor Jack Seiler and Rep. Perry Thurston attended the event where SmartWater CSI distributed their forensic marking system. SmartWater has proven to be extremely successful in helping catch criminals and stop pawn shops from buying stolen property. Its use has resulted in 1,200 convictions in the UK. The PA Team will be providing governmental relations and strategic marketing services to SmartWater CSI.***
4TH FLOOR FILES talks to Jennifer Green about the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, Brendan Farrington and LinkedIn. Here’s the file on Jennifer.
MORE LEGISLATIVE RACES TAKE SHAPE via the News Service of Florida
A dozen incumbents and five other potential candidates have filed paperwork during the past week to join the growing list of people planning to run for the House in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections website.
The incumbents are Rep. Halsey Beshears in District 7; Rep. Lake Ray in District 12; Rep. Marlene O’Toole in District 33; Rep. Neil Combee in District 39; Rep. Randolph Bracy in District 45; Rep. Larry Ahern in District 66; Rep. Kevin Rader in District 81; Rep. Larry Lee, Jr., in District 84; Rep. Mark Pafford in District 86; Rep. Dave Kerner in District 87; Rep. George Moraitis in District 93; and Rep. Michael Bileca in District 115.
The non-incumbents filing the paperwork were Apopka Republican Terri Seefeldt in District 31; Kissimmee Republican Carlos Irizarry in District 43; Ocoee Republican Ronney Roger Oliveira in District 44; Palm Bay Democrat Santa Isabel Wright in District 53; and Hollywood Democrat Elaine Geller in District 99.
Two incumbent senators also signaled during the past week that they plan to run again in 2016. Those incumbents are Sen. Alan Hays in District 11, and Sen. Kelli Stargel in District 15. Filing the paperwork, at least in part, allows candidates to raise campaign contributions.
STEVE SCHALE HANGING OUT HIS OWN SHINGLE
Democratic consultant Steve Schale announced Monday that he is leaving the Florida Justice Association to strike out on his own into the government and public affairs world.
“I have some very cool projects that you will likely hear about in coming days and weeks, but mostly, I am ready to get out on my own,” writes Schale on his blog. “And before my political operative friends get too relaxed, I am also looking forward to playing at least a little politics along the way! But along the same lines, I am also excited about jumping into to some of the real and pressing issues facing our state and our future.”
Jeez, I wonder if a guy who helped twice win Florida for Barack Obama will have any trouble finding work?
Plus, there’s this little matter of Florida’s gubernatorial election Steve might be busy with soon enough.
Either way, good luck to Steve.
YOU’RE INVITED to a fundraiser for the Republican challenger in House District 65, Chris Sprowls. The event, hosted by Speaker Will Weatherford, Speaker Designates Steve Crisafulli and Richard Corcoran and Rep. Jose Oliva, begins at 4:30 p.m. at — where else — the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee.
***The Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute is a non-partisan leadership development program that asks participants to explore the possibility of public leadership in the future (without requiring a commitment to run for office) and learn now about the political process, leadership and public policy, while networking with leaders. Applications for the next class will soon be accepted. Click here for more information.***
CAN’T WAIT TO READ: The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6 by Gordon Corera
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my friends Senator Jeff Brandes and consultant extraordinaire Marc Reichelderfer.