Sunburn for 5/8 – 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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MARCO RUBIO TO DISCUSS CRISIS IN VENEZUELA DURING SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE HEARING

Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will discuss the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela and the Maduro regime’s violent repression of peaceful demonstrations during the hearing entitled, “Assessing Venezuela’s Political Crisis: Human Rights Violations and Beyond.”

The hearing begins 10:00 a.m.

Rubio is an original sponsor of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which authorizes sanctions on people involved in serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela.

The event will be live streamed here.

BY THE WAY, RUBIO WON’T BACK DAVID RIVERA IN CD 26 … 

David Rivera can’t count on the support of longtime friend, unless Rivera wins his congressional primary.

Rivera, a former House member who is running for his old seat, had his fellow Floridian’s support during his 2012 run even as he battled allegations of campaign finance malfeasance.

… “I’m not getting involved in that primary. Because I don’t typically get involved in House primaries, especially in open races,” Rubio said.

… SAYS EVEN DEMOCRATS WILL BE EMBARRASSED BY CHARLIE CRIST via Alex Leary of theTampa Bay Times

Rubio did not sugarcoat his feelings for Crist in a Fox News interview Wednesday afternoon.

Neil Cavuto asked about Crist’s comments yesterday in which he asserted he left the GOP over racism.

“I think it’s ridiculous and silly,” Rubio said. “I’m even cautious to dignifty that with a serious response. My prediction is that by the end of this election, even Democrats will be embarrassed that Charlie Crist became a Democrat. If this is in fact how he felt at the time, why didn’t he say it?

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IN POLITICAL MOVE WITH RISKS AND REWARDS, CRIST EXPLORES VISIT TO CUBA via Adam Smith and Marc Caputo of theTampa Bay Times/Miami Herald

In a move that would have been unthinkable for any statewide Florida candidate just a few years ago, Charlie Crist is planning to visit Cuba this summer.

Nothing is final, but the Democratic candidate for governor is eager to learn more about Cuba as he calls for normalizing relations with the island 90 miles south of Key West.

During a visit to Versailles Restaurant in Miami, Crist said: “We ought to think big. We ought to lift the embargo on Cuba and work with the president and get things done.””

The Little Havana landmark, a frequent Republican campaign spot and exile-gathering place, is the last place where soft-on-embargo positions were once espoused.

Attitudes, however, are changing toward Cuba across Florida and in Miami. Recent polls show a majority of Floridians, including Cuban-Americans, support normalizing relations and lifting travel with the communist island.

Crist’s position is another flip-flop in a long string of complete reversals from the time he was a Republican governor. He said he supported the embargo as late as 2010.

“Nixon goes to China, Charlie goes to Pander,” Republican political consultant David Johnson said on Twitter, dismissing Crist’s move as an election-year stunt.

SCOTT SAYS CRIST WILL BE CASTRO ‘PUPPET’ IF HE VISITS CUBA via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Gov. Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera blasted Crist for considering a trip to Cuba this summer.

“It’s sort of laughable. He’s going to go down there and help promote the Castro regime,” Scott told reporters after a campaign appearance at AutoNation Chevrolet to promote cuts in motor vehicle fees and other taxes.

“He’s just going to be a puppet for the Castro regime and every dollar he spends down there is going to help them oppress their people,” Scott said.

“The embargo has done nothing in fifty years to change the regime in Cuba or end the suffering of the Cuban people,” Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate said. “Gov. Crist is exploring every opportunity to help bring economic freedom and democracy to the people of Cuba.”

Lopez-Cantera said his family “lost everything” after Castro came to power and his grandmother’s brothers were imprisoned by Castro.

“Charlie’s been a Republican and an independent and a Democrat,” Lopez-Cantera said. “I don’t know, maybe he’s going down there to explore becoming a communist.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will meet with Panhandle community members and business leaders to assess recovery operations for the areas impacted by flooding in the region. First location: Corner of Piedmont Road and Hallmark in Pensacola. Second Location: Hopjacks at 10 S Palafox Pl. in Pensacola. 8:00 a.m.

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JOE GRUTERS REITERATES THAT HE WON’T RUN FOR RPOF CHAIR via Jeremy Wallace of theSarasota Herald-Tribune

Sarasota Republican Party chairman Joe Gruters has made no secrets about his ambition eventually run the state Republican Party. He’s run for the post before and has not ruled out taking another shot at it some day.

But even though the Republican Party of Florida’s chairman seat is suddenly open again, Gruters said he’s not going to make a play for the top job. Instead, Gruters said he’s focused on one job.

“Sarasota is still a swing county and we have to make sure we carry Sarasota County for Rick Scott,” Gruters said this morning. “This is where I am most needed right now.”

Gruters, like other state Republicans, is putting his support behind Clay County Republican Leslie Dougher, who has emerged as the leading candidate for the post.

The RPOF’s top position became suddenly open when current chairman Lenny Curry announced his resignation last week to run for mayor of Jacksonville.

The party will hold a vote later this month for a new chairman to serve the remainder of the year.

Gruters, who has run the Sarasota Republican Party since 2008, ran for state party chairman in 2011. The accountant has previously served as U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s campaign manager and currently is his campaign treasurer.

TWEET, TWEET: @willweatherford: I am honored to support @lesliedougher for RPOF Chairman.

HEADLINE FROM SAINTPETERSBLOG A WEEK AGO: “With Joe Gruters out of running for RPOF chair, Clay County’s Leslie Dougher emerging as leading candidate to replace Leslie Dougher.”

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DANE EAGLE SAYS HE’S NOT GUILTY, WON’T RESIGN via Heather Wysocki of News-Press.com

Speaking during a press conference Wednesday morning, Rep. Dane Eagle said he does not have an alcohol problem.

Eagle said he had drinks early during the day but not at night, before he was arrested on DUI charges by Tallahassee police.

He told reporters he disagrees with the police view of sobriety and is not guilty of driving under the influence. He did admit to driving recklessly.

Eagle says he won’t resign and will continue reelection bid.

DON GAETZ STILL UNHAPPY WITH BILL TO PROVIDE IN-STATE TUITITION FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News

State Senate President Don Gaetz didn’t lose many battles during this year’s legislative session, but one he did lose was clearly still eating at him.

With support from Gov. Rick Scott and two men who had held the state’s highest office before him, the Legislature passed a bill that will allow undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state college tuition.

Gaetz was adamantly opposed to the legislation and fought to prevent it from reaching the Senate floor for a vote. It took a two-thirds majority vote of fellow senators to waive Senate rules and force the president’s hand.

“It was just a very deep difference of opinion,” Gaetz said.

Don Gaetz claimed each student taking advantage of the tuition break, which he referred to as a “subsidy”, would cost taxpayers $15,000 annually.

Senator Gaetz said though he listened to the emotional stories of students who would benefit from the tuition break he could not stomach giving subsidies the same year lawmakers voted to provide in-state tuition to all veterans enrolling in Florida.

It appeared the Senate president had successfully bottled the immigrant tuition bill up until late in the session when former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez joined Scott in supporting the initiative.

A LITTLE LATE FOR THIS PRESS RELEASE (Five days after Sine Die): “Statement from SEIU Florida – Approval of Tuition Equity is Florida’s Victory”

INFIGHTING, MANEUVERING DOOM HEALTH BILLS IN TALLAHASSEE via Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

Millions of Floridians have no health insurance. The state has nowhere near enough primary care doctors. Highly trained nurses might be able to help, but they lack the authority. Hospitals are suing other hospitals, claiming their trauma centers don’t even deserve to operate.

Yet even health care issues that might have seemed assured of success went nowhere this year. Blame it on political squabbles and failed power plays that managed to sink much in their wake.

Case in point: Senate President Don Gaetz tried to entice the House into helping doctors get around insurer restrictions on the drugs they prescribe. So he added his controversial idea to an under-the-radar insurance bill slated for easy passage — and torpedoed both.

Many lawmakers wanted to make sure three HCA trauma centers in Pasco, Manatee and Marion counties will stay open, despite lawsuits from longer-established trauma centers. HCA even agreed to accept compromises its competitors wanted in order to protect the three centers.

But the plan failed when it morphed into a heavily freighted “train” of unrelated health bills.

Mark Delegal, a lobbyist for nonprofit safety net hospitals such as Tampa General that had sued HCA, says he now finds himself in the unusual position of defending the for-profit hospital chain.

Infighting between interest groups doomed some health bills.

UBER PROMISES TO CONTINUE PUSH FOR TAXI, LIMO DEREGULATION via Lynn Hatter of WFSU

A plan that would negate local transportation rules in major Florida cities didn’t get through the legislature this year, but supporters of the deregulation made big waves in the process.

Uber—an app that summons luxury rides —wants to become a major player in Florida. But right now, it’s largely on the sidelines, offering services only in Jacksonville. At the center of the conflict is how local governments regulate the limo industry. Cities like Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale have strict rules in place when it comes to wait times and minimum fares.

Uber urged state lawmakers to pass a watered-down version of a proposal that would have affected Hillsboro County only, but it failed under pushback from taxi cabs and local governments. Taxi operators worry letting Uber in will give limos an advantage while keeping taxi regulations in place.

Uber had also championed a much broader proposal would have allowed the company’s other service, UberX to operate in more cities. UberX s a ride-share program. The larger bill was initially opposed by the insurance industry, which later moderated its stance after the bill was stripped down.

Last weekend in Tampa UBER drivers and those with rival company LYFT—received tickets for not having commercial insurance policies—the kind of insurance taxis are required to have. Uber officials say they plan to come back to the legislature next year to try and roll back what they call restrictive barriers to business like mandatory wait times and minimum fares for limosines, and local rules around shuttling people around.

For example, Taxi drivers are required to carry commercial insurance policies.  Over the weekend several UBER ride-share drivers were ticketed for not having those policies in place.

ARTHENIA JOYNER, NEXT TOP DEMOCRAT IN SENATE, HONORED IN TAMPA via Kevin Wiatrowski if the Tampa Tribune

State Senator. Arthenia Joyner, incoming leader of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, joined the ranks of the Tampa-area’s outstanding female leaders when she was inducted into the Hillsborough County Women’s Hall of Fame.

Joyner, 71, was inducted with equal-rights advocate Nancy Torbett Ford, who died in 2001, and Eleanor Collier McWilliams Chamberlain, who led the local effort a century ago to get women the right to vote.

Joyner, an attorney specializing in real estate, probate and trust law, was first elected to the Senate in 2006. Her district includes parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, and Pinellas counties. She is the next Senate Democratic leader, replacing Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale.

This past legislative session, she was a co-sponsor of the Florida Civil Rights Act, which would have protected pregnant women from workplace discrimination, among other provisions.

The civil rights bill (SB 220) passed the Senate unanimously but died in the House.

SIZEABLE OPPORTUNITIES EXIST FOR FLORIDA EXPORTS via Ann Marie O’Phelan of Highland Today

Lately, the big news is buying local. More and more consumers are looking for local goods when making purchases, and local is a growing segment. However, in Florida, our goods aren’t just sold to local markets.

In fact, exports are a big business as well. Today, 170 countries and territories find themselves as trading partners with Florida. Moreover, in 2013, the total amount of agricultural exports was $4,116,162,451, up 1.9 percent from 2012.

“From our number one trading partner, Canada, with $963 million accounting for nearly 25 percent of our overall exports, to the fastest growing market, South Korea, opportunities abound for Florida agricultural producers,” said Dan Sleep, supervisor/senior analyst, Division of Marketing and Development, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

Since 2011, Florida agricultural exports have grown by an impressive $937 million, attaining $4.12 billion at the close of 2013. “Our expansion helped add nearly 25,000 badly needed jobs to the Florida economy and $88 million in new indirect tax revenues as well,” said Sleep who added that the total economic impact of exports per year is approximately $13 billion.

According to an annual report by FDACS, Florida is ranked eighth in agricultural exports among the states. The top destinations, accounting for 55.9 percent of total exports, include: Canada, Netherlands, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and Jamaica, while the fastest growing markets include: South Korea, Germany, Chile, Brazil and Hong Kong.

Furthermore, in 2013, Florida exported $664.6 million in goods to emerging markets. “Emerging markets include some of Florida’s largest, and fastest growing export destinations such as Mexico, Colombia, China and Brazil,” said Sleep who explained that exports to this group of countries grew by 13.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, and have grown at an annual rate of 15.3 percent since 2004. These particular markets were the destination of 16.1 percent of Florida’s agricultural exports in 2013.

Overall, the fastest growing exports (2012-2013), were pure-bred breeding horses (32.2 percent), strawberries (26.7 percent), tomatoes (22.4 percent), peppers (9.8 percent), potatoes (6.6 percent) and snap beans (5.9 percent).

SURPRISE! AMERICA’S RETIREMENT MECCA IS NOT FLORIDA via Herb Weisbaum of CNBC

Florida and Arizona definitely have the weather going for them, but when it comes to quality of life, South Dakota tops the new list of Best States for Retirement from Bankrate.com.

The state has a lot going for it: a low cost of living, low crime rate, low tax burden, quality health care and the people who live there are happy with their communities.

The rest of the top five best states to retire are: Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming. Arizona (16) and Florida (39) didn’t even make the top 10.

Both Dakotas made it into Bankrate’s top 10 for the second year in a row.

The five states that rated the lowest based on the Bankrate.com analysis are Hawaii, Arkansas, Alaska, West Virginia and New York (which came in at number 50).

Of course, no one decides where to retire based on a survey of a few data points, such as weather or taxes. In many cases, the move is made to be near family. But if you are considering places to relocate when you retire, you might want to compare how various states rate on some of these factors.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: CD 2 candidate Gwen Graham will announce an economic plan focused on “north Florida values” at 1:30 p.m. The event will take place at Native Nurseries at 1661 Centerville Rd. in Tallahassee.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN – “Just one birthday request” from U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. It wouldn’t be to contribute, would it?

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BLAISE INGOGLIA QUALIFIES BY PETITION FOR FLORIDA HD 35

The Hernando County Supervisor of Elections verified that Blaise Ingoglia collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot in his bid for House District 35.

Needing 1,113 signatures from the District, the Blaise Ingoglia campaign has 1,676 verified signatures to-date.

“I am truly humbled by the amount of grass-root support our campaign continues to receive from the people of District 35,” said Ingoglia. “Our campaign volunteers have been an invaluable asset in helping to get our message out to voters. I am encouraged every day by our hard work and commitment to creating the environment where our children, our county and our state can prosper. It’s about jobs, and there is still a lot of work left to do.”

ED NARAIN QUALIFIES FOR BALLOT BY PETITION IN HD 61 RACE Full blog post here

Democrat Ed Narain announced he qualified by petition for the primary ballot faster than any other candidate to replace term-limited state Rep. Betty Reed in House District 61.

Narain submitted nearly 1,000 voter signatures to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, all from the district covering Seminole Heights, East Tampa, Ybor City and parts of West Tampa. The required number of verified petition signatures in HD 61 is 919.

Narain both attorney Sean Shaw and Tatiana Denson in the August 26 primary.

In a statement released Wednesday, Narain’s completely volunteer-driven effort “knocked on thousands of doors over the past few months.”

Narain boasts that the work paid off, as his was the fastest campaign to qualify by petition for the election.

HD 65 CONTENDER CHRIS SPROWLS REMINDS US IT’S ALMOST YARD SIGN SEASON Full blog post here

It is a sure giveaway that the election season is quickly descending upon us; undoubtedly the foundation every political campaign strategy from local school boards to the president of the United States.

This iconic exemplar of American politics? The ever-present candidate yard sign.

HD 65 hopeful Chris Sprowls is calling on friends and supporters to get an early start on this time of year for political signs.

And the Tarpon Springs Republican is making it easier than ever, with an online sign up form on www.chrissprowls.com.

Just click the link, fill in your information, and a “dedicated campaign team will be happy to deliver them to your home or business,” or come by the campaign office and pick one up.

When it comes to yard signs — the heart of retail politics — the more people, the merrier.

SPOTTED: Sprowls in the Stetson Law Review being recognized as one of SaintPetersBlog.com’s “30 under 30″ Rising Stars of Florida politics

VAL DEMINGS LOSES A CAMPAIGN MANAGER via David Damron of the Orlando Sentinel

The campaign manager for Orange County mayoral candidate Val Demings is on his way out.

It’s not clear where Mitchell Norton is going to land next, although he says he’s off to Washington D.C. in a social media post.

A statement from Demings’ campaign spokesperson Lisa Carter: “Mitchell Norton helped to get us started but this campaign is growing rapidly and we are excited to move forward and announce our new manager soon.”

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my friend, Ashley Walker.

K STREET HITS THE BOOKS via POLITICO Influence

K Street is about to get schooled. Lobbyists, advocates and other downtowners looking to fight back against the widespread perception that their profession is an unsavory and unethical racket consisting mostly of the boozy fundraisers and backroom Capitol Hill deal-making will have a new weapon: a diploma. Two brand-new programs will offer aspiring downtowners and K Street veterans alike a chance to learn new skills, hit the books and beef up their resumes. George Washington University unveiled a new master’s degree last month with a focus on global advocacy and lobbying. And the Washington, D.C.-based professional organization Public Affairs Council unveiled a certificate program aimed at giving mid-career professionals a chance to expand their expertise and improve their management skills.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

PERSONNEL NOTE: BRIAN WORTH TO LEAD UBER’S GOVERNMENT RELATIONS SHOP

Brian Worth is leaving Capitol Hill to head up transportation tech company Uber’s government relations shop, reports POLITICO Influence.

Worth currently serves as coalitions director for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. In that role, he is the chief liaison for House leadership with the business community and other constituencies. He’s also done stints at the Small Business Administration and in government affairs at the Independent Electrical Contractors.

“We’re excited to have Brian joining Uber’s policy and communications team, whose ranks are comprised of a growing group of political exiles from a variety of backgrounds including campaigns, labor, advocacy and government,” said Nairi Hourdajian, a spokesperson with Uber.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: VOUCHERS, PUNISHMENT, STUDENT-ATHLETES AND WEIRD ORLANDO

On Context Florida: The Florida Legislature just passed, and the governor expects to sign, yet another expansion of the voucher program. As a result, says Stephen Goldstein, Florida’s system of K-12 public schools now violates the state Constitution, which unequivocally states, “Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform … system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education …” Those advocating for tough-on-crime policies suggest punishing all offenders to the full extent of the law, largely through extended incarceration. However, Bob Stork, vice-chairman of the nonprofit Florida TaxWatch Center, writes that while incarceration is often a necessary means to ensure public safety and punish violent criminals, it is the wrong approach for nonviolent offenders. Joe Culotta suggests the NCAA should do a better job reminding student-athletes that playing sports is a hobby, not a career. Florida, particularly Orlando, seems like a magnet for weirdness. It always has been. Nevertheless, Tom Cavanagh points out that real people with real families working at real jobs live here. And compared to a lot of other places, Central Florida has a lot going for it.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

REPUBLICANS MASSIVELY UNDERREPRESENTED AMONG REPORTERS, AND OTHER INTERESTING SURVEY RESULTS

Just 7 percent of journalists identify as Republicans, down from 26 percent in 1971. While the ratio of journalists who identify as Democrats has also decreased — from 36 percent in 1971 to 28 percent today, they still outnumber Republican journalists four to one.

These findings, in a study by two professors of journalism at Indiana, reflect that while the percent of Democratic journalists about represents the portion of Democrats in the population, this is far from the case for Republicans.  The study used the “American Journalist in the Digital Age” survey, which has been conducted in 1971, 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2013. This most recent installment surveyed 1,080 reporters.

In evaluating figures over time, it is clear that partisanship (or at least the admission of such) has gone down. What is less clear is where the plurality of journalists who identify as “independents” fall on the liberal-to-conservative spectrum.

As noted by recent reports, it is erroneous to assume that “independent” means “moderate” in any middle-of-the-road sense. To the contrary, most self-proclaimed independents tend to vote either farther to the right than Republicans or farther to the left than Democrats. In 2013, just over 50 percent of journalists claimed to be “independent” while another 15 percent identified as “other.”

Other findings from this survey reflect that nearly 60 percent of reporters feel that journalism is heading in the “wrong direction”, while 23 percent feel the field is heading in the “right direction.”

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.