Sunburn for 7/16 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominate public affairs PR firm:

On this day in 1969, the eyes of the world were focused on Florida’s Space Coast as Apollo 11 began its  historic mission. The flawless  9:32 a.m. launch came just eight years after President Kennedy set a national goal of landing men on the surface of the moon and returning them home safely.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

HOUSE REPUBLICANS’ IMMIGRATION COUNTEROFFER

House Republicans are drafting a plan to address the border crisis that doesn’t even begin to approach President Obama’s $3.7 billion request

HOUSE VOTES TO KEEP INTERNET UNTAXED

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act would bar the government from taxing users for access to the Internet and end taxes in seven states that existed before the first Internet tax ban was signed in 1998.

DNC LAUNCHES ‘VOTER EXPANSION’ PROJECT IN ADVANCE OF FLORIDA ELECTION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

The Democratic National Committee is launching a nationwide voter expansion project to build a “new permanent infrastructure for the Democratic Party and its candidates” in key states, including Florida. The DNC has hired Zach Learner, a young Hollywood lawyer who until last month was chief of staff for Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who’s running for a state House seat.

The DNC said the goal of the project is to create more access and more voters and protect the vote by “breaking down barriers, demystifying the process and making sure every vote counts.” The DNC release claimed that Democrats support greater voter participation while Republicans have adopted a “cynical national strategy to decrease participation.”

A Democratic website, iwillvote.com, features state-by-state voter registration information, but its Florida page provides timetables and other details only for the Nov. 4 general election, not the statewide primary election on Aug. 26. The site also does not highlight a significant change to Florida’s voting laws that will be in place for the first time this cycle and is not yet well-known: A voter who asks that an absentee ballot be mailed to an address other than the one on file at the elections office must make the request in writing, not online or by phone as before.

That change, enacted by the Legislature in 2013, exempts active duty military personnel and could disproportionately affect college students and seasonal “snowbirds” who also live up north. It was one of many changes to voting laws in HB 7013, approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott.

The bill revised Florida’s voting calendar to require at least eight days of early voting and a maximum of 14 days and allows early voting at more  types of buildings including “fairgrounds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings, stadiums, convention centers, government owned senior centers and government owned community centers,” in addition to elections offices, city halls and libraries.

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GOVERNOR’S RACE A ‘VOTE AGAINST THE OTHER GUY’ KIND OF CAMPAIGN via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Despite big money on both sides and the state’s current and former chief executives battling it out, the tone of the Florida governor’s race is looking like a schoolyard brawl, which many think will only worsen in coming months.

Vast policy differences separate Gov. Scott and Charlie Crist, but those are getting scant focus.

A vision for the next four years? That is being crowded out by hard-hitting TV and web-based ads, with each candidate accusing his rival of betraying Floridians, or just being downright dishonest.

With a pair of new complaints filed last week, the state’s ethics and elections commissions have been kept busy fielding charges and counter-charges from each side.

“It’s not so much ‘vote for me,’ but rather ‘vote against the other guy,’” said John “Mac” Stipanovich, a veteran Florida Republican strategist.

“I’ve said all along, the winner is going to wind up with a 15 percent approval rating, while the loser’s around 10 percent. I’m not expecting the race to get much better,” he said.

Analysts say the race’s toxic atmosphere could, itself, prove a decisive factor in determining the outcome.

Crist’s upbeat political persona may already be showing signs of taking a beating, while Democratic hopes for a better-than-average voter turnout could be dashed amid the back-and-forth mudslinging.

RICK SCOTT BLAMES CHARLIE CRIST FOR ON-DUTY COPS AT CAMPAIGN EVENT via William March of PoliticalFixFlorida.com

Gov. Scott refused to give a direct answer to questions about on-duty, uniformed police officers who said they attended one of his campaign events in the belief it was an official governor’s office function.

The next day, Scott gave a more direct answer: He blamed his likely Democratic election opponent.

“This is all Charlie Crist mudslinging,” Scott said.

The questions arose because at least a dozen uniformed officers turned up for the Scott re-election campaign photo opportunity and news conference on crime and public safety at a Tampa uniform store last week.

Florida law says public employees can’t take part in political events during working hours. The officers were participating in the event, not providing security — they were lined up behind Scott as a backdrop while television cameras filmed him talking about his policies on crime.

But one officer from the state Fish and Wildlife Service said he thought he was asked to the event to help with security, and officials of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said they thought it was a governor’s office event, not a campaign event.

VIDEO DU JOUR is of Rick Scott answering a reporter’s question with “Oh gosh, I answer questions. I … I … I get to … I have the opportunity talk to the media a lot.” Video here 

MEANWHILE … NAN RICH TO CAMPAIGN IN BROWARD

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich is scheduled to speak to the Kings Point Democratic Club. 7620 North Nob Hill Road, Tamarac. 12:30 p.m.

SCIENTISTS PRESS SCOTT ON CLIMATE CHANGE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times

In an effort to push Gov. Scott into the debate on climate change, 10 prominent Florida scientists asked for an opportunity to explain to him the impact human-induced global warming will have on Florida.

“We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change,” the professors scientists wrote in a two-page letter to Scott. “You responded that you are ‘not a scientist.’ We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.”

Scott initially denied the impact of human-induced global warming when he first ran for office in 2010, saying he has “not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change.” He has since been reluctant to engage on the issue, answering only, “I’m not a scientist,” when asked about it.

The scientists, professors at the University of Miami, Florida State, Florida International and Eckerd College, believe they can explain simply why they believe the governor should care.

The issue is likely to gain steam in the months ahead as the governor’s race pits Scott against former Gov. Charlie Crist, who while governor initiated the most aggressive climate-change policies in Florida’s history.

Under pressure from global-warming naysayers, including the conservative Americans for Prosperity and the utility industry, Florida lawmakers have since repealed or defunded most of Crist’s initiatives.

To push back against that effort, and to keep climate change at the forefront of the debate, a federal super PAC called NextGenClimate has targeted Scott and has identified Florida as one of the seven states it will be pouring money into this election year.

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GOP: NO APPEAL ON FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL MAP RULING via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Republicans who control Florida’s Legislature will not appeal a landmark ruling that found that the state’s map for congressional districts unconstitutional.

But Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford said in a joint statement that they want to postpone drawing a new map until after the 2014 elections.

Gaetz and Weatherford said changing district boundaries now would cause election problems, noting that absentee ballots for the state’s Aug. 26 primary have already been sent to overseas voters.

“Any attempt to change the districts at this late stage of the 2014 elections process would cause chaos and confusion and would threaten the rights of our deployed military voters,” the statement says.

A circuit judge ruled last week that the Legislature illegally drew Florida’s congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party. Judge Terry Lewis ruled that two of the state’s 27 congressional districts were invalid and that the map must be redrawn.

The first district that Lewis ruled invalid stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando. U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown, a Democrat, holds the seat. The second is a central Florida district. The seat is held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Republican.

ACTUAL HEADLINE: “California Narrowly Avoids Snail Catastrophe, Florida Still at Risk” via Adam Putnam’s Communications Office

AFTER BREAK, SUPREME COURT TO TACKLE ONLINE TRAVEL TAXES, JUVENILE SENTENCING, WORKERS’ COMP via Jim Saunders of the Florida Times-Union

The Florida Supreme Court began an annual summer break, taking a breather from its routine of issuing opinions in complex legal disputes and the steady flow of death-penalty appeals.

But justices will face major issues when they return from the break — cases that could affect everything from utility rates to sentences for juveniles who commit murder. And that doesn’t even include the likelihood justices will be confronted with an ongoing fight about the constitutionality of congressional districts approved by lawmakers in 2012.

The court is scheduled to resume releasing its weekly opinions Aug. 28, though it can handle issues before then as needed.

One dispute centers on whether companies such as Expedia and Orbitz should pay tourist-development taxes on the full amounts they collect from customers, or only on the portions that go to room rentals.

One of the cases, from Bay County, focuses on Rebecca Falcon, who was sentenced to life in prison for a murder she committed in 1997, when she was 15 years old. The other case, from Duval County, involves Shimeeka Gridine, who was sentenced to 70 years in prison for crimes committed at age 14.

The state Office of Public Counsel, which by law represents consumers in utility issues, filed a challenge contending that the Florida Public Service Commission approved rate increases without going through the proper process.

The Supreme Court drew a full house last month when it heard arguments in a case stemming from injuries suffered in 2009 by St. Petersburg firefighter Bradley Westphal. The case focuses on what are known in the complicated workers-compensation system as “temporary total disability” benefits.

SHANDS DROPS LEGAL OBJECTION TO HCA TRAUMA CENTER AT OCALA REGIONAL Full blog post here

UF Health Shands Hospital has withdrawn objections to the trauma center at Ocala Regional Medical Center’s teaching hospital, closing the years-long legal battle with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.

Filed on Friday and approved on Monday, the request by Shands removes the threat to the future of Ocala Regional’s trauma center.

“It’s over,” Hospital Corporation of America lawyer Steve Ecenia told the Ocala Star Banner on Monday. Ecenia represented Ocala Regional and parent company Hospital Corporation of America.

Since Ocala Regional opened the trauma center in December 2012, Shands asked the Division of Administrative Hearings to close the facility. Before that, severely injured Marion County patients were sent to Shands for trauma care. Shands officials estimated one-third of its annual 2,500 would now be transported to Ocala Regional, which had served nearly 3,000 trauma patients since December 2012.

The trauma center at Ocala Regional serves Lake, Sumter, Marion and Citrus counties.

Administrative Law Judge James Peterson on Monday approved Shands’ motion to withdraw the petition, closing the case file.

HCA continues to face objections to other trauma centers, such as at the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Blake Medical Center in Manatee County. The DOH also approved opening those centers 2011 and 2012.

DISTRICT STAFF URGES DENIAL OF CONTROVERSIAL RANCH WATER REQUEST via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Environments

State officials are recommending denial of a requested water use permit for a cattle ranch in Marion County whose application in 2011 prompted a political campaign on behalf of Florida’s springs.

The St. Johns River Water Management District staff says the application by Sleepy Creek Lands for 1.12 million in new pumping, combined with exiting permitted water uses in the region, represents a threat to Silver Springs in Ocala.

But another permit involving Sleepy Creek Lands, formerly Adena Springs Ranch, for 1.46 million gallons of existing permitted water use was recommended for approval in May but faces a legal challenge.

In 2011, billionaire Frank Stronach’s 30,000-acre Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County applied to the St. Johns River Water Management District for a permit to use up to 13.2 million gallons of water daily.

That touched off a firestorm of protests including a 2012 rally in Ocala led by former U. S. Sen. Bob Graham. Environmental Groups presented petitions they said were signed by 15,000 calling for protection of Silver and Rainbow springs in Marion County.

Springs legislation passed the Florida Senate in April but wasn’t heard by the House before the 2014 legislative session ended.

Stronach’s request later was reduced from 13.2 million gallons to nearly 2.6 million gallons per day, according to the district. That request is for 1.1 million in new water use in addition to nearly 1.5 million provided by existing permits, which would be modified and combined.

PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY via Rep. Richard Corcoran, who is out with the first presser mentioning the August 1-3 Back to School Sales Tax Holiday.

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POLLING ROUND-UP

Jeff Brandes with seven-point lead in SD 22, new polling shows– State Sen. Jeff Brandes takes a seven-point advantage among likely voters in his re-election effort for Senate District 22.

Republican Chris Sprowls closes gap with Democrat Carl Zimmerman in HD 65 race – Republican Chris Sprowls has closed the gap to a single-percentage point in the race against Democratic State Rep. Carl “Z” Zimmerman for House District 65.

In HD 67, GOP’s Chris Latvala widens lead over Democrat Shawna Vercher –  For the House District 67 open seat to succeed term-limited Rep. Ed Hooper, new polling shows Chris Latvala increasing his lead over Democrat radio talk show host Shawna Vercher to nearly seven points.

Republican Bill Young moves to within two points of HD 68 incumbent Dwight Dudley – House District 68 Democrat Dwight Dudley is seeing his lead crumble with likely voters against first-time Republican challenger Bill Young II, son of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

GOP incumbent Kathleen Peters in tight, tight race with Dem opponent in HD 69 – State Rep. Kathleen Peters is in a virtual tie with her Democratic opponent for House District 69 seat.

JACK LATVALA RAISING MONEY FOR ELLYN BOGDANOFF IN TAMPA 

State Sens. Bill Galvano, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee, John Legg and Wilton Simpson are hosting a fundraiser for former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff in support of her campaign for Senate District 34. The event begins at noon in the Italian Club, 1731 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa.

PAUL RENNER TO OPEN CAMPAIGN HQ

Renner, who is seeking to replace outgoing Rep. Daniel Davis in House District 15, will hold an event to open campaign headquarters. 3651 Park St., Jacksonville. 5 p.m.

WILL WEATHERFORD ENDORSES CHRIS GREGG FOR STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 36

Weatherford: “Pasco County needs effective leaders to help represent our great county in Tallahassee. I can think of no better candidate than Chris Gregg to help continue a long tradition of great public servants from West Pasco.”

“I’m thrilled and humbled to receive the support of such a great leader for our State and our County.  Speaker Weatherford is a true public servant, spending each and every day working to make his community a better place,” Gregg said.

Gregg faces Republican James Mathieu in the August 26 GOP primary, where the winner goes against incumbent Democrat Amanda Murphy in November.

TAMPA BAY BUILDERS ASSOCIATION BACKS SEAN SHAW IN HD 61

Democrat Sean Shaw announced a major endorsement on Tuesday from the influential Tampa Bay Builders Association.

“I’m happy today to announce the Tampa Bay Builders Association’s endorsement of our campaign for State House District 61 representing East Tampa,” Shaw said. “As someone who has spent most of my life fighting for Florida families, I’m honored to have the backing of the TBBA – a group who is dedicated to making the American dream of homeownership a reality for thousands of Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough County families. They believe I’m the best choice in this race, and I’m honored.”

TBBA is comprised of builders, remodeling contractors, carpenters, subcontractors, and other building industry professionals.

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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Michelle McKay, T. B. Consultants Inc.: Gannon University

Jo Morris: Department of Elder Affairs

CONTEXT FLORIDA: CLEVELAND AND MIAMI, PARTISANSHIP, CAREGIVING AND CONSTRUCTION

On Context Florida: As Doug Clifton ruminates on the move of LeBron James back to Cleveland, he reflects on his own eight years as an editor there. Republican leaders in the U.S. House are locked into a ruthlessly partisan political strategy, says Daniel Tilson, unfairly but effectively jamming the gears of government machinery that needs to be operating a better immigration system. Stephen Goldstein notes that there is a caregiving crisis in the U.S., especially Florida. Unfortunately, family caregiving is not sufficiently addressed as a national, or state, priority. While job growth has remained lackluster during the economic recovery, Steve Cona, President and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors, writes that the construction industry and other highly skilled trades are facing a shortage of qualified workers that threatens the future of the industry.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Ross Spano, the Tallahassee Democrat’s Bob Gabordi, Alexis Lamber, and Teddy Stuart’s great dad, Ben.

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.