Sunburn for 8/15 – 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 dominant public affairs PR firm: It’s time to head on down to Yasgur’s Farm to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band! That imagery from Joni Mitchell’s hit song “Woodstock” helps mark the 45th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a quiet little event that helped define (and name) a generation. Billed as “3 Days of Peace & Music,” Woodstock became a pivotal moment in popular music history and the counterculture movement. Properly, not everything about the Woodstock culture has been retained or mainstreamed – but we still look for those too-rare, shared events where “everywhere there was song and celebration.”

Now, on to the burn…

THE ‘AMNESTY’ CARD: GOP LAUNCHES 2014 BORDER WAR via Alexander Burns of POLITICO

In a dramatic departure from their determination only months ago to win a second look from that rapidly-growing community, national Republicans have embarked on a sustained campaign to make the immigration crisis a central issue in 2014 and exhort voters to punish the White House for failing to lock down the U.S.-Mexico border.

The intensity of their rhetoric has increased as a surge of child migrants has renewed attention to the border and amid anticipation that President Barack Obama will issue a set of executive actions on immigration, including potentially suspending deportations for countless migrants.

Gone are the days of tiptoeing around the real and perceived sensitivities of the Latino community, which holds powerful sway over the Electoral College in presidential elections.

Public and private polling shows border control creeping up the list of concerns among conservative voters and independents, and the GOP is responding accordingly. Republican candidates are lacing into the Obama administration and its congressional allies for supporting “amnesty” and casting them as unable to secure the southern border.

And the most prominent national Republican voice on immigration and the border is no longer Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American legislator who supported the Senate’s immigration compromise bill, but rather Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the swaggering border-state conservative who has deployed national guardsmen to the Rio Grande.

It’s hard to overstate how sharply the GOP’s new strategy breaks with the party’s determination to enact sweeping new immigration policy in the aftermath of the 2012 election, when Obama won more than 7 in 10 Latino votes and prompted the release of a grim Republican National Committee report to endorse immigration reform as its primary policy recommendation.

Many prominent Republicans, from House Speaker John Boehner to billionaire super-donor Sheldon Adelson, still support immigration reform in word. But with the 2014 election squarely in sight, the party has spun away from a national quest to reintroduce itself to Latinos and planted itself squarely on the turf of the midterm campaign — where individual races are playing out in largely conservative territory in the Deep South and Mountain West states with fewer Latino voters.

DEMOCRATS USE RUBBER DUCKS TO CALL FOR STEVE SOUTHERLAND DEBATES Full blog post here

Voters in Florida’s Second Congressional District are calling on U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland with a simple message: stop “ducking” debates with Gwen Graham, his Democratic opponent.

On Wednesday, Florida Democratic Party volunteers delivered more than five dozen rubber ducks to Southerland’s Panama City field office to protest his refusal to debate. The ducks symbolize 67 days since Southerland failed to respond to Graham’s debate challenge.

Each rubber duck had hand-written notes saying, “Dear Steve, please stop ducking debates,” and “Debate!”

“It’s been 67 days and Congressman Southerland is still refusing to debate — but that’s not surprising since Congressman Southerland can’t defend his record of shutting down the government and complaining that his taxpayer funded salary isn’t high enough,” said Florida Democratic Party representative Joshua Karp. “It’s past time for Congressman Southerland to stop ducking debates and hiding from North Florida residents and come clean about his record of dysfunctional Washington politics.”

As of Wednesday, Southerland continues to refuse to schedule debate appearances, saying he will only do so when Graham denounces “liberal outside groups who are smearing Steve’s record and misleading voters.”

Karp points out that the Panama City Republican himself benefited from $1.1 million in outside spending against his opponent in 2010 and another $1.5 million against his opponent in 2012.

NEW AD HITS SOUTHERLAND ON FISHERY ISSUES via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Democratic-aligned Ocean Champions paid for polling that showed Graham with a 45-43 lead over Southerland and 11 percent of voters undecided. The text below is from a polling memo:

“This is clear evidence of the race trending in Graham’s favor – in a survey conducted in April of this year, Southerlnd held a comfortable lead over Graham (49% Southerland / 39% Graham),” reads a polling memo. “That survey was conducted toward the end of significant media buy from Republican affiliated groups. Graham has now completely erased the Republican advantage created by that spending. Graham currently leads Southerland by +21 percentage points in the Tallahassee market (55% Graham / 34% Southerland) and trails Southerland by -26 percentage points in the Panama City market (31% Graham / 57% Southerland). This reflects a net increase in support for Graham of +8 and +17 respectively, compared to April. This dramatic shift in support in Panama City coincides with a sizable media buy by Ocean Champions in that market.”

It goes on: “Undecided voters appear ready to break toward Graham. Undecided voters in the Congressional race are less Republican in registration than the electorate as a whole, and lean toward Charlie Crist over Rick Scott in the governor’s race. Forty percent (40%) of undecided voters would prefer someone new representing them in Congress, compared to only 12% of undecided voters who say they would prefer to see Southerland re-elected.”

“Southerland is “upside down” on several of the key indicators that measure an incumbent’s strength. Southerland’s job rating is net negative (42% positive / 47% negative). In fact, his positive job rating is only slightly higher than that of President Obama’s (37% positive). A majority of likely voters say they would prefer to see someone new representing them in Congress rather than re-elect Steve Southerland (39% re-elect Southerland – 54% someone new).”

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DAYS TO THE ELECTION: 81

GROUP BLAMES RICK SCOTT FOR DUKE ENERGY ADVANCED FEES Full blog post here

Duke Energy has attracted the ire of numerous groups. The Sierra Club. The Florida Consumer Action Network. Awake Pinellas. Conglomerations of all of the above under several names. And now there’s another, Floridians for Fair Rates.

The group is lashing out at the utility giant for collecting advanced nuclear recovery fees from customers for two plants, one in Levy County and one in Crystal River. The Crystal River plant broke and the plant in Levy County was cancelled.

But the group isn’t just attacking Duke. It’s turning the nuclear cost recovery issue an anti-Rick Scott smear campaign.

They’re not only blaming Rick Scott for inaction in returning the more than $3 billion that’s been collected from Duke’s rate payers for projects that never produced an iota of energy, they’re accusing him of doing favors for the energy giant.

But allowing Duke Energy to collect fees before even starting projects wasn’t the governor’s decision. It was the 2006 class of the Florida legislature. That law was tightened up a bit in 2013 making it a little harder for utilities to collect advanced fees, but the Florida Public Service Commission can still approve it, and they have.

That’s another problem the group has with Governor Scott. He appointed the PSC.

JEB BUSH JOINS RICK SCOTT ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL FRIDAY Full blog post here

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a popular leader within the Florida GOP and a possible White House contender in 2016, joins Gov. Rick Scott on a campaign stop in Homestead trail on Friday.

Scott’s campaign offered few details about the appearance.

“They will be visiting a business to highlight proposals to keep Florida working,” said Scott campaign spokesperson Jackie Schutz said in an email.

Also on Scott’s Friday campaign schedule is a visit to the community of Avon Park in Central Florida, to cap off a week focused on honoring veterans.

AG CANDIDATE SHELDON SET TO DEFEND RESIDENCY CHALLENGE ON FRIDAY via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

The argument has a ring of quantum physics to it, where a subatomic particle can be in two places at the same time.

George Sheldon, Democratic candidate for attorney general, says he was a Florida resident who at the same time enjoyed a “nonresident” exception from having to take required Bar classes, according to court documents.

Sheldon is facing a suit to knock him off the ballot; a Tallahassee judge will hear the case. The primary election is Aug. 26, less than two weeks away.

Sheldon’s candidacy is being challenged by a Miami lawyer who says he’s ineligible to hold office because he did not live in Florida for seven years before election, as the state constitution requires.

Sheldon lived in Washington, D.C., from 2011-13 while working as acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The nub of the case against him is a “nonresident exemption” he received from taking continuing legal education classes, or CLEs, required by The Florida Bar to maintain one’s law license.

Sheldon has said he never intended to give up his Florida residency: He didn’t change his Florida voter registration, driver’s license, automobile registration or homestead exemption while he was in Washington.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s Top Lobbying Firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again.  To learn more visit www.corcoranfirm.com.***

MIAMI JUDGE DECLARES FLORIDA WORKERS COMP LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL via Carol Marbin Miller of the Bradenton Herald

A Miami-Dade judge struck a blow against Florida’s workers’ comp law, which was already under attack on several fronts.

A Miami judge declared Florida’s long-controversial workers’ compensation law unconstitutional saying successive state legislatures had so diminished medical care and wage-loss benefits for injured workers the statute now violates employees’ “fundamental” rights.

In a case involving a Miami-Dade County government office worker, Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto said the nearly 80-year-old law forces injured workers into a legal system so flawed it does not provide adequate medical care or dollars to replace lost wages. Under Florida law, workers have no choice but to seek benefits under the workers’ comp system. Except under rare circumstances, they cannot sue their employers.

“The benefits in the act have been so decimated,” Cueto wrote, “that it no longer provides a reasonable alternative” to filing suit in civil court.

Cueto’s ruling comes at a pivotal time for mostly blue-collar and agricultural workers in Florida: Lawmakers and business leaders say high workers’ compensation insurance premiums have threatened to derail the state’s economic growth, while worker advocates say the state has allowed widespread insurance fraud to fester while counteracting the high premiums by punishing workers.

The controversy, which has simmered for years, is becoming increasingly prominent as worker rights lawyers ask judges, including those on the state’s highest court, to strike down the law once and for all.

GOOD NEWS – DOT WILL SPEED UP SEVERAL MAJOR ROAD PROJECT via The Associated Press

Florida is speeding up six major road projects across the state.

Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that the state will push up the timing of $806 million worth of highway construction projects across the state.

State transportation officials were able to speed up the projects because how much money state legislators set aside for roads in this year’s budget.

One of the biggest projects is a $255 million project to widen Interstate 95 in Volusia County on the state’s east coast. The project will be moved up to 2015. It had been scheduled to begin in 2020.

The list also includes work for Interstate 295 in Duval County, Interstate 75 in Hernando County, U.S. 98 in Bay County and State Road 821 in Miami-Dade County.

STATE OFFICIALS STICK WITH PLAN TO HOLD LOTTERY FOR POT DISPENSARIES IN NEW RULE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

The Florida Department of Health has rejected requests to find an alternative to a lottery system for selecting the companies that will grow and dispense low-THC marijuana for medical purposes in its proposed final rule. The agency also announced a public hearing to hear more feedback on Sept. 5.

Patients, growers, investors and marijuana entrepreneurs all appealed to the department during two public hearings this summer asking the agency to reconsider choosing the five dispensaries by lottery. The rule is being developed to implement a law passed by the Legislature this spring, authorizing one nursery in five regions of the state to be licensed to cultivate and distribute the low-THC marijuana intended to help people with severe epilepsy, muscle spasms and cancer.

The new rules offer detailed requirements for maintaining patient records, security, staffing, dispensary hours and transportation. It allows one dispensary in each region to be responsible for trucking a 90-day supply of the low-THC cannabis to the homes of qualified registered patients, a system that also drew sharp criticism from the industry hopefuls.

Absent from the rule, however, are any detailed standards that impose requirements on the quality of cultivation, the experience of the growers or the technological skill of the company to obtain a low-THC abstract. The absence of those requirements has many critics worried that the state is relinquishing its ability to manage the quality control and will reduce the number of applicants willing to make the financial commitment.

The rule requires that applicants provide documentation of “financial strength…in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards.” It requires applicants to show ability to post a $5 million performance bond. And it requires that the owners and managers of the dispensing organization pass a background screening.

DUKE ENERGY SEEKS STATE APPROVAL FOR NATURAL-GAS PLANT SITE Full blog post here

Duke Energy Florida submitted a detailed application with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the site of a new Citrus County power plant.

In May, Duke announced intentions to build the natural-gas plant, as well as shutting down two existing coal-fired generating units. However, the utility company must go through a state site-approval process, ultimately leading to a decision by the governor and Florida Cabinet.

Filed Aug. 1 with the DEP, the application was sent to the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

If approved, the plant would be on 400 acres adjacent to Duke’s longstanding Crystal River Energy Complex. According to the application, construction would start early 2016, and begin producing electricity by 2018.

Duke Energy also submitted an application to the Florida Public Service Commission for a “determination of need” for the projected plant. The board will start preliminary hearings on the request Aug. 26.

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FMA PAC ENDORSES AMANDA MURPHY FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 36

The Florida Medical Association PAC today endorsed State Rep. Amanda Murphy in her re-election bid for Florida House District 36.

“Thank you to State Representative Amanda Murphy for her leadership and service through several of her health care committee assignments in the Florida House,” said Dr. Ralph Nobo, President of the FMA PAC. “Her work on the Health & Human Services Committee, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Healthy Families Subcommittee has made Rep. Murphy a go-to advocate for our issues,” Nobo continued.

“It is a great honor to be recognized and endorsed for re-election by the Florida Medical Association,” said State Rep. Amanda Murphy. “Protecting Floridians by ensuring access to the many amazing health care providers we have here in this State has been and will continue to be a priority of mine in the legislature.”

HEY, YOU TWO. TALK ABOUT THE ISSUES! via the Venice Gondolier Sun

 Maybe it’s time to make “None of the above” a ballot option in Florida.

We say this with our eyes on the Florida House District 74 race between Julio Gonzalez and Richard DeNapoli, which is sinking deeper into the mud with each passing day.

The race could end up costing as much as $1 million. To represent South Sarasota County. In the Florida House.

There is little to distinguish between the two very conservative candidates, so apparently each sees making the other guy seem to be a RINO — Republican in name only — as the sole path to getting elected. They are generating lots of heat and absolutely no light. At least no positive light.

Both campaigns are running TV ads in which the state’s issues take a back seat to name-calling and finger-pointing, in direct violation of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

The result is too many voters are going to decide whom to vote for based not on policies and principles, but on which man did a better job of portraying his opponent as a liar. We’re not saying it’s anything new, but how well is it working?

Tallahassee isn’t nearly as dysfunctional as Washington, D.C., but it’s no model of bipartisanship. If a candidate has no compunction about attacking a fellow GOP member to get elected, just how can we expect him to work with Democrats, who, believe it or not, may actually have something to contribute?

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly Ballas guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association LobbyistThey Cover Florida Like the Sun.***

BACK-TO-SCHOOL SPECIAL SERIES: HIGHER ED, BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE FLORIDA LOBBYISTS Full blog post here

It’s back to school month for Florida college students, which means that towns like Gainesville and Tallahassee will once again be flooded to their higher capacities. But while most students have had the summers off, the business of education has continued in their absence — and has so, too, for the lobbyists and politicos who handle the “gov” side of higher ed.

The “who’s who” of Florida education lobbyists includes a spate of expert lobbyists, academicians, and students. So many, in fact, that it would be fruitless to attempt to name them all. Approximately 241 lobbyists are registered to represent colleges, universities and professional schools; 102 lobby for educational support services; 32 lobby for junior colleges; 5 lobby for technical and trade schools; and that’s only for those categories that exclude elementary and secondary schools, exam prep, tutoring, and professional development.

Representing Florida A&M, we have Sean Pittman, Tola Rhombi Thompson, and Jason Unger; representing Florida Atlantic, there’s Meghan Hoza, Pamela Landi, Ken Pruitt and Kristina Wiggins; and for Florida Gulf Coast, there’s Wilson Bradshaw and Jennifer Goen. Florida International brings in some big guns with Travis Blanton, Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, Manny Reyes, Robert Reyes, Fausto Gomez, Andreina Figueroa, and Scott Ross; and the same for Florida Polytechnic, with Mario Bailey, Brian Ballard, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Rhett O’Doski, Greg Turbeville, Sean Stafford, David Shepp, and Derek Whitis.

Florida State has Kathleen Daly and Garnett Stokes, internally, along with outside guns in the form of Al Lawson, Jr., and Sean Pittman.

The University of Central Florida teams up with Chris Carmody, Chris Dudley, Towson Fraser, Fred Leonhardt, Robert Stuart, and Stacy Webb; and the University of Florida with Wilbur Brewton, Matt Bryan, Linda Collins, David Daniel, Belita Moreton and Andrea Reilly. The University of South Florida brings on Robert Blair, Michael Cantens, Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, and Amanda Stewart; and the University of West Florida, Chip Case, Rich Heffley, and Kelly Horton.

For their part, Stetson University teams with Frank and Tracy Mayernick, Emily Nance, Foyt Ralston, and Cari Roth; and the University of Miami brings on Billy Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Larry Overton, Melissa Akeson and others along with Ballard, Book and Mallette.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Brian Ballard, Michael Abrams, Christopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: Sun Bulb Company

Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: LMG Holdings Inc.

Susan Goldstein: Innovation Industries; JD Thornton

WEEKEND TV

Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Marty Monroe, Reggie Garcia, Screven Watson, and Pete Dunbar.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, William March of the Tampa Tribune, Barry Edwards, and Jen Lux.

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.