A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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LIVE FROM THE FLORIDA CHAMBER FOUNDATION FORUM
I am in Orlando today through Wednesday where I will be live-blogging and reporting at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Future of Florida Forum. Much of the first day’s discussion focused on trade and logistics and health care. State Reps. Jason Brodeur, Travis Cummings, Gayle Harrell, Matt Hudson, MaryLynn Magar, and Cary Pigman are expected to take part in a health-care panel. I have a full preview of the Forum here.
HASHTAG FOR THE F3: #FutureofFL
SPOTTED: Bill Carlson of Tucker Hall at the Disney Contemporary Resort, enjoying a day at the parks with his family before the F3.
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LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS WEEK IN FLORIDA POLITICS via The News Service of Florida
With lawmakers back in their districts, much of the action during the coming week will happen outside of Tallahassee. That includes Pasco County voters choosing a new House member in a special election. Also Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will help host an energy summit in Orlando, while state leaders will make their way to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s “Future of Florida Forum.”
QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
1. How soon does the loser of Tuesday’s special election in House District 36 turn around and file to run in 2014?
2. Is Alex Sink in or out of the race for Congressional District 13?
3. What news comes out of Ag Commish Adam Putnam’s Energy Summit and/or the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Future of Florida Forum?
4. What kind of fundraising effort will CD 2 rivals Steve Southerland and Gwen Graham report?
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ALL EYES ON THE SENATE AS DEADLINE LOOMS via the New York Times
Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell say they will continue negotiating on Sunday for a way to reopen the government, lift the debt ceiling — the deadline is on Thursday — and find a way out of a crisis that could have perilous implications for the nation’s economy.
Politico notes “the burden to find a solution now falls squarely” on Reid and McConnell — “two shrewd tacticians who have a long, complicated and contentious personal and political history with each other.”
Washington Post: “During the fiscal crises that have gripped Capitol Hill over the past five years, each resolution and compromise came after Senate leaders picked up the pieces of failed efforts between the White House and the House.”
DEMOCRATS ATTEMPT TO REVERSE SEQUESTER IN TALKS via the Wall Street Journal
Senate leaders attempting to avoid a U.S. debt default remained at loggerheads Sunday and escalated the standoff by reopening the contentious issue of automatic spending cuts, damping hopes that some of Congress’s most canny negotiators would break the impasse.
New York Times: “Senate Democratic leaders — believing they have a political advantage in the continuing fiscal impasse — refused Sunday to sign on to any deal that reopens the government but locks in budget cuts for next year.”
Washington Post: “Rather than making concessions that would undermine Obama’s signature health-care initiative, as Republicans first demanded, Democrats are now on the offensive and seeking to undo what has become a cherished prize for the GOP: deep agency spending cuts known as the sequester.”
NEWS THAT ‘REAL’ PEOPLE CARE ABOUT via Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press
For the second straight year, millions of Social Security recipients can expect a historically small increase in benefits come January. Preliminary inflation figures suggest a cost-of-living adjustment of about 1.5 percent, which would be among the smallest since automatic increases were adopted in 1975, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. The exact size of the COLA won’t be known until the Labor Department releases the inflation report for September. That was supposed to happen this coming Wednesday, but the report was delayed indefinitely because of the partial government shutdown.
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LATEST ON RACE FOR CD 13
As first reported late Friday afternoon by SaintPetersBlog (the road to CD 13 will go through SPB!), former Florida Chief Financial Officer and gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is giving serious consideration to running for Bill Young’s congressional seat.
Alex Sink confirms: “After making my decision in the governor’s race I’ve been sitting here for two weeks listening to all this ridiculousness in Washington, and thinking maybe we need some new people there, a different approach. I’ll need to make a decision fairly soon, but I am seriously considering it.”
DCCC shows some leg: “A candidate – like Alex Sink – who has a strong record of solving problems would be extremely competitive in this district.”
Facebook Status of the Day, via local Democratic consultant Steve Lapinski: “Alex Sink’s home in Thonotosassa, FL is about 10 miles closer to Lakeland, Florida (in Polk County) than it is to St. Petersburg, Largo or Clearwater. If it’s ok for her to run for the congressional seat in Pinellas County, maybe I should run for mayor of Downtown Disney.”
Jessica Ehrlich named ‘Loser of the Week in Florida politics’ via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times: “The St. Petersburg Democrat has been running for the seat for nearly three years, but Young’s announcement had almost no fellow Democrats suggesting Ehrlich would now be the likely nominee. And would it have killed Ehrlich to offer up one ‘Thanks for your service, Bill’ comment about Young, before crowing about his departure and asking for more campaign donations?”
Larry Crow becomes first Republican to enter the race. “I enter this race in a time when I believe the faith in our federal government is at its lowest point in my lifetime,” the Palm Harbor lawyer said. “People want consistency and leadership, not gamesmanship. ” But, as Smith notes, But Crow will likely have to defend his representation of high-profile clients, including gambling interests and a voyeur website for people to watch women in a Tarpon Springs home.
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NATIONAL MONEY ALREADY FLOWING INTO FLORIDA RACES via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union
National groups have begun pouring big money earlier than in past years into state-level races. The move underscores that even state races in Florida carry national weight.
Despite there being no well-known Democratic candidate for governor, the Washington-based Democratic Governors Association has already doled out $525,000. That money, in large part, is going to support Florida for All, a group set up to oppose Gov. Rick Scott.
The DGA is not new to Florida, but is spending much earlier than in past cycles. During the 2010 gubernatorial race, the group spent $6 million in Florida, but did not write its first check until months before Election Day.
… National Republican groups are also spending campaign cash in Florida.
The Republican State Leadership Committee, a national group focused on state-level races, has given $585,000. Most of that ($500,000) went to a committee supporting Attorney General Pam Bondi.
SCOTT’S LIKABILITY LOW DESPITE EFFORTS TO BOOST IT via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, whose catchphrase “It’s working” is the theme for his re-election, has been willing to try just about anything to get Floridians to like him. It’s not working. Since the day he was elected, polls have shown that more Floridians dislike him than like him. Not that he hasn’t made efforts to win them over. He tried social media outreach, then gave it up. He tried dressing casual, then gave it up. He tried doing “Let’s Get to Work Days” but seems to have abandoned those, too.
While Scott has said policy and not popularity is what’s important, it’s clear his staff and his party are trying hard to make him more likable. That could be especially important, with the prospect of opposing one of the state’s most likable politicians, former Gov. Charlie Crist, as he seeks re-election.
“They keep trying to grab at straws in trying to get his name out there, and they just need to let him be who he is,” said Jamie Miller, a Republican political consultant. “They don’t need to change who he is, they just need to portray him as who he is.”
Scott once said in an interview that polls don’t matter. “People think that being governor is a popularity contest. No. Your job is to be the governor,” Scott said during an interview with The Associated Press his first year in office. His office said he wasn’t available for an interview Thursday and Friday.
Some say the image that Scott’s handlers are trying to create just doesn’t fit who he is.
“(Voters) think that most of his actions are calculated – calculated on the polls, calculated by consultants,” said former Republican Sen. Paula Dockery, who briefly ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010.
SHOCKING: JOHN MORGAN BANKROLLING MEDICAL MARIJUANA ISSUE via The Associated Press
Prominent Orlando attorney John Morgan, known for his television ads, is pouring his own money into a campaign to legalize marijuana for medical use.
Newly filed reports show Morgan has donated $250,000 in the last three months to People United for Medical Marijuana. That’s 63 percent of what the group raised during the last quarter.
The group, which is led by Morgan, wants voters to approve an amendment that allows Floridians to legally use marijuana for medical reasons. It takes signatures from nearly 700,000 voters to qualify for the 2014 ballot.
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ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: ADAM PUTNAM’S 2013 ENERGY SUMMIT
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam will deliver opening remarks at the 2013 Florida Energy Summit, followed by a diverse group of speakers and panels that will discuss many aspects of energy in Florida. The summit spans from October 14 at 9:00 a.m. through October 15 at 4:00 p.m. at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando. The agenda features Michael Levi as the keynote speaker, who will discuss recent policy proposals affecting the United States energy industry and what they mean for Florida’s economy, security and environment. A complete agenda and list of speakers can be found at here.
PATRICK SHEEHAN: WATER RISING AT 2013 FLORIDA ENERGY SUMMIT via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News
The 400-plus participants at this year’s Florida Energy Summit can expect an informative program packed into an inclusive two days at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando. The Summit begins at 9 a.m. with Adam Putnam’s welcome address. The Florida secretary of Agriculture and Consumer Services will outline events planned and set the tone for the two-day event.
Patrick Sheehan, executive director of the Office of Energy, told Sunshine State News Friday the commissioner believes energy and water are inextricably linked, and hereafter these meetings will alternate — this year the Florida Energy Summit, next year Forida Water Summit. “The water crises in Florida have made energy a front-burner issue,” Sheehan said. “In fact, for the last session of the summit we’ve got a fantastic program moderated by Rich Budell, director of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy.”
“This year we’ve been responsive to participants’ comments,” said Sheehan, who will moderate the event’s first panel, “Florida by the Numbers.” “They wanted a shorter meeting, so we cut it from three to two days; they didn’t want parallel tracks where two programs were going on at once and they had to choose — so, we have only nine panels. Everybody will get to hear everything.
COURTS SYSTEM BUDGET DISCUSSED
The Florida State Courts System will offer an overview of its 2014-15 legislative budget request. Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee. 2 p.m.
ON CONTEXT FLORIDA: SHUTDOWN SHOWBOATS, GERRYMANDERING, AND YARD SIGNAGE SHENANIGANS
On Context Florida, Darryl Paulson speculated about the candidate field opening up to fill Congressman Young’s seat; and Daniel Tilson said it is time to “get our country back” by giving the “Tea Party shutdown showboats a time-out.” Then, Cary McMullen extended the words of the apostle Paul to residents of Bartow, regarding recent controversy over yard signage and the want of some for yard signage rule exemptions: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.” Finally, Jim McClellan made a case for Fair Districts, lamenting that most districts in Florida have competition only in primaries, giving way to the “radical right or loony left.” McClellan, who is registered NPA, is left out of the elections that matter most.
Visit Context Florida to dig in.
THE FDA TO MEDICAID: DON’T ROB BABY PETER TO PAY ADULT PAUL via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) intends to wrap children’s dental services into medical managed care plans when the successful prepaid dental health program sunsets in October 2014. AHCA suggests that wrapping dental services into Medicaid health plans will permit coverage for adults as well as children. But the problem is that the state doesn’t intend to pay any more for dental care than the pittance it does now. Does AHCA expect health plans to spread the already miniscule dollars that used to be meant for children to pay for care provided to adults? One clear answer: keep children’s dental out of it.
AHCA’s first rationale for this move is to avoid “fragmentation.” Unfortunately, integrated pots of money don’t equal integrated care. If anything, batching dental with health plans will only fragment access more. This is so for many reasons. First, Medicaid managed care plans generally subcontract dental services out to the same prepaid dental groups that currently run the program. This means that health plans will take already paltry reimbursement fees and divvy them up further, keeping a chunk in the process as the middle man.
“This simply pays another layer of administration versus getting maximum dollars out to providers and patients,” says Dr. Terry Buckenheimer, president of the Florida Dental Association.
Second, unlike traditional Medicaid plans, prepaid dental plans are able to maximize payments in areas where dentists are most needed, and to pay a little less in areas where dentists are plentiful because access is not a problem. This market-based approach has allowed prepaid plans to create dental networks and increase access to care in ways that the state has never been able to do on its own.
Because of this, prepaid dental has been able to achieve a dramatic turnaround in access to care for low-income children, a turnaround that the state has recently and rightly bragged. To Dr. Buckenheimer, the effort to promote adult dental care by somehow combining it with children’s dental may be well-intended but will only exacerbate problems in the future.
“If we don’t start changing things for children we will have a couple of generations of problems down the road,” he said.
If adult dental is something that the state cares to offer, nobody is stopping the Legislature and Medicaid from paying health plans more to do so. But robbing Baby Peter to pay Adult Paul isn’t the way to get there.
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LAWMAKERS TO WEIGH 2010 SEMINOLE DEAL via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel
Florida lawmakers will soon have to show their cards in a high-stakes game.Do they expand gambling by allowing Las Vegas-style casinos in Florida? And if they do, how will the Seminole Tribe of Florida react? So-called “destination” casinos — major resorts that combine upscale hotels, restaurants shows and gambling — would potentially create thousands of jobs and boost the economy, particularly in South Florida, an area that mega casino-hotel companies are eyeing closely. But that could cost the state the roughly $200 million per year that the tribe pays for the exclusive right to offer card games, like blackjack, in its casinos.
“That’s the $250 million question, isn’t it?” asked Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands, which is hoping the Legislature will allow the Sands to build a lavish casino-hotel in South Florida.
The tribe, as a sovereign nation, does not have to pay Florida gambling taxes or follow its gambling laws. But in 2010, the Seminoles inked a “compact” with the state that allowed them to offer blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer in their two big casinos.
In return for that monopoly — as well as the exclusive right to operate slot machines in the state, except for South Florida — the tribe promised to pay the state $1 billion over five years. The part of the compact that gives the tribe the exclusive rights to operate these games expires in 2015.
Allowing destination casinos would potentially violate the compact — and leave lawmakers looking at a $200 million-a-year hole in the budget.
MOVE TO DITCH ‘NO-FAULT’ INSURANCE COMING IN SENATE via Jim Turner of the Palm Beach Post
Legislation is being drafted to scrap the state’s no-fault auto insurance coverage, as a landmark 2012 effort to remove fraud from the system remains tied up in court. Insurance industry representatives say they have already been told the measure could come before a committee in November, and they’re just waiting to see what is in the package. Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman David Simmons said he’s advancing the measure at the request of a number of insurance officials who don’t expect reforms to the state’s decade-old Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto insurance system to fully take hold.
“I’ve had several of our major insurance companies come to me and say that they are ready to move on, and that’s irrespective of a 1st District Court of Appeal ruling,” Simmons said. “They’re saying that the system is broke, we acknowledge it’s broken, it’s difficult to fix the unfixable.”
An appeals court ruling is pending in a challenge by a group of acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors over a reduction of individual medical coverage and the contention that the law reduces access to courts.
The ruling is expected to be taken to the state Supreme Court, regardless of the outcome.
Backed by Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, the law was considered a last-ditch effort to maintain the no-fault, or PIP, system that requires motorists to carry $10,000 in medical coverage. Scott and Atwater contended that fraud involving no-fault claims collectively has hit motorists by as much as $1 billion a year through the increased costs of coverage.
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AMID CASINO FIGHT, DISNEY DROPS ANOTHER QUARTER-MILLION-PLUS ON FLORIDA’S POLITICAL PARTIES via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel
Walt Disney World dropped another quarter-million dollars on to Florida’s political parties this summer, as the giant resort continues trying to quash plans for Las Vegas-style casinos in South Florida.
New state records show Disney contributed $225,000 to the Republican Party of Florida between July 1 and Sept. 30. It gave another $60,000 to the Florida Democratic Party, plus about $85,000 worth of free theme-park tickets, hotel rooms, food and drinks for Tallahassee’s minority party to use in fundraisers and other events.
Disney has made preventing the construction of “destination resort” casinos its top legislative priority. Disney executives say adult-oriented gambling would undermine Florida’s reputation with family travelers, but it also wants to avoid further competition for tourists’ time and money. Not to be outdone, Disney’s arch-nemesis in the gambling battle – Malaysian casino operator Genting Group, which wants to build a massive casino resort in downtown Miami – gave $250,000 to the state Republican Party, which commands big majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Altogether, the third-quarter campaign-finance reports are a vivid reminder of just how profitable the gambling debate has become for state lawmakers, who have chosen to stretch the debate over several years.
Beyond Disney and Genting, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which currently holds exclusive rights in the state to blackjack and other table games, gave $250,000 to the Republicans and $75,000 to the Democrats.
SENATE REPUBLICANS RAISE MONEY IN NAPLES h/t to The News Service of Florida
Senate Republican leaders are holding a fundraising event tonightin Naples. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the home of Sen. Garrett Richter and will be followed Tuesday morning by a golf tournament at Grey Oaks Golf Club in Naples.
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COUNTING DOWN FLORIDA’S TOP LOBBYING FIRMS: #5 CORCORAN & jOHNSON Full profile here
With an office in Tampa, Tallahassee and now Miami, Corcoran & Johnston ranks No. 5 on Sunshine State News’ Top Lobbyists in Florida. Full profile here.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Erika Alba, Christian Caballero, Robert Hosay, Paul Lowell, Foley & Lardner: Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association, Inc.
Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Justin Day, Stephen Shiver, Jon Yapo: The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Tampa Port Authority
Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: CEA Group
Chris Floyd: Tampa Port Authority
David Browning, Chris Dudley, Towson Fraser, Southern Strategy Group: Republica
Jose Fuentes: Becker & Poliakoff: Downtown Development Authority
Sandy Mortham: The Doctors Company
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CAN’T WAIT TO READ: What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House by Tevi Troy.
NATE SILVER, NOW WITH PROFANITY
Famed statistician Nate Silver returned to the Internet with his “six big takeaways” on the government shutdown, including a bid to explode the myths of the last big shutdown … and a few choice words that, we suspect, he has long longed to use
WELCOME TO THE TWITTERS: @FLPressCorps; “Follow @FLPressCorps for information about the Barbara Frye scholarship, Press Skits and more!” says the Times‘ Tia Mitchell.
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A VERY SPECIAL CONGRATULATIONS to Claudia Davant and Dave Ericks. The couple were married this past weekend at a low county wedding in Claudia’s home state of South Carolina.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY from over the weekend to Adam Corey and Cesar Fernandez. Celebrating today is Pinellas politico, Joe Triolo.