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.
ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, Michelle made me the happiest, proudest man in this world by saying, “I do.” Happy anniversary to my wonderful, amazing wife, who, yes, still reads my blog each day.
THE WINTER WHITE WEDDING began under the banyan trees in North Straub Park and was celebrated in the Hazel Hough Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg (now Martha Stewart’s #3 choice for a wedding reception in the eastern United States.
AMONG THE POLITICOS IN ATTENDANCE were former Governor Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole; Judge Thomas Minkoff and his wife, Elise; Senator Jack Latvala and Representatives Jeff Brandes and Dana Young; County Commissioner Ken Welch; lobbyists Laura Boehmer, Stephanie Smith, and Alan Suskey; the AP’s Brendan Farrington, and the Tampa Bay Times Adam Smith.
TAMPA BAY TIMES WRITE-UP OF OUR ENGAGEMENT AND WEDDING — “POWER BROKERS WITNESS THE PROPOSAL” by Sabrina Rocco
One night last July, at a “not-so-political happy hour,” a special quorum of power brokers was called at Cassis, the French restaurant on downtown St. Petersburg’s posh Beach Drive. … Rep. Jeff Brandes introduced Peter, who told the crowd how his late father always wished his son would meet and marry a special woman. He had found that woman in Michelle. And he proposed. … When Michelle and Peter booked their wedding, they wanted swank and sentiment. Beach Drive, Vinoy Park, the waterfront were all special places where they spent great chunks of time: “That section of the world is the center of our universe,” Peter said. The Museum of Fine Arts was a perfect pick. Underneath the banyan trees, Peter and Michelle said their vows.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sunburn is taking a day off on Wednesday and will resume on Thursday.
Now, on to to politics…
HOUSE GOP EYES DEFAULT, SHUTDOWN by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Jake Sherman
House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or shutting down the government, to force President Obama to finally cut spending by the end of March.
The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.
GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point.
OBAMA SAYS RAISING DEBT CEILING IS NOT NEGOTIABLE
President Obama repeated his call for deficit reduction at a press conference but warned against the potentially catastrophic effect on the economy by tying cuts to raising the debt ceiling.
Said Obama: “While I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficit, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress over how to pay the bills they’ve already racked up. To even entertain the idea of this happening, of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd.”
He added: “They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.”
TWEET, TWEET: @bethreinhard: Hoo boy. Obama just name-dropped Charlie Crist
FAR FEWER TO ATTEND OBAMA INAUGURATION
When Obama takes the oath of office outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 21 and looks onto the National Mall, he will see a different landscape than he did in 2009.
Then, an estimated 1.8 million people poured onto the Mall to witness the first African-American president sworn into office. Now, District of Columbia officials estimate that between 600,000 and 800,000 people will attend Obama’s second swearing-in, a steep decline from 2009 but an above-average audience for a second-term inauguration . George W. Bush’s second inauguration attracted between 300,000 and 400,000 people. Bill Clinton’s likely drew around 450,000.
US SUPREME COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN CENTRAL FLORIDA LAND DEVELOPMENT CASE by Kevin Spears of the Orlando Sentinel
The US Supreme Court hears arguments today in a Central Florida property-rights case that began two decades ago when the owner of some land along State Road 50 in east Orange County sought permission to fill in some wetlands so he could build on the property.
Now that the nation’s highest court has the lawsuit, it may use it to decide whether government agencies, when landowners seek permits to develop their acreage, may demand anything in return that doesn’t bear directly on the property — things such as paying to restore wetlands elsewhere or widen congested roads.
Property-rights advocates say that amounts to extortion by a bully. Supporters of growth management say it’s a flexible way for governments to ensure that development pays for itself and doesn’t degrade a community or environment.
The long-running case is being closely watched by development and business interests nationwide, as well as by environmentalists and government agencies.
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WILL RICK SCOTT’S CHARM OFFENSIVE AMOUNT TO A HILL OF BEANS? by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald
Scott began the New Year by playing right into the Democrats’ narrative of him. They’ve spent years fashioning him as an untrustworthy figure who ran a hospital company that ultimately paid a record Medicare fraud fine for allegedly cooking the books.
And Scott went along by touting untrustworthy budget numbers about healthcare.
Less than 24 hours after his agency’s budget-number do-over, Scott shrugged off the controversy during his Friday workday at Goya and then Sedano’s Supermarket in Westchester.
“I think it’s positive that we’re having a discussion about how much the president’s healthcare bill is going to cost us,” Scott said.
Asked if he made an error in how he framed the issue, Scott said: “I always try to improve on everything I can do, but here’s what we know: Government is not free.”
SCOTT TO MEET WITH BLACK CAUCUS ON TUESDAY
In a united effort to focus attention on issues important to lawmakers, the minority community, and the citizens of Florida, the Florida Legislative Black Caucu will gather for a meeting with Gov. Scott. The meeting, scheduled to begin at noon, will allow the Caucus to highlight various issues one-on-one with the governor, according to Senator Arthenia Joyner, who currently chairs the advocacy group.
SCOTT’S ‘WORLD-CLASS UNIVERSITIES’ PLEDGE LARGELY UNFULFILLED by Kathleen Haughney of the Sun-Sentinel
(H)alfway through his first term, universities have been operating largely on cruise control. The state’s university system is searching for direction, enrolling 35,000 more students than six years ago with $1 billion less in state operating money.
Scott himself has focused little on higher-education policies, other than to famously declare majors such as anthropology to be out of touch with labor demands.
… “I think we’ve started a very healthy conversation about how universities help families: that if your student goes to a university, when they walk out of there they have a job,” Scott said in a recent interview. “We’ve got to have affordable higher education.”
But the governor has drawn criticism from many lawmakers, faculty and administrators who say he has done little except made it harder to compete for top-notch faculty.
“He falls short in following up to what his promises are or speaking honestly with what his promises are,” said Tom Auxter, a University of Florida philosophy professor and president of the United Faculty of Florida.
AFTER 2010 CAMPAIGN, SCOTT GAVE BACK DOG, REAGAN by Aaron Sharockman of the Tampa Bay Times
Brian Burgess, communications director during the campaign and for more than a year after Scott took office, now holds a similar position for the state GOP. When a Times reporter asked him where the dog is, Burgess said he thought it “weird” that two Times reporters would contact him six minutes apart with questions dating back to the 2010 campaign.
On Monday, the Times asked the governor to clear up the mystery.
“He was a rescue dog,” Scott said, “and he couldn’t be around anybody that was carrying anything, and so he wouldn’t get better.”
So the Scotts gave the dog back to his prior owner, Scott said, about a month after the family moved to Tallahassee. The governor’s office on Monday told the Times it was trying to find Reagan and its new family.
TWEET, TWEET: @Reaganista: What’s the big deal with @FLGovScott getting rid of a dog that was too much trouble? Reagan had to do the same: bit.ly/W1mpJD
TWEET, TWEET: @TroyKinsey: The dog ditching, of course, goes to a touchy subject for @FLGovScott: repeated & costly moves to better humanize him before the electorate.
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APPOINTED: Nancy Detert, Lewis Bear to the Enterprise Florida board by Senate President Don Gaetz
CLEMENS FILES ETHICS BILL THAT WOULD REQUIRE LAWMAKERS TO ABSTAIN FROM VOTING ON LEGISLATION THAT WOULD BENEFIT THEM
Echoing a major theme of Senate President Don Gaetz’s legislative goals for the 2013 Legislative Session, Senator Jeff Clemens has filed legislation that would prevent lawmakers from voting on legislation that would benefit themselves, their family or their employer.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for bi-partisanship, and I fully support President Gaetz’s push to bring ethics reform to the Florida Legislature,” Clemens said. “For elected officials to regain the public trust, the first thing we have to do is stop anyone from voting on issues that benefits them personally. That should be step one.”
Senate Bill 272 calls for legislators to recuse themselves from voting on issues “that would inure to his or her special private gain or loss or that he or she knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of his or her relative.”
The legislation calls for the Legislator to “publicly state to the body or committee all of his or her interests in the legislation or all of the relative’s interests in the legislation which are known to the member and, within 15 days after the date on which a vote on the legislation occurs, disclose the specific nature of those interests as a public record.”
INTERNET “SWEEPSTAKES” PROHIBITION FILED IN HOUSE
With legislation on destination casinos not expected this session, lawmakers may turn their attention to closing the pincers on Internet cafés. Some lawmakers are hoping to shut down the electronic gaming facilities they say benefit from loopholes in current law. On Monday, Rep. Carlos Trujillo filed a bill (HB 155), dubbed the “Electronic Gambling Prohibition and Community Protection Act.” The proposal attempts to differentiate between bona fide charitable gambling establishments and for profit “sweepstakes” operators that have sprung up around the state. The proposal also transfers oversight from the department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
LATVALA: ENOUGH BLAME TO GO AROUND FOR ELECTIONS FIASCO
Latvala told members of his committee reviewing state elections laws and the county election supervisors appearing before the panel on Monday not to rehash the results of the 2012 election. Instead focus on what went right, what went wrong and to offer recommendations to improve the voting process.
“We’re not here to place blame on the supervisors or legislators,” Latvala told members of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. “There is enough blame to go around.”
Sen. Eleanor Sobel agreed the focus of the panel needs to be simply addressing complaints, which have included the length of the ballot, limitations of site selection for early voting.
“We need to change the image Florida has nationwide and worldwide that we can’t get our elections done on time,” Sobel said.
SENATE TO STUDY IMPACT OF GAMING by Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel
The new Senate Committee on Gambling will pay for an independent study on the economic and social impacts of gambling in the state of Florida.
Committee Chairman Garrett Richter said he wants the committee to be able to look at how the state’s budgets will be impacted if they decide to bring destination casinos to Florida, continue or discontinue its deal with the Seminole Tribe or allow more games in South Florida racinos.
He hopes the House and Senate will be able to jointly issue a “request for proposals” to get a gambling research company to take on the issue.
TWEET, TWEET: @willweatherford: Great to see the new team of aides “@FLGOPMajority: Speaker @willweatherford addressing the new Republican Member’s aides
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LEGISLATIVE PREVIEWS via The News Service of Florida
In the House…
Citizens Property Update: The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee will get a rundown on Citizens Property Insurance Corp as it prepares to make changes aimed at reducing the number of policies in the state-backed insurer, the state’s largest property insurer.
Elections Supers bring issues to House: The House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee will hear from a panel of local election supervisors on early voting and other issues relating to the 2012 general election. Supervisors and lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce the wait times for voters.
Transportation agenda: The Department of Transportation and the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles outline their legislative priorities for the year before the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee on Tuesday.
In the Senate…
AG hears of oyster woes: The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday hears about the problems with the oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay. The panel will hear from the University of Florida Oyster Recovery Team and also hear a presentation on the effects of the decline in the fishery on the community around the bay.
Drone ban in Senate Criminal Justice: The Senate Criminal Justice Committee takes up a measure (SB 92) that would prohibit police agencies from using remote control unmanned aircraft – or drones – to take pictures. (Just for the irony, if you can’t make it you could tune into the Florida Channel, which covers committee meetings by remote control cameras throughout the Capitol.) The committee also takes up a proposed committee bill (SPB 7000) dealing with records of victims of domestic or sexual violence and another bill. The panel also will hear a presentation from the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, an organization proposing ways to reduce the cost of prisons by changing the state’s outlook on sentencing. The committee also will hear a presentation from the Department of Corrections on the use of private transportation companies.
Ethics and Elections begins work on ethics reform: The Senate E&E Committee starts its work on ethics reform with a workshop on Tuesday that will be closely watched by members and lobbyists. Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have both said they want to make ethics changes and will make that a top priority. What exactly they may change is still up in the air, but the Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala may indicate that in its first meeting Tuesday. The Florida Commission on Ethics will outline its legislative agenda for the year in meeting Tuesday as well.
School safety and security: In the wake of December’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers begin their look at public school safety in Tuesday’s Senate Education Committee. The issue will be one of the most watched of the session. So far, the panel, chaired by Sen. John Legg has no legislation under consideration.
Senate Democratic Caucus holds its first meeting of the new year Tuesday evening.
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OFFERS ITS RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW TO FIX FLORIDA’S ELECTIONS List of recommendations here.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON
Clerk of the Circuit Court & County Comptroller Karen Rushing, legislative chair of the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers Association, will speak before the House Justice Approps Subcommittee from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in 17 HOB. The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers Association will be advocating for a statutory change that will provide for continued appropriation funding, addressing the past finding challenges for Florida’s Court Clerks and Comptrollers. If approved by the 2013 Legislature and the Governor, this change will effectively address the past budgetary issues that resulted in Clerks and Comptroller offices across the state to cut hours and their workforce, while still allowing for accountability and effectiveness in these vital service offices.
Trade Winds Mutual Insurance, will present (if time permits) before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. – 110 SOB: Trade Winds Mutual Insurance Company (Trade Winds Mutual), while not yet a company, is a concept that has been created by the experienced management team of Sawgrass Mutual Insurance Company. Trade Winds Mutual would like to see lawmakers consider including a new mutual insurer incentive proposal in legislation during the 2013 Legislative Session as one of the solutions to depopulating Citizens while protecting the policyholder and reducing the overall risk of assessments for all Floridians.
SMART JUSTICE COMING TO TOWN
The Florida Smart Justice Alliance details its goals and legislative priorities with a presentation to the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee at 9 a.m. The organization advocates policies designed to make Florida’s communities safer, save the taxpayers money and hold offenders accountable while providing the tools for them to live law-abiding lives. Scheduled presenters are Barney Bishop, president & CEO, Florida Smart Justice Alliance; Jim DeBeaugrine, CEO of RFJ Governmental Consultants; and Tony Fabrizio or David Lee, partner, Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates.
***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 6, 2013, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members, as well as the lieutenant governor, to discuss growing areas of the state’s $8 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***
CONSUMER ADVOCATE SEAN SHAW FILES FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 61
Consumer advocate and Tampa attorney Sean Shaw, a leading critic of Citizens Property Insurance, has filed to run for District 61 of the Florida House of Representatives.
“I want to improve access to healthcare, both prenatal and access for seniors; ensure that Floridians have access to good paying jobs; and address the high school dropout rate among minorities,” said Shaw in a press release. “We also need to put an end to voter suppression.
Shaw, the son of Leander J. Shaw Jr, the first African-American Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, currently represents policyholders at the Merlin Law Group and is a public champion for policyholders as the founder of the Policyholders of Florida, a statewide consumer advocacy coalition.
District 61 is currently represented by Betty Reed, but she is term-limited from running again.
Shaw’s campaign website, which includes his announcement video, is here.
SPEAKING OF POLICYHOLDERS OF FLORIDA…LAWMAKERS GET INSURANCE GRADES
Policyholders of Florida, an insurance consumer advocacy group, has graded the state’s lawmakers based on how often they supported property owners during the past year.
In the Florida Senate, seven lawmakers — Mike Fasano, Rene Garcia, Audrey Gibson, Arthenia Joyner, Nan Rich, and Maria Sachs all received an “A.”
Eleven members of the Senate received an”F,” including former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
In the House, 35 members received an “A.” Sixty-three members were failed under the report card standards.
“Consumers don’t find out who their friends are during campaigns, they find out during legislative session,” said Sean Shaw. “We track important insurance votes throughout the year so Floridians can see whether or not their lawmakers went to Tallahassee to fight for them or not – clearly many lawmakers are failing. We need lawmakers to focus on stabilizing the market for consumers and encouraging a responsible expansion of the private market in Florida.”
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EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IMPROVES FOR SOME FLA. GRADUATES
Graduates are still faring much better finding a job than their less-educated counterparts. And those employers who are recruiting aren’t just honing in on STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) graduates; hiring is up across the board, with those majoring in marketing, computer science, advertising, communications and financial services all toward the top of the recruitment charts.
TONY BENNETT TAKES CHARGE AT FLA. DEPT. OF EDUCATION
Florida’s new education commissioner Tony Bennett officially began his tenure on Monday. And the Florida Department of Education has taken no time in putting his face out front. Literally.
Bennett’s official department photo (shown here) now shows up on the front of thedepartment website, and along with every Facebook post the department puts up. And Bennett already has posted his first comments on the department blog. He introduces himself as coming from a family of educators, and writes that, working together, the department, educators and families can accomplish great things for Florida schools.
MIAMI DOLPHINS TO ASK FOR TAX MONEY TO FIX STADIUM via Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida
Miami Dolphins management on Monday trumpeted the team’s $400 million quest to renovate Sun Life Stadium, and while they say they’ll pay for most of it, they will ask for some state help.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said the team will ask lawmakers to provide a $3 million a year tax rebate on sales of merchandise at the stadium, in Miami Gardens north of the city. Team officials said they will also ask the Legislature to pass a bill that would allow Miami-Dade County to raise its tourist bed tax from 6 percent to 7 percent on mainland hotels in Miami.
Meanwhile, Rep. Eddy Gonzalez filed a bill (HB 165) Monday that appears would help. It would allow local option tourist development taxes to used to pay the debt service on “professional sport franchise renovation facilities,” defined as stadiums seeking to upgrade that have been the home to a team for at least 20 years. The Dolphins have played in the stadium, formerly known as Pro-Player and Joe Robbie, since 1987.