Sunburn for 1/17 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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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.

MAJORITY DON’T WANT SPENDING CUTS LINKED TO DEBT CEILING

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 58% of Americans say the debt ceiling should be handled separately from the debate on spending cuts, while 36% favor linking the two.

The Wall Street Journal reports many GOP leaders “are anxious about a growing clamor among conservatives to use the need to raise the government’s $16.4 trillion debt limit as the vehicle to force spending cuts.”

MOST OPPOSE OVERTUNING ROE VS. WADE

As the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe versus Wade decision approaches, a new Pew Research poll finds 63% of Americans remain opposed to overturning the historic ruling on abortion, while just 29% want it reversed.

These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “First Coast Tea Party Weights In On National Gun Debate; Agrees with Wyoming.” 

BILL NELSON TO KILL SNAKES TODAY

Nelson has already gone up in space. Now he’s going into the Everglades with just a machete and his bare hands to kill as many pythons as he can find. Nelson, 70, will take part in the first giant python hunt, meant to rid the Everglades of some of the nuisance snakes that have thrived there as the descendants of people’s turned-loose pets. Nelson, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Ron Bergeron and others will have a short media availability on Alligator Alley before heading out in an airboat to whack some snakes.

WEST ANNOUNCES NEW INTERNET ROLE WITH PJ MEDIA…

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West will host an Internet TV program called “Next Generation Today” for conservative PJ Media.

West announced his plans in an interview with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.

“We’re going to look at the news, the current news, through the lens of young Americans and we’re going to start to stand up for that next generation,” West said. The show launches Feb. 4.

…SAYS HE’S NOT RUNNING AGAIN 2014

The Post on Politics column asked Allen West today what his new media ventures means for any potential future run for office.

Here’s the answer West sent via text message:

“My commitment is to the future of the next generation of Americans. The conversation should not be about me but what is the legacy we shall leave to our children and grandchildren, greater debt, a less secure Country and world, diminished opportunity? Shall we be the first generation to fail to ensure the American dream for future generations? So if all you want to know is if I am running for Congressional district 18, the answer is no. My sights and objectives, political and otherwise, are focused on something far greater.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Ron Sachs Communication. Ron Sachs Communications provides its clients with a competitive advantage built on strategic relationships, dynamic creativity and smart and aggressive communications strategies that generate superior results. If you want to win, you’ll want to have Ron Sachs Communications on your side. www.RonSachs.com***

NEW POLL: CRIST 53%, SCOTT 39%

Public Policy Polling’s first Florida survey of 2013 finds Rick Scott’s approval numbers on the decline and Democrats warming up to Charlie Crist, setting the stage for Florida to possibly elect its first Democratic Governor in 20 years next fall.

Scott’s approval rating is just 33%, with 57% of voters disapproving of him. Scott’s numbers had gradually improved over the course of 2012, but these numbers represent a regression from early November when he was at a 37/48 spread. Scott meets with near universal disapproval from Democrats (21/71) and independents (32/64) and is even on pretty shaky ground with Republicans (49/38).

CRIST CRUSHING SINK IN POSSIBLE DEM. PRIMARY MATCH-UP

Crist is being embraced by Democrats. His favorability rating with them is 70/16. That’s a big improvement from early September when it was just 44/33. The party’s unified around him since his official switch last month. 52% of Democratic primary voters say they’d like for Crist to be their candidate for Governor next year, compared to 18% for Alex Sink, 13% for Pam Iorio, 4% for Buddy Dyer, and 1% for Nan Rich.

REPUBLICANS NOT SURE ABOUT SCOTT

Only 50% of Republican primary voters want Scott to be their candidate again next year, compared to 40% who would prefer someone else. He still hasn’t really won over the base voters who didn’t support him in the 2010 primary election, and that would leave him vulnerable to a potential primary change. We actually find him trailing in a head to head contest with Allen West, 38/37. And although he has a big lead he’s under 50% in a head to head with Pam Bondi as well at 49/25.

SCOTT, GAETZ MISS DINNER WITH EACH OTHER by Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

It happened again. Gov. Scott invited Senate President Don Gaetz to dinner at the Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday evening but it didn’t happen.

On Dec. 6, Gaetz declined a dinner invite from the Scotts because it would not have met public-meeting notice requirements under Senate rules.

This time, Gaetz’s spokeswoman, Katie Betta, said Gaetz’s wife Vicki wasn’t in town and that First Lady Ann Scott also might not have been available. “We just decided to reschedule,” Betta said.

Senate rules require that before Gaetz can meet with the governor — even if the discussion is purely social — the public and news media must be given a four-hour advance notice. “At any point if he’s going to be meeting with the governor, social or otherwise, he feels he would be required to post a notice with the Secretary (of the Senate),” Betta said.   

MY OP-ED: 2014 ELECTION CYCLE ALREADY CHURNING for Florida Voices here.

A wiser political consultant once recommended to me to save a few extra shillings I earned during the height of the campaign season, as feast quickly turns to famine in this business once all of the votes have been counted and the campaigns have run their course.

Yes, and rocks weighed more in the ol’ days as well.

Today, in the midst of the winter of 2013 lies already an invincible summer of Tampa Bay candidates seeking to win elected office in 2014. For local political consultants, the feasting may not cease.

2014 HOUSE LINEUP CONTINUES TO GROW via The News Service of Florida

Another 10 House incumbents have filed paperwork during the past week to seek re-election in 2014, joining dozens of others who are already gearing up for the next campaign cycle, according to the state Division of Elections website. The most-recent filers are Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, in District 9; Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, in District 11; Rep. Clovis Watson, D-Alachua, in District 20; Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach Shores, in District 25; Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, in District 41; Rep. Carl Zimmermann, D-Palm Harbor, in District 65; Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, in District 69; Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, in District 71; Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, in District 80; and Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, in District 119. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That’s one of the most asinine things I’ve ever heard.” — Allen West on whether he’d primary Scott.

 ***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. With more than 45 years of combined legislative and regulatory knowledge and experience, Corcoran & Johnston’s ability to navigate through the processes and politics of government and deliver for their clients is unmatched.***

BOARD OF GOVERNORS TO HEAR STATE OF SYSTEM ADDRESS

Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson is set to give the State of the System address during the second day of the board’s meeting at the University of Florida. Two board committees will also meet, and the full board is set to approve 10 appointees for university boards of trustees.

DEFENSE SUPPORT TASK FORCE TO DISCUSS STATE’S MILITARY BASES

the task force makes recommendations to the governor and legislature to promote and protect Florida’s military bases and to improve the state’s “military-friendly” environment. The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Tallahassee. 

ENVIRO PRESS CONFERENCE

The Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, St Johns Riverkeeper, Earthjustice, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida will hold a news conference in Tampa on Florida water pollution regulations as the EPA prepares to hold hearings on the proposed rules

***Florida Capitol Advocates is one of the most experienced advocacy groups in Florida.  The firm has extensive experience advocating on behalf of clients in front of state, federal, and international governments and is ready to help your organization successfully maneuver through the legislative process. Visit FloridaCapitolAdvocates.com to learn more about how they can help you.***

EVIDENTLY, ELECTRICITY THEFT IS A PROBLEM

Senator Wilton Simpson and Representative Dan Raulerson have filed Senate Bill 338 and House Bill 191. “Electricity theft is a growing problem for electric utilities.  Electric co-ops need stronger laws to deter electricity theft and to help utilities minimize losses due to theft that currently must be recovered through increased electric rates,” said impson.

“Currently, regardless of the dollar value of the electricity that is stolen, energy theft is a misdemeanor,” said Raulerson.  “With the support of the electric cooperatives, we are pursuing legislation to allow penalties that vary depending upon the value of the electricity that was stolen. This bill will go a long way in protecting consumers from rate hikes caused by losses due to theft.”

REOPENING LONG-RUNNING FIGHT OVER OPTOMETRISTS PRESCRIBING MEDS 

A Senate bill filed this week could reopen a long-running fight about expanding the powers of optometrists to prescribe medication.

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, filed a proposal (SB 278) that would clear the way for optometrists to prescribe oral medications. Currently, they may prescribe what are known as “topical” medications, and ophthalmologists and other medical doctors have fought attempts to expand those powers. The bill would require optometrists to complete a course dealing with medications and take an exam before they would be allowed to prescribe or administer oral drugs. The Florida Optometric Association and the Florida Medical Association, which represents medical doctors, would be required to jointly develop and administer the course and examination.

SCALPING BILL RETURNS by Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

A proposal supported by online ticket seller StubHub that would make it easier to re-sell event tickets online stalled out during the legislative process when the state’s performing arts and sports venues mounted an opposition campaign.

Now the so-called scalping bill  is back for the 2013 session with a new sponsor and a much more streamlined message. The 2012 legislation was backed by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the South Florida lawmaker who lost her re-election bid this fall, and Rep. Matt Gaetz. Both bills died in committee.

The new version, HB 163, is sponsored by Rep. Jimmie Smith. The bill would restrict any laws or regulations that prevent a person from reselling or transferring an event ticket. Proponents are hoping to shape the argument as one about personal property rights.

“This is a simple, fan-friendly bill says Jon Potter, president of Fan Freedom, a national fan advocate organization funded and supported by StubHub. “You bought it, you own it. If your plans change and you can’t make it to a concert or a game, you have the right to give away your ticket or resell it on the secondary market.

***SUNBURN is sponsored in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm.  Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

LEGISLATIVE PREVIEWS via the News Service of Florida

Bills making it easier to renew disabled parking permits (SB 94) and to convert “low speed vehicles” – small car-like vehicles that typically go less than 25 mph – into golf carts (SB 62) are before the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday. Another interesting item before the panel: a presentation by Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council on a study on transportation revenue. Also, Department of Transportation officials will brief the panel on future needs, and future expected revenue.

The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee gets an update Thursday on the Apalachicola River Basin and another on the status of the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery. The oyster harvest has been hit hard by a combination of things, including low water flow levels in the Apalachicola River, which Florida blames on water use in Atlanta and its suburbs. The fishery was also depleted by overfishing in the wake of the BP oil spill, when oysters from the bay were taken in greater numbers because of a shortage of western Gulf oysters. The committee also will hear a presentation on efforts to clean up Kings Bay, which is at the mouth of Crystal River on the state’s Gulf coast. 

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee wades into the issue of local retirement plans. Lawmakers are hoping to make changes in the way local police and firefighter pensions are paid for as local officials complain that retirement funds in many cases are badly underfunded. There’s no draft legislation yet, but the panel will workshop a proposal if it’s available. The panel’s chairman, Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, said last week that he expects the legislation to resemble an earlier effort to deal with the problem. The measure would let cities use additional money from  a tax on insurance premiums and also consider shifting new plans to defined contribution plans more like 401 (k) plans used in the private sector. 

The House Appropriations Committee gets a presentation on PECO, the bond funding mechanism for school construction and improvements, and hears an overview of revenue and budgeting from staff. 

The Legislative Budget Commission meets to discuss 22 budget amendments, including how to spend some of the $334 million Florida received as part of the national mortgage settlement and whether to approve funding for a settlement over art that was ordered for the controversial First District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee. The panel will also consider requests aimed at helping to deal with recent tropical storm damage. 

***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.***

APPOINTED: Julius D. Davis to the Enterprise Florida Inc. Board of Directors.

“4th FLOOR FILES” LAUNCHES

Launching on SaintPetersBlog is the “Fourth Floor Files”, a new question-and-answer feature that interviews many of the state’s top lobbyists. Each day at 4 p.m. a new ‘file’ will be posted. Each lobbyist is being asked the same general questions, although the questionnaire may be modified going forward. There is no rhyme or reason as to who has been selected to be interviewed. And there will be very little editing of the responses (even for spelling).

Suggestions for new questions and/or possible interviewees are welcomed.

The debut installment of the “Fourth Floor Files” features lobbyist Charlie Dudley of Floridian Partners, LLC. Dudley’s clients include Allstate, the Florida Hospital Association, Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Las Vegas Sands. Here’s the file on Dudley

PERSONNEL NOTE: ENWRIGHT GROUP ADDS NICK HANSEN AS TEAM MEMBER

 Enwright Consulting Group and its president, Randy Enwright, announced the addition of Nick Hansen to the lobbying and consulting team.  Call this a story of a St. Pete guy made good.

“We are very excited to have Nick join our team,” stated Enwright. “Nick has been a valued partner and asset in numerous campaigns across the state. We know his track record of success, key relationships, and tenacity will be a great addition to our team. ” 

Nick Hansen began his political consulting career in 2006.  Since then he has managed and advised on presidential, Congressional, state Senate, and state House campaigns across Florida.  Nick has also been a trusted adviser for several local candidates, officials, and issue groups in his native Tampa Bay Area.   One of Nick’s proudest political achievements is leading Senator Jeff Brandes’ campaign in a 2010 House race to defeat an incumbent which began Brandes’ political career. Nick served as then Representative Brandes’s legislative aide for the 2011 session. 

PERSONNEL NOTE: TOBY PHILPOT JOINS HMA AS DIRECTOR OF GOV’T RELATIONS

Toby Philpot has joined Health Management Associates as Director of Government Relations for the Florida Group of Health Management Associates.  He will be directly responsible for advocating on behalf of Health Management before the Florida Legislature and state health care agencies, as well as the Florida congressional delegation.   

Toby most recently served as Deputy Legislative Affairs Director for the Florida Department of Transportation.  Previously, he served as a political director to Senate President Mike Haridopolos.  Toby first entered state government at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration where he served as Deputy Communications Director and Special Assistant to the Secretary, participating in several significant reforms, including the publishing of hospital quality metrics online and reforms to the Medicaid program. 

A member of the Florida Bar, Toby previously clerked for the Washington, D.C., based lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and subsequently served in the Office of United States Senator George LeMieux. 

TAXWATCH TO RELEASE ITS GOVERNMENT COST SAVINGS TASK FORCE REPORT TODAY

Florida TaxWatch will hold a news conference at 11:00 a.m. at the Capitol to release its fifth Government Cost Savings Task Force report, recommending specific and actionable cost savings, cost avoidance, and revenue maximization ideas worth more than $1 billion. A menu of 25 immediately actionable ideas will be officially released to the Legislature and Governor to help create a leaner, more efficient state government, while promoting sustainable economic growth and preserving core functions.

***The PA Team of Jack and Keyna Cory and Erin Daly have represented clients before the Florida Legislature, state agencies and local governments for over 20 years. They don’t just show up for the legislative session.  Instead they custom design and implement a Grassroots Program for each of their Clients that functions all year long.  As one former legislator stated, “They are tough, well-organized, dedicated to their clients and in full command of the facts.”***

CAN’T WAIT TO READ:  Panic 2012 by Michael Hastings, “the behind-the-scenes story of the campaign trail: from Obama’s self-destructive performance at the first debate to the harrowing days of Hurricane Sandy, all culminating in his triumphant victory late in the evening on November 6th.”

CELEBRATE LITERACY: Florida First Lady Ann Scott will announce the winners of the Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! Public Service Announcement contest tomorrow in Daytona Beach. She will be joined by Chancellor of Public Schools Pam Stewart and students from the winning schools.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Caitlin Murray, aide to Senator Jeff Brandes (say hello to your parents, Caitlin) and Mr. AARP, Jeff Johnson.

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.