Sunburn for 1/23 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

GOV. SCOTT TO PUSH FOR PAY RAISES FOR TEACHERS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott will seek an across-the-board pay raise for public school teachers in the budget he will send to the Legislature next week.

A source close to the governor says Scott will unveil the proposal on Wednesday when he visits a middle school in suburban Orlando, in the crux of the state’s politically vital I-4 corridor. The amount of the pay hike has not been disclosed.

Scott will formally release his 2013-2014 budget recommendations next week in Tallahassee. The teacher pay raise is expected to be in addition to whatever Scott will seek in funding for the state’s K-12 public schools.

FLORIDA STILL NEAR BOTTOM WITH READJUSTED GRADUATION RATES

A new U.S. Department of Education report indicates that more high school students graduated on time in 2009-10 than ever before, the Huffington Post reports with h/t to Jeff Solochek.

The analysis does not use the new, uniform calculation of graduation rates that the department mandated this year, so all states could be compared to one another.

Either way, Florida continued to sit near the bottom of the heap. Under the new one, released in November, Florida ranked sixth from the bottom.

In the latest one? Florida’s 70.8 percent graduation rate came in well under the national rate of 78.2 percent, and better than only Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and the District of Columbia.

There’s no denying the state has vaastly improved its graduation rates over time by any measure. But there’s also no denying that it’s still a long way to the top.

FLORIDA FALLS IN VENTURE CAPITAL

Florida sunk to 18th in the nation in 2012 for attracting venture capital in a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. In total, the state’s companies brought in $203 million in venture capital, down 42 percent from the previous year.

MAJORITY OF FLORIDA BUSINESS OWNERS ARE OPTIMISTIC

Florida business owners saw the health of their company improve in 2012, and nearly 58 percent are optimistic that progress will continue this year, according to a new survey by CPA firm Kaufman, Rossin & Co. Forty-one percent of companies surveyed said the health of their business would be “generally better” in one year compared to today, while 16 percent said it would be “much better.”

S&P AND MOODY’S SEE SUPREME COURT DECISION ON PENSIONS AS POSITIVE FOR STATE CREDIT RATING

Standard and Poors (S&P) and Moody’s Credit Outlook released statements rating the recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court to uphold a proposal for state employees to contribute three percent to their retirement as a positive factor for Florida’s credit rating.

The S&P said that the decision “in favor of the state’s pension reform efforts is a positive credit factor. While the decision is still subject to a rehearing motion, if final, the ruling should bring the state and participating governments long-term budget relief and enhance the retirement system’s funding over time.”  

Moody’s said “The ruling is credit positive for the state of Florida as well as for cities, counties, school districts, and other local governments whose employees are members of the plan.”  

***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***

BP CLAIMS CHIEF: GET THE WORD OUT ON CLAIMS by Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida

Many Florida businesses entitled to relief following the BP oil spill have yet to file claims, the head of the BP-backed claims paying agency told a Senate panel on Tuesday. 

Patrick Juneau, claims administrator for the BP spill, said the claims-paying facility has made settlement offers of more than $1.7 billion since Juneau took over the settlement process from his predecessor, Ken Feinberg, last summer. Prior to that, Feinberg had distributed about $404 million in individual and business claims.

Of the $1.7 billion promised to claimants across the five-state area, Florida individuals and businesses have been offered settlement payments of $332 million. Of the 106,000 settlement offers filed since June, 34,000 have come from Florida.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY – “SNIFFING OUT THE TRUTH IN OUR OWN ‘KENNELGATE’ by Bill Cotterell for Florida Voices

(Rick) Scott has done some good new things, notably setting up a Web site that lets you read office e-mails. (Of course, this means they don’t put the best stuff in writing, but use phones.) After a few missteps, he became roughly as accessible as his recent predecessors. 

But like most of them, he still insists that even the most mundane information be cleared through public-information offices at state agencies, which report to his office.

Scott isn’t the first, or the worst, at controlling information rather than just communicating it. Nor is it unusual for a governor to surround himself with fierce loyalists whose first reaction to all questions is defensive.

But the way to handle tail-gate would have been to get it all out there, fast. Then you say, “Hey, if we’d kept Reagan and he bit some school children visiting the mansion, you guys would be all over us … .”

CABINET MEETS TODAY

Jack Nicholson, Cat Fund executive director, will talk about the issuance of $2 billion worth of Pre-Event Revenue Bonds; DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard will discuss several agricultural land leases; there will be a BP oil spill settlement update; and ne w Education Commissioner Tony Bennett will be introduced. The agenda (via The Florida Current) can be found here.

***The PA Team of Jack and Keyna Cory and Erin Daly would like to congratulate their long term Client  American Eldercare and their Grassroots Team for winning Florida’s contract for Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program for Long-Term Care. The Delray Beach firm that specializes in caring for seniors in independent living in their homes as well as assisted living “is the only company that won contracts to enroll customers in every region of the state According to Health News Florida, The market is estimated to be worth about $3 billion.” The PA Team has represented American Eldercare and worked with their Grassroots Team for over 10 years. ***

BACK TO SCHOOL HOLIDAY WOULD RETURN UNDER REP. AHERN LEGISLATION

The popular back-to-school sales tax holiday suspends sales tax on most clothing items, schools supplies and some computers. If passed, the bill would provide the tax relief Aug. 2-4. 

“As a state legislator, I am always looking for ways to help Floridians,” Ahern said. “I am honored to carry this bill for the 2013 Legislative Session.”

BILL WOULD INCREASE STATE WORKERS PAY

State employees would see a 7 percent raise on July 1 under legislation filed by Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, though the measure is likely seen as a long shot.

State workers haven’t had an across-the-board pay raise in seven years, and while general revenue is expected to be up by a few percentage points this year, state coffers will be far from flush with extra cash. Gov. Rick Scott is proposing a merit pay raise for some state workers rather than an across the board increase. The measure (HB 289), filed Friday, hasn’t yet been assigned to a committee.

DUDLEY BILL WOULD LEAD TO ELECTED PSC

Freshman Rep. Dwight Dudley filed a bill Tuesday that calls for electing members of the Florida Public Service Commission. The bill (HB 447) would lead to two-year terms, with one commissioner elected from each of five regions that correspond with the state’s district courts of appeal. The commissioners would be limited to a total of eight years and would be barred from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions from regulated utilities. Currently, the governor appoints members of the PSC after receiving recommendations from a nominating commission. Dudley’s bill also would prevent former commissioners from going to work for utilities until they have been off the panel for at least eight years. The proposal also would require the commission to “consult” with the state Office of Public Counsel before ruling in rate cases. The PSC recently approved a settlement that will increase Florida Power & Light’s base rates, despite the outspoken opposition of the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers statewide.

ETHICS REFORM SAILS THROUGH SENATE PANEL via Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that supporters called the most expansive overhaul in decades of the rules elected officials must follow, even as the measure obscured what could be a battle with the House over campaign finance laws.

The measure (SPB 7006), which would limit the jobs elected officials could take with state agencies, give the Ethics Commission more power to collect fines and strengthen conflict-of-interest laws, will likely be ready for action by the full Senate by the first week of the legislative session, said Jack Latvala, chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, which approved the proposal Tuesday.

“A unanimous vote’s a very good, strong indication that we’re committed to ethics reform this year,” said Latvala.

In fact, the most controversial parts of the meeting came when lawmakers approved a provision, opposed by the Florida League of Cities, that would bar local officials from taking jobs with state agencies and when Attorney General Pam Bondi showed up to rebut quotes she had seen on Twitter that she mistakenly took as attacks on her office.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, praised Latvala after the vote for crafting the bill.

“The Senate began the approval process for the most sweeping ethics reform in more than 30 years this afternoon,” Gaetz said. “This bill stands as a bright line warning to those who would use public office for private gain and as a tribute to those who treat public office as an obligation for service and sacrifice.”

CITIES AND COUNTIES COULD FURTHER RESTRICT OUTDOOR SMOKING

Cities and counties could further restrict smoking in outdoor areas under a bill filed Tuesday to allow local governments to go beyond state restrictions.

Filed by Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, the measure (HB 439) is the latest attempt to carve out exceptions to a state law that prevents local officials from exceeding statewide restrictions on smoking. Backers say it’s an effort to reduce litter outside public buildings. Similar bills were filed last year, but stalled after concerns that the restrictions would apply to sidewalks and other common areas.

LAWMAKERS PUSH FOR MORE OVERSIGHT OF CITIZENS INSURANCE by Tolu Olorunnipa of the Miami Herald

A freshman legislator from Miami Beach has filed a bill to increase scrutiny on Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by creating a new inspector general position at the state-run entity.

Rep. David Richardson filed HB 433 on Tuesday, which requires Citizens to have an Inspector General to look over its affairs. 

“After learning of severe managerial shortcomings at Citizens, including reports of lavish spending on travel, reports of severance packages for employees with abuse charges, and unprofessional behavior of staff, I immediately recognized the need for stronger state oversight,” Richardson said in a statement.

 The bill is similar to one recently filed by Sen. Joe Abruzzo. Both Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater have voiced support for an independent Inspector General at Citizens.

LIBERTARIAN LEGISLATIVE UPDATE here.

PROFILE OF REP. ROSS SPANO here.

STUDY GAMING ONE MORE TIME, LEGISLATORS AGREE by Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

n an unusual move, Senate Committee Chairman Garrett Richter has reached an agreement with House leaders to pay for an independent company to conduct a study about the economic and social impact of the state’s existing gambling laws on the state economy and what impact of expansion or changes might have.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,’’ Richter said. He said the committee may not meet during the upcoming session as they await the results of the study and he expects  legislation to wait until next session.

The request for proposal will come sometime before lawmakers convene in regular session on March 5, he said. But the breadth and scope of the study, as well as who will conduct it, is still undetermined.

“A study can sometimes get you where you want to go,’’ said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who asked what the RFP will look like. 

“It’s a work in process,” Richter responded.

***Last week, Walmart made the Veterans Welcome Home and Manufacturing commitments; offering jobs to honorably discharged veterans with expected hiring of 100,000 over the next five years and boosting sourcing of U.S. products by $50 Billion over the next ten years.  Click here to learn more about Walmart’s veterans and manufacturing commitments.***

KEEP YOUR EYES ON

Trade Winds Mutual Insurance presenting to the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee (4 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.

LEGISLATIVE PREVIEWS via The News Service of Florida

Scott, Bennett in Senate ED: Members of the Senate Education Committee are set to welcome Gov. Rick Scott, introduce Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and hear a presentation on the State University System’s study of a potential online university.

Sex trafficking: The Senate Children and Families Committee hears from Attorney General Pam Bondi about state efforts to combat sex trafficking. Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins and Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters also address that issue. The panel also hears a presentation on the status of state mental health services. 

DOR’s legisaltive agenda: The Department of Revenue talks about issues it would like to see addressed by the Legislature in the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. 

The Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties discuss their legislative priorities in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The panel also hears a bill (SB 84) that sets out legislative findings and intent related to the construction or improvement of private facilities used primarily for a public purpose. The committee also discusses the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program. (Wednesday, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

Healthy policy: Senate Health Policy gets an update on the implementation of statewide managed care in the Medicaid system from an AHCA official. The committee also hears about the prescription drug monitoring program at the Department of Health. The panel also takes up a bill (SB 56) defining the term “sudden unexpected infant death,” and revising provisions relating to training requirements for infant death for first responders, among other things. The panel also works on a committee bill (SPB 7004) dealing with an organ and tissue donation registry. (Wednesday, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

In the House

Open parties, funeral protests: The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee takes up a bill (HB 5) to expand the prohibitions on open house parties to include any venue including vacant lots. The panel also takes up HB 15, which sets up a perimeter surrounding funeral observations within which protests are prohibited. 

House Education Approps takes up funding methods: The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee hears about funding formulas and programs for early learning, the Florida College System and the State University System. 

Defense cuts: The House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee talks about what the impact would be of defense cuts if a final deal isn’t eventually reached on fiscal cliff issues. The panel also hears an explanation of the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process and the legislative goals of the Florida Defense Support Task Force.

House Ethics hears from public on ideas:  The House Ethics and Elections Committee hears from members of the public on proposals for ethics and elections changes. Both the House and Senate are planning to consider broad changes in ethics requirements, including a statutory ban on lawmakers’ voting when it would profit the member, and elections changes aimed at avoiding some of the difficulties voters faced this past year. 

House Economic Development is expected to get a briefing from the Department of Economic Opportunity that includes a review of the settlement with oil company BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 

In the Senate

Scott, Bennett in Senate Ed: Members of the Senate Education Committee are set to welcome Gov. Rick Scott, introduce Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and hear a presentation on the State University System’s study of a potential online university.

Sex trafficking: The Senate Children and Families Committee hears from Attorney General Pam Bondi about state efforts to combat sex trafficking. Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins and Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters also address that issue. The panel also hears a presentation on the status of state mental health services. 

DOR’s legisaltive agenda: The Department of Revenue talks about issues it would like to see addressed by the Legislature in the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. 

The Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties discuss their legislative priorities in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The panel also hears a bill (SB 84) that sets out legislative findings and intent related to the construction or improvement of private facilities used primarily for a public purpose. The committee also discusses the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program. 

Healthy policy: Senate Health Policy gets an update on the implementation of statewide managed care in the Medicaid system from an AHCA official. The committee also hears about the prescription drug monitoring program at the Department of Health. The panel also takes up a bill (SB 56) defining the term “sudden unexpected infant death,” and revising provisions relating to training requirements for infant death for first responders, among other things. The panel also works on a committee bill (SPB 7004) dealing with an organ and tissue donation registry. 

***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.***

4TH FLOOR FILES: The latest installment of the “4th Floor Files” features Lisa Ard. Her clients include Adobe, Dun & Bradstreet and Oracle. In the interview, Ard talks about the appropriations process and how faith drives her politics. Here’s the file on Ard.

FOLLOW: @BobCortes, now running for House District 30. H/t to Joe Culotta.

GET YOUR CHECKBOOKS READY

Get your checkbooks ready, PAC chairs and Tallahassee uber-lobbyists, there are a couple of fundraisers for legislative candidates tonight.

There’s one benefiting Reps. Jeanette Nunez and Dana Young to be held at the offices of Adams St. Advocates and will begin at 5:00 p.m. The impressive host committee includes Jan Gorrie, Wendy Hansen, Claudia Davant, Lindy Kennedy, Carole Duncanson, Cynthia Henderson, Nancy Stewart, Cari Roth, Lori Killinger, Candice Ericks, Tanya Jackson, Michealle McKay, Monica Rodriguez, Kathy Holzer, Erica Chianti, Francie Plendl, Sandy Mortham, Amy Young, and Toni Large.

When you’re done there, make your way over to 419 East Georgia Street for a fundraiser for Reps. Dane Eagle, Travis Hutson, Mike LaRosa and David Santiago. The event is hosted by Speaker Will Weatherford and Speaker Designates Steve Crisafulli and Richard Corcoran. Invite here.

GOP DONOR JAY ODOM INDICTED by George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Republican donor Jay Odom, a Panhandle developer who was a key figure in the downfall of former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom, has been indicted on charges of violating federal campaign finance laws.

The federal indictment unsealed today alleges that Odom, 56, evaded campaign finance limits by using more than $10,000 in personal money to reimburse donors who contributed to a presidential candidate in 2007. Arelease from the Department of Justice doesn’t name the candidate. Odom contributed to Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in 2007.

Odom and Sansom were co-defendants in a corruption case before charges were dropped in 2011. Prosecutors accused Sansom of putting $6 million into the state budget to build an airport hangar for Odom. But attorneys for Sansom and Odom said the $6 million was for a new hurricane-proof emergency operations center for the city of Destin.

RUBIO TO ADDRESS WHOLESALERS

Rubio will speak to the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors at their annual meeting next Thursday. The group describes itself as “a federation of international, national, regional, state, and local associations and their member companies” and claims to represent as many as 40,000 businesses.

RUBIO TO SPEAK ON “MIDDLE CLASS OPPORTUNITY” TO US CHAMBER TODAY

Rubio will deliver remarks on “creating new middle class opportunity” at a conference on the role of business in education at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The remarks will be part of a forum hosted by The Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Citi Foundation, and College Summit.

TWEET, TWEET: @DWStweets: Today I proudly accepted the nomination to stay on as DNC chair—to continue what we do best: out-work and out-organize our way to victory.

***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.***

IMMIGRATION REFORM DISCUSSION

A panel discussion at the Bob Graham Center will focus on immigration reform as one of the more pressing problems faced by President Barack Obama during his second term. The event will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Pugh Hall at the University of Florida. The event and parking are free and open to the public. David Colburn, the center’s in terim director, will moderate. More information can be found here.

SENATE MAJORITY OFFICE INVITES GOLFER PHIL MICKELSON TO MOVE TO FLORIDA 

The Florida Senate Majority office has invited golfer Phil Mickelson to consider Florida after criticizing the growing taxes he pays in California.

“We hear you on taxes! Florida has no income tax & some of the world’s best golf courses,” the Senate Majority office tweeted to Mickelson on Tuesday.

***The Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute is a non-partisan leadership development program that asks participants to explore the possibility of public leadership in the future (without requiring a commitment to run for office) and learn now about the political process, leadership and public policy, while networking with leaders.  Applications for the next class will soon be accepted. Click here for more information.***

CAN’T WAIT TO READWords from the White House: Words and Phrases Coined or Popularized by America’s Presidents by Paul Dickson.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jacob Perry.

HOW META: An infographic about infographics here.

RANDOM STAT OF THE DAY: A new Smart Politics report finds that nearly 40% of U.S. Representatives serve in districts outside of their birth state. 

SAY IT AIN’T SO: Beyoncé did not sing the national anthem live at President Obama’s inauguration, the London Times reports.

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.