Sunburn for 12/3 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by the Smart Justice Summit. With an eye towards creating Smart Justice legislation for the state, the Florida Smart Justice Summit will convene December 12-14 to develop a far-reaching initiative that offers common sense ideas to improve outcomes, reduce costs and enhance public safety for the people of Florida. For more information, visit JusticeSummit.org.***

OBAMA DRAWS LINE ON FISCAL CLIFF

A senior administration official said the White House would make no new offers until Republicans changed their opposition to raising top tax rates, reports the Wall Street Journal.

GEITHNER SAYS NO DEAL UNLESS RATES GO UP

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner drew a line in the sand over taxes in defense of the Obama administration’s controversial proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff, CNN reports.

“There’s not going to be an agreement without rates going up,” said Geithner. “If they are going to force higher rates on virtually all Americans because they’re unwilling to let tax rates go up on 2 percent of Americans, then, I mean that’s the choice they’re going to have to make.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Right now I would say we’re nowhere. Period. We’re nowhere.” — House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), quoted by CNN, on the status of the fiscal cliff negotiations.

FISCAL CLIFF POSES DANGERS FOR FLORIDA by William Gibson of the Orlando Sentinel

Without a deal, the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts would reduce Florida’s economic output by $16 billion by the fourth quarter of 2013 and lead to a loss of 130,000 to 140,000 jobs, according to a University of Florida economist.

That’s enough to set off a mild recession and an uptick in the state’s unemployment rate, said UF’s David Denslow, who made the projections after reviewing a Congressional Budget Office assessment of the nationwide impact and applying it to Florida.

On the other hand, he said, averting the cliff could have a rallying effect.

“The signal will be an increase in the stock market, giving people a little bit of a wealth effect,” Denslow said. “In Florida, the big problem is going to remain the housing market, which is stabilizing and improving to be sure, but as a [big] foreclosure state we’ve got a long pipeline to be worked out.”

FEWER REPUBLICANS SIGNING NORQUIST’S ANTI-TAX PLEDGE

Bloomberg finds that just 26 out of 38 newly-elected Republican members of the House or Senate have signed the anti-tax pledge, compared with 96 out of 99 in the class elected two years ago.

MIKE MURPHY WORRIES GOP WILL TAKE WRONG LESSON FROM 2014 GAINS 

“Republicans tend to be more competitive in off-year elections, when voter turnout is far lower than in presidential years and the electorate is therefore older, whiter and more Republican,” the GOP consultant writes in Time Magazine. “It is possible for the GOP to do well in 2014, especially because so many vulnerable Democratic Senators in GOP-leaning states face re-election. But like the Republican off-year successes of 2010, a few non-presidential-year victories, while welcome, would also provide the GOP with a highly misleading dead-cat bounce . The electorate in 2016 will look much like the electorate this year, albeit even more Hispanic and more challenging for the GOP.”

HILLARY SOUNDS LIKE SHE’S RUNNING 

David Remnick attended a weekend conference in Washington, D.C. where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took part and he concluded she’s definitely running for president in 2016.

“All kinds of circumstances could intervene between now and 2016 to derail her–politics, health, family matters, a renewed Clinton fatigue–but Hillary’s numbers are enormous, her ambition equal to her capacities, and she was in high political gear.”

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APPOINTED: Eric W. Hendon, of Miami, to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTED: Betty Capote, of Miami, and Carlos M. Guzman, of Miami, to the Miami-Dade County Court.

GOVERNOR, PANEL CALL FOR INSURANCE REFORMS

Several Florida lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott said Friday they will push to “educate” Floridians on the hidden costs associated with property insurance and a “house of cards” that will blow down if a major storm hits.

Speaking at the Florida Chamber of Commerce insurance summit at Disney, Scott said a concerted effort needs to be made to inform insurance policyholders that state efforts to shore up the market in some of the most hurricane prone regions of the state, will likely trigger across-the-board assessments when the state-backed insurer can’t pay claims.

Scott’s comments came shortly after a Chamber political consultant released survey results showing 80 percent of policyholders are not aware that they will be charged assessments if Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund are unable to pay claims in the event of a serious storm.

Scott said Citizens, the state-backed insurer, needs to continue efforts to get the word out about the potential for what he called a “hurricane tax.” Citizens has gone from the insurer of last resort to the state’s largest property insurer, with nearly 1.5 million policyholders.

“To make the dream of home ownership available we must reduce the size of Citizens,” Scott said. “It cannot be the insurer of first resort.”

LAWMAKER CALLS FOR TOP-TO-BOTTOM PROBE OF CITIZENS INSURANCE by Tolu Olorunnipa of the Miami Herald

Rep. Frank Artiles wrote a letter to Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty on Friday, calling for a “Market Conduct Examination” on Citizens.

Such an examination would look at nearly every aspect of the company’s operations, including its personnel management, financial books, customer service and claims processing.

“It is imperative that all Floridians and Citizens’ policyholders are protected, The Governor and Cabinet and entire Florida Legislature are responsible for what is happening at Citizens,” said Artiles. “Clearly, the Board of Citizens seems to be asleep at the switch, disinterested or indifferent to the daily operations of the organization. They have shirked their fiduciary responsibilities.”

>>>SUN-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: “BROKEN TRUST IN CITIZENS”

PRELUDE TO 2014 by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Two years before he’s even on the ballot, Rick Scott is already the $5 million candidate.

Expect that number — the amount he raised through his personal political committee since winning office — to more than quadruple in the coming months. In addition, he has the Republican Party’s coffers and his personal millions at the ready.

Scott will need every penny.

The unpopular governor faces two formidable challenges: His own record and the chance that his predecessor, Charlie Crist, might run against him.

At this early stage, it appears that the potential Scott-Crist election matchup is all about elections — specifically an elections law Scott signed.

BOB GRAHAM FINE WITH CRIST AS DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR

“Charlie and I, even when we were running against each other in ’98, have had a close and cordial personal relationship,” said Graham on Political Connections on Bay News 9, who has no problem with the concept of Crist seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Graham said. “We spent a couple of decades with Democrats registering as Republicans. It would be kind of nice to have a period where Republicans were coming home to the Democratic Party.”

WHO IS THE REAL CHARLIE CRIST? by William March of the Tampa Tribune

In an interview last week on his long electoral career, Crist said his current views are consistent with his history of economic populism and concern for the environment and education.

He also said some of his past hard-line conservative stances were mistakes.

“In life, hopefully all of us continue to evolve and become wiser,” Crist said. “Learning is lifelong.”

“With more experience, more time, more reading, more study, people reach conclusions that may not be in lockstep with what they thought when they were 15 or 25 or 35 years old.”

Among the stands he now thinks were wrong:

  • Calling for former President Bill Clinton’s resignation during the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998 while running against U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.
  • Seeking a major expansion of private school tuition vouchers and joining a Republican attack on the teachers union while he was education commissioner in 2001.
  • Signing the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge in 2009 while running in a U.S. Senate primary against Marco Rubio.

Crist said he’s more comfortable in his new, moderate role.

***The Florida Health Care Affordability Summit, taking place in Orlando, Fla., on January 10-11, 2013, will bring some of the most knowledgeable stakeholders in health care to the table – from health plans, hospital executives and health care providers, to some of Florida’s biggest employers and elected officials – to discuss how to make Florida healthier and bring affordable, accessible, quality health care to Floridians. To register to attend or for more information, please visit www.healthcareflorida.com.***
ALLEN WEST TO NPR: ‘LINCOLN ONLY SERVED ONE TERM IN CONGRESS, TOO’

Defeated freshman U.S. Rep. Allen West discussed his two years in Washington in an exit interview to National Public Radio’s Michel Martin.

“And always remember,Abraham Lincoln only served one term in Congress, too,” West said toward the end of the interview. Lincoln, elected as a Whig from Illinois in 1846, pledged to serve only one term and didn’t seek reelection in 1848.

FLORIDA DEMS SET DATE TO ELECT NEW STATE CHAIR

On Saturday, January 26 at the Lake Mary Marriott in Orlando, the Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee will hold an organizational meeting to elect a new State Party Chair.

The State Committeeman and Committeewoman elected in each county, the current Florida Democratic Party Officers and current Democratic National Committee members will cast approximately 89% of the weighted vote. The Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate, and the Democratic Minority Leaders of the Florida House and Senate cast the remaining 11%.

DEMOCRATS NEED TO BUILD ON MOMENTUM by Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

That makes 2014 potentially the most important election for Florida Democrats since the GOP ascendancy started in the 1990s. The prospect of winning the governor’s mansion and picking up significantly more seats in the Florida House could turn around the Democrats’ financial struggle.

The governor’s divisiveness, Democrats hope, also could energize voters who often skip off-year elections.

***SUNBURN is brought to you 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.***

ALAN HAYS TO BRING BACK DOCTORS DRUG-DISPENSING BILL by Jim Turner of Sunshine State News

A bill to lower workers’ compensation costs for businesses, by limiting how much doctors can charge for medicine they dispense out of their offices, will return in 2013.

Hays, the author of the bill, said he will refile the bill that failed to reach the Senate floor last session. Dispensing physicians have confirmed that they will challenge the bill again on behalf of their patients.

Hays noted that for one muscle relaxant, medical offices pay $8.33 to file a prescription but are able to seek more than $430 in reimbursement through the state workers’ compensation system.

The bill was strongly opposed by Automated HealthCare Solutions, a Miramar-based company that offers software to self-dispensing physicians.

NEW SENATE GAMING COMMITTEE PLAYS THE LONG GAME by Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current

Sen. Garrett Richter was tapped to chair the new committee and said he will take a fresh look at state statutes that are often convoluted and confusing.

“I’m at the beginning of a learning curve. I am looking forward to traveling that curve. I come to this committee assignment without any preconceived notions,” Richter said.

But if Richter brings a tabula rasa to gaming laws, the rest of the committee does not.

The committee’s vice chair, Sen. Maria Sachs has tried unsuccessfully the past two years to phase out racing requirements for dog tracks that offer more lucrative card room poker games. Staunch social conservative members of the committee — Sens. John Thrasher and Andy Gardiner — led the charge against the casino bill in the Senate this year. Sen. Oscar Braynon pushed a similar casino bill that failed in 2011.

WEATHERFORD DOLES OUT CAPITOL REAL ESTATE by Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

Floors 10, 11, 13 and 14 of the Capitol are considered the dregs. Members have to share offices with as many as eight other people. They have wait for elevators that take an eternity to crawl up the building. Weatherford managed to make sure no returning Republican lawmaker got stuck with such an office. Still, Rep. Jose Oliva, who is vying to be Speaker in 2018, will press his case from his office in 1102 the Capitol, which he shares with five other rookies. Because they’re in the minority (it’s 76 Republicans, 44 Democrats if you’re scoring from home), Democrats have veteran lawmakers stuck in the nosebleeds.

TOPPING THE FIRST DAY OF LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE WEEK by the News Service of Florida

Senate Select Committee on Obamacare: The Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as it is officially known, or Obamacare as it is more commonly known, holds its first meeting. The committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Negron will mostly talk about just what it plans to do, and get an overview of the act. The new federal health care law will require an expansion of Medicaid, though most of the cost initially will be picked up by the feds. But it also requires the creation of an exchange to help people find insurance – something that at first will also be done by the feds, though Florida may eventually create its own.

Voluntary Pre-K Estimating Conference: The Early Learning Program estimating conference meets Monday to discuss the VPK program, and what projections for enrollment mean for cost projections. Voluntary Pre-K is available for free to 4-year-olds, paid for by state taxpayers.

PERSONNEL NOTE: Brad Herold, previously Adam Hasner’s campaign manager, is now the Deputy Staff Director for the Majority Office in the Florida House.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Melissa Akenson, William Rubin, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: GTECH Corporation, Providence, RI

Keith Arnold, Fowler White: Florida PACE Association

Hubert Bohannon, Colleen Castille, Marty Fiorentino, Joseph Moblev, The Fiorentino Group: CTS America

Paul Bradshaw, Southern Strategies Group; TCC Foundation

Chris Coker, Coker Consulting: Sunrise Community Promotions

Jeff Hartley, Smith Bryan & Myers: Summit Care

***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.***

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR ALLISON DEFOOR here, including:

Q: How do you get away with showing up at the Capitol in Hawaiian shirts?

DEFOOR: I started dressing casually at the Capitol primarily to irritate my old friend Gov. Bush. And I found out once I left government service that if I showed up too often in a suit and tie, people would assume I was up to more than I was actually up to. I’m now burdened with a certain image that I don’t know if I’ll get away from too easily.

FLORIDA FEDERAL GRADUATION RATE JUMPS

Florida’s federal graduation rate jumped almost four points in 2012, the Department of Education announced late Friday. The four-year rate, which the federal government requires to count just standard diplomas, moved up to 74.5 percent, a 3.9 percent increase. “My thanks and congratulations to Florida’s teachers, parents, and school leaders for their dedication and hard work to ensure more students achieve academic success and graduate with a diploma,” interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said in a news release.

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AWWWW: ‘First Dog’ Bo inspects the holiday ornaments in a video released by the White House.

CAN’T WAIT TO READWalkin’ Lawton, the just-released biography of Lawton Chiles, by John Dos Passos Coggin.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Beth Matuga. Oh, and Gov. Rick Scott. What do you get the man who has bought himself everything?

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.