A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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A YEAR AFTER STATE OF THE UNION, MARCO RUBIO REBUILDS HIS BRAND via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
t was the “water lunge.” The “sip seen around the world.” His “water break.”
A year ago, Sen. Marco Rubio gave the Republican State of the Union rebuttal but delivered late-night comedy. He turned it his advantage, selling water bottles for his Reclaim America PAC and poking fun at himself in subsequent speeches. But the moment shows how much can change in a year. Rubio began 2013 at the top his game, with frothy media speculation about 2016. Then came immigration reform and a fallout with conservative activists. Giving a nationally televised speech is tough, but legislating is tougher.
Rubio is rebuilding, focusing on foreign policy and claiming a piece of the debate over income inequality – “mobility” is his preferred term – and education. The next 12 months will shape his decision whether to run for president.
RICK SCOTT RAISING MONEY FOR DAVID JOLLY
Gov. Scott, as well as the rest of the Florida GOP establishment, including CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Ag. Commissioner Adam Putnam, and state chairman Lenny Curry, will host a fundraiser for congressional candidate David Jolly in Tallahassee.
In addition to the statewide officials, several legislative leaders, including Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, are on the host committee of the February 5th event.
Rep. Kathleen Peters, who finished second to Jolly in the GOP primary in the special election for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, is also co-hosting the reception.
Those wishing to attend the fundraiser need to get up early. The event begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Governors Club Lounge.
ALEX SINK ATTACKS JOLLY ON SOCIAL SECURITY, SAYS SHE SUPPORTS HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE via Curtis Krueger of the Tampa Bay Times
Sink spoke to about 60 residents and staff of the Bon Secours Maria Manor nursing home Tuesday and slammed Republican opponent David Jolly on Social Security.
She told the group: “My opponent, you just need to know, is a lobbyist. And he’s been lobbying for clients that advocate privatizing Social Security and advocate putting Medicare on a voucher system. And I say that is wrong.”
Also Tuesday, the Florida Democratic Party announced it would distribute flyers attacking Jolly on Social Security and Medicare.
But Jolly later said through a spokeswoman: “I’ve said from the beginning of this campaign we have to protect Social Security and Medicare for current and future beneficiaries – period. I’m on the record having opposed the Ryan budget. Alex Sink knows that and yet continues to mislead our community with dishonesty. Pinellas County deserves better than a Hillsborough politician who continues to spread falsehoods.
“What seniors in Pinellas deserve to hear is that Alex Sink’s position on Medicare – through her embrace of Obamacare – is to cut Medicare by $700 billion dollars and reduce access to care for seniors through cuts to Medicare Advantage and cuts to reimbursements to hospitals.”
In comments afterward, Sink also said she supports increasing the minimum wage, but did not say by how much. Jolly has previously said he did not think the minimum wage needed to be increased.
MEANWHILE … CONNIE MACK SAYS HE WILL NOT RUN IN CD 19 via Bob Rathgeber of News-Press
Connie Mack IV, who served four terms in Congress representing Southwest Florida, said late Tuesday that he would not try to reclaim his seat.
Mack said family and business considerations played a major role in his decision.
HEARING that dates for the special election in CD 19 could be set as early as today.
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IT’S AP DAY AT THE FLORIDA CAPITOL!
The Associated Press has released the tentative lineup for its Florida legislative coverage planning session today:
9 a.m.—Gov. Rick Scott
9:30 a.m.— First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen
10:00 a.m.—Attorney General Candidate George Sheldon
10:30 a.m.—Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford
11:15 a.m.—Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich
11:45 a.m.—Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith
1 p.m.—Attorney General Pam Bondi
1:30 p.m.—House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston
2 p.m.— Charlie Crist
SCOTT PUSHES $100 MILLION CUT IN SALES TAX ON BUSINESS RENTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Gov. Scott called for a $100 million cut in the 6 percent statewide sales tax on business rents to complete his election-year proposal for $500 million in tax and fee reductions.
Scott made the announcement at an Ace Hardware store in Orlando. Scott said Florida businesses pay about $1.4 billion a year in sales taxes on their rent payments, and he said the tax cut — which equates to one half of one percentage point — will make is more affordable for businesses to lease space. The governor’s office said the tax reduction would amount to savings of $104 million a year.
When Scott went on a statewide tax cut listening tour last year, he frequently heard from small business owners about the unpopularity of the sales tax on business rents. (Residential household rent has been exempt from the sales tax in Florida since 1971).
Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, said in a statement that small business owners would welcome the tax reduction.
Scott’s tax cut package also includes a $400 million rollback in steep increases in car and truck registration fees enacted by the Legislature in 2009. That rollback would save a typical motorist $25 a year.
SCOTT TO PROPOSE $80 MILLION FOR CANCER RESEARCH via Rick Outzen of Independent News
Cancer research centers would get $80 million in the budget Gov. Scott is going to recommend to Florida lawmakers on Wednesday.
“We’ll add $80 million to cancer research for the goal of making Florida a national leader in cancer research,” Scott announced during an appearance at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa on Tuesday.
The bulk of the money, $60 million, would go to existing cancer centers as they seek National Cancer Institute designation, according to a release from the governor’s office. The remaining $20 million would be used for peer-reviewed research grants.
GOVERNOR’S BASEBALL DINNER TO CELEBRATE 100 YEARS OF SPRING TRAINING Read blog post here
St. Petersburg will take home field advantage for the 2014 Governor’s Baseball Dinner on Thursday, February 13 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
This year, the Governor’s Dinner commemorates 100 years of Major League Baseball’s springtime ritual, a tradition eagerly awaited by both players and fans. During February and March, Florida’s Grapefruit League hosts 15 Major League Baseball teams, when more than 1.5 million fans attend spring training games throughout the state.
Proceeds of the event go to the Florida Sports Foundation, which supports the state’s nine professional sports teams and Florida’s $36 billion sports industry.
At 6:00 p.m., the Governor’s Dinner will begin with cocktails and a silent auction. Dinner — with a program featuring impressionist Frank Caliendo — starts at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $75, with a table for eight available for $1,500. Priority seating for eight will set donors back $2,500.
SCOTT GETS ALL SOCIAL MEDIA via Aaron Deslatte of the South Florida SunSentinel
Gov. Scott’s re-election effort is hoping that an Instagram social media push will help it communicate directly with voters as his fight with Democrat Charlie Crist ramps up.
Scott’s communications team is likely to make the governor less available to reporters this year than Crist’s team, in part because of the perception that Crist will get an easier handling at the hands of Florida’s media. In 2010 and the weeks after he took office, Scott was tightly controlled by his press staff.
In the years since, Scott has learned the art of not answering reporters’ questions. The Instagram effort is designed to help would-be voters connect with the governor as he travels Florida for both official and campaign business.
TWEET, TWEET: @Jason_Garcia: I think the thing I admire most about Rick Scott is the way he doesn’t even bother to pivot off a question before giving an unrelated answer
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AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE SUMMIT KICKS OFF TONIGHT Full blog post here
Jorge Valdes, president of the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists, will join a group of legislators and hospital industry leaders this week in a conference to examine the affordability of the state’s healthcare system.
The 2014 Florida Health Care Affordability Summit is today through Friday at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando.
The event is the second from the Foundation of Associated Industries of Florida (FAIF) to bring together health care policymakers, leaders and providers to discuss Florida’s health care system, as well as ways for improving access and lowering health care cost for Floridians. Keynote addresses will be by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong.
“Health Care Workforce Innovation: Meeting the Workforce Demands of Providing Health Care to all Floridians,” features Valdes and is moderated by Rep. Jose Oliva, chair of the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation.
Other panelists will include Rep. Cary Pigman, vice chair of the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation; Jeenu Philip, pharmacy supervisor for Walgreen Family of Companies; and, Taynin Kopanos, vice president of State Government Affairs for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: On Wednesday, former Governor Jeb Bush will tour the Latin Builders Association Construction & Business Management Academy Charter High School in Hialeah. The visit, according to a release, is in celebration of National School Choice Week, an annual opportunity to shine a positive spotlight on the need for high quality education options for all children. 12:45 p.m.
FLORIDIANS CONSUMER CONFIDENCE BUMPS UP A BIT
Consumer confidence among Floridians as measured by an index rose one point in January to 78, according to a new University of Florida survey.
“With a budget deal to fund the government through 2015 and little tolerance for a showdown in Congress over raising the debt ceiling, the budget uncertainties that have affected consumer sentiment over the last several years are at least temporarily on hold,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “Florida seniors are particularly more optimistic as much of the wrangling over the budget had the potential to impact them negatively.”
The index is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2; the highest is 150.
According to the new survey, respondents’ overall view that they are better off financially now than a year ago fell one point to 68. However, their expectations of being more prosperous this time next year remained unchanged at 78.
Meanwhile, survey takers’ confidence in the U.S. economy for the coming year rose three points to 76, but it shot up nine points to 83 when they were asked to consider the nation’s economic health for the next five years.
FLORIDA IS LOSING MILLIONAIRES: FLUKE OR SERIOUS TREND? via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times
The Sunshine State fell to 30th from 20th last year in a ranking of states based on their percentage of millionaire households. Florida lost 30,000 millionaires in 2013, leaving 348,642 households with millionaire status, according to annual data compiled by wealth tracking firm Phoenix Marketing International.
That’s the lowest number of millionaire households in Florida since 2009, when the stock market collapsed.
In 2006, Florida ranked an impressive 10th among states. By the end of last year, the state had dropped 20 spots, despite an improving economy, no state income tax and low inheritance taxes.
By sheer number, South Florida — from Miami north to Palm Beach — boasts the most millionaire households, with more than 102,000 among this state’s metropolitan areas. Tampa Bay is a distant second with just over 51,000 millionaire households among nearly 1.2 million total in this metro area.
But by sheer density, or per capita, the millionaire rankings change. The smaller and more exclusive Naples area comes out on top with just over 9,900, or 7.1 percent, of its households qualifying as millionaires compared with just 4.3 percent in Tampa Bay.
Thanks to its large population, Florida fared better in sheer number of millionaire households, ranking fourth behind California (777,624), Texas (456,949) and New York (429,153).
FAA GIVES APPROVAL TO GENTING’S MIAMI TOWERS via The Miami Herald
Genting has won federal approval to build three 642-foot towers on the site of the former Miami Herald headquarters.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s approval, first reported by the ExMiami real estate blog, moves the Malaysian company closer to being able to start development at the site. Genting executives have said in previous statements that they will build three towers there to the maximum height the FAA allows. The FAA documents list the tower as 642 feet above ground level, and 649 feet above sea level. Genting is in the process of pursuing a building permit with Miami for the construction of the towers. Genting said it expects to fully demolish the old Herald building by the fall of 2014.
REPORT: TREND OF RACINOS’ BETTING DECLINES AND CARD ROOM INCREASES CONTINUES via Gary Rohrer of the Florida Current
A report released this week by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering shows a decades-long trend of less betting on races and more card room activity is continuing.
“Racinos” throughout the state are required to feature horse races, greyhound races or jai alai matches in order to run poker rooms. Wagering on such events has plummeted 43 percent over the last 10 years, from $1.54 billion in the 2003-2004 fiscal year to $872 million in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. State revenues from the betting fell from $34.2 million to $13.2 million in that time.
Adjacent poker rooms, meanwhile, have seen revenues grow from $18.5 million to $132.7 million over the last decade. State revenues shot up from $2.1 million to $14.1 million.
Pari-mutuels outside south Florida have sought slot machines as another booming revenue stream. Bettors put $6.7 billion into slot machines last fiscal year, a 9.6 percent increase over the prior year. The machines paid out $6.2 billion, generating $435.8 million for the pari-mutuels. The state raked in $152.5 million in taxes from slots.
All told, the state received $198.4 million from taxes on pari-mutuel events, poker rooms, slot machines and related fees.
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COAST-TO-COAST FLORIDA BIKE TRAIL COULD CRUISE TO APPROVAL THIS YEAR via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
Florida bicyclists this year may achieve their dream: a safe, nature-lined bicycle trail connecting the state’s coastlines.
State policymakers are lining up behind a $50 million plan to tie together biking trails throughout Central Florida. Many see it both as an bonus for residents and a new draw for tourists who want to enjoy the state’s natural beauty.
The trail, called the Coast to Coast Connector, would be 275 miles of unbroken bicycle path stretching from the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg through Metro Orlando east to the Canaveral National Seashore on the Atlantic Ocean.
Gov. Scott vetoed the project last year, saying its funding deviated from the Department of Transportation’s normal process for prioritizing road projects in different regions. This year, it’s being sold as a top priority of all 11 metropolitan planning organizations within its path.
The Florida Department of Transportation has already announced four connector projects have been advanced in its five-year work plan, including a half-mile segment in Brevard and 10 miles of trail in Volusia County.
The final gaps would likely be filled in during the next five years if lawmakers and Scott agree to start the funding this year with around $10 million, supporters said.
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REP. DANE EAGLE INTRODUCES SECOND AMENDMENT PROTECTION ACT via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News
This week, Rep. Eagle, introduced the Second Amendment Protection Act, which would ensure the state of Florida would not work with the federal agents when it came to enforcing federal gun laws. The bill would also ensure state employees who work with federal agents to enforce federal gun laws would be subject to punishment including losing their jobs.
Eagle said his proposal passed constitutional muster, pointing to both the Second and 10th amendments.
“The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution expressly provides that all powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states,” Eagle said. “Time and time again, Florida has proven that we have the best solutions to our own issues, whether it be health care, education, or our balanced budget, which is accomplished without raising taxes. When it comes to protecting our fundamental Second Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution, I believe it is best left to be handled by Floridians for Floridians.”
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BROOKSVILLE DEMOCRAT DAVID WELCH DROPS OUT OF STATE HOUSE RACE via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times
Brooksville Democrat David Welch has dropped out of the race for an open state House seat.
Welch, 49, made the announcement on Facebook early Tuesday morning. He wrote that an unspecified “family situation” is forcing him to withdraw from the race for the District 35 seat, currently held by Rob Schenck, a Spring Hill Republican who must leave office because of term limits.
Welch is a residential counselor at a mental center and president of the Hernando chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Welch filed in October and was the first Democrat to enter the race. For now at least, his departure leaves a clear primary path in the Democratic primary for former Hernando County commissioner Rose Rocco, 72, of Spring Hill, who filed earlier this month.
Spring Hill homebuilder Blaise Ingoglia was the only Republican in the race as of early Tuesday. Ingoglia, 43, is chairman of the Hernando Republican Executive Committee and vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
District 35 includes most of Hernando except for the area generally north of State Road 50 and west of the Suncoast Parkway.
REP. DWAYNE TAYLOR DRAWS REPUBLICAN CHALLENGE
Democrat State Rep. Dwayne Taylor drew his first GOP challenger as Republican Michael Cantu of Daytona Beach filed paperwork to run in House District 26, according to the state Division of Elections. Taylor is running for a final two years in the Florida House for the Volusia County seat before he is term-limited out.
REP. JOSE FELIX DIAZ ENDORSES FLORIDA HD 38 HOPEFUL DANNY BURGESS Full blog post here
House District 38 hopeful Danny Burgess received a new GOP endorsement from State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.
Burgess is running as a Republican to succeed term-limited House Speaker Will Weatherford.
Diaz is the two-term Republican from House District 116, which covers University Park, Sunset and Kendall in Miami-Dade County.
Burgess is an East Pasco County native, and voted to the Zephyrhills City Council, as the youngest elected official in the State of Florida at age 18.
SEAN SHAW HOSTS MIAMI FUNDRAISER JAN. 31
Tampa attorney Sean Shaw is hosting a fundraiser Friday, January 31st for his bid for House District 61. The event begins 6:00 p.m.at the Xixon Restaurant, 2101 SW 22 Street in Miami.
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CONTEXT FLORIDA: VOTER PURGE, JUVENILE JUSTICE, SHOOTING RANGES AND MEDICAID EXPANSION
On Context Florida: Gov. Scott’s latest effort to identify non-citizen voters is just as misguided as his first 2012 error-ridden voter purge, writes Mark Ferrulo. Good news does not sell, says Dan McCarthy. That is why not many have heard that there are fewer juveniles in the Florida justice system than in the last 30 years, saving the state (and taxpayers) millions. A Big Pine Key couple built a shooting range in the middle of their property in Eden Pines subdivision, something not prohibited by Florida law. Linda Cunningham thinks it is time to put an end to this latest piece of Florida craziness. Refusing to expand Medicaid, and the federal money that comes with it, continues to haunt Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled legislature, writes Mark Yacht.
NEW COLLEGE OF FLORIDA NAMED NO. 2 BEST VALUE PUBLIC COLLEGE IN U.S.
New College of Florida has been recognized once again for providing exceptional and affordable education. The Princeton Review named the small, Sarasota-based liberal arts college No. 2 in the nation for its excellence and value. New College has placed among Princeton Review’s top three public schools for six years in a row.
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to SaintPetersBlog contributor Daphne Street.