Sunburn for 1/31 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***

POLL FINDS JEB NEAR TOP OF GOP PRESIDENTIAL PACK Full blog post here

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whom just last year was a leading GOP presidential contender for 2016, continues to see his popularity fall, as Jeb Bush’s support rises in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 18 percent of registered voters surveyed support Bush. Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice-presidential nominee, received the same.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose reputation seems to have taken a hit after a scandal over a politically induced traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge, received a relatively weak 14 percent. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are down the list with 12 and 11 percent, respectively.

Rubio, who enjoined a solid lead in national polling early in 2013, now comes in at the bottom with only 10 percent.

DRIVING THE NAT’L DISCUSSION – DEMOCRATS: CEDE THE HOUSE TO SAVE THE SENATE via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO

With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous – and the House all but beyond reach – some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate. … The triage idea is taking hold in phone conversations among donors and in strategy sessions between party operatives. Even some of the people who have invested the most to get House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi back into the speaker’s chair are moving in that direction.

… The shift comes as House Democrats are raking in big money for the midterms, outperforming both Senate Democrats and their House GOP counterparts.

THE MOST IMPORTANT STORY OUT OF D.C. via The Associated Press

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners in coastal and flood-prone areas would win protection from sharply higher federal flood insurance premiums under legislation muscled through the Senate on Thursday after angry constituents inundated Capitol Hill with complaints.

The 67-32 vote reflects widespread alarm about changes enacted two years ago to shore up the program’s finances. In many cases the changes produced unexpected, sky-high insurance rates that are unaffordable for many homeowners in flood-prone areas whose insurance has historically been subsidized by the government and other policyholders.

“Something is just terribly wrong when homeowners are more worried about raging flood premiums than they are about raging floods,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

The bill would delay for up to four years huge premium increases that are supposed to phase in next year and beyond under new and updated government flood maps. It also would allow homeowners to pass below-cost policies on to people who buy their homes. People who have recently bought homes and face sharp, immediate jumps in their premiums would see those increases rolled back.

CHARLIE CRIST HOLDS EIGHT POINT LEAD OVER RICK SCOTT IN LATEST Q-POLL

Former Governor Charlie Crist leads Republican Gov. Rick Scott 46 – 38 percent in this year’s governor’s race and tops the incumbent on almost every measure, including handling the economy and jobs, listed by voters as the most important issues in the race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Scott started behind Crist 50 – 34 percent in a March 20 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University and narrowed the gap to 47 – 40 percent in a November 21 survey.

Independent voters back Crist 48 – 32 percent. There is a small gender gap as women go Democratic 50 – 34 percent while men are divided with 43 percent for Crist and 42 percent for Scott. Republicans go 79 – 12 percent for Scott, while Democrats back Crist 81 – 6 percent.

Scott leads 46 – 39 percent among white voters, while Crist leads 76 – 10 percent among black voters and 52 – 26 percent among Hispanic voters.

BOTTOM LINE: So why is Crist leading Scott? Independent voters, women, and Hispanics. Crist has a 16-point lead among independent voters 48 percent to 32 percent. He also leads among women by 16 points (50 percent to 34 percent) and among Hispanic voters by 26 points (52 percent 26 percent.)

TWEET, TWEET: @JeremySWallace: Shocking to see 53% of women disapprove of @FLGovScott job in new Quinnipiac Poll. Insane number! No other FL politician is over 38%.

HOW THE Q-POLL PLAYED

POLITICO, Florida poll: Charlie Crist tops Rick Scott – Crist tops Scott 46 percent to 38 percent in a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday … Tampa Bay Times, New poll on Florida governor’s race: numbers are similar to a November poll by the university that showed Crist ahead 47 percent to 40 percent … Miami HeraldEx-Gov. Crist leads Gov. Scott by 8 points in poll – also found that 54 percent do not think Scott deserves a second term as governor and that 41 percent approve of the job he’s doing … Florida TodayCrist maintains healthy lead over Scott – indicates Crist has comfortable leads with closely watched groups such as independents and Hispanic voters … Lakeland Ledger, Poll Shows Crist Continues to Lead Scott – Even on economic leadership, Scott’s signature issue, Crist fared better in the poll … Real Clear PoliticsPoll: Crist Leads Scott in Fla. Governor’s Race – Most voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the state and more are optimistic than pessimistic about the future, but at this point Gov. Scott isn’t getting any credit for that good feeling … Orlando Sentinel, Q-Poll: Charlie Crist has an edge on jobs over Rick Scott – voters narrowly said Crist would do a better job on the economic front, 47 percent siding with Crist and 42 percent with Scott …  Miami Herald, Q-Poll: Charlie Crist up by 8 over Rick Scott; 54% say gov shouldn’t be reelected – Expect the aerial bombardment of Crist to begin soon from the Scott juggernaut, which has the money and the know-how to move poll numbers, especially by way of negative ads … Crowley Political Report, New Quinnipiac Poll offers grim news for Rick Scott: Crist leads 46-38 – 53 percent think Crist did a good job as governor while only 36 percent should not … CNN, Charlie Crist leads incumbent Gov. Rick Scott – Quinnipiac interviewed 1,565 registered voters from January 22-27. The poll’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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SPECIAL ELECTION FOR CD 13

ALEX SINK AVOIDS ANOTHER DEBATE

A February 26th candidate forum at B’nai Israel has been cancelled because organizers of the event can’t get a commitment from Sink.

“You have been wonderful and the communication with you and the Overby Campaign has been just great,” writes Lou Bader, the chair of the Adult Studies Commission at Congregation B’nai Israel. Unfortunately we just can’t seem to get a commitment from the Sink Campaign.”

“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” writes Bader.

This is at least the third candidate debate or forum in which Sink has declined to participate, according to Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for the Jolly campaign.

Jolly’s campaign has released a list of agreed upon debates and joint appearances that Sink either declined or cancelled.

The list includes a cancelled January 30 appearance at WUSF and a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club debate that Sink could not make because of a conflict with a fundraising event planned for Washington D.C.

CONSERVATIVE GROUP PLANS TO SPEND $500,000 AGAINST SINK via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

Conservative group American Action Network announced it will spend $500,000, including more than $350,000 in television ads, direct mail and online ads, to torpedo Sink.

American Action Network defines itself as “an ‘action tank’ that creates, encourages and promotes center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security.”

WATCH: David Jolly’s new television ad “Differences” here.

MEANWHILE … BILL YOUNG’S CAMPAIGN SPENDING SPIKED IN WEEKS LEADING UP TO — AND AFTER — HIS DEATH via Noah Pransky of 10 News

A 10 News investigation into Bill Young’s campaign account reveals the inner circle of the late Congressman spent tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign account after Young had passed away.

The $55,377 in fourth-quarter expenditures – including expensive dinners, large receptions, and hotel bills – surpassed any other quarter’s campaign spending in 2013, despite the fact that Young publicly announced plans to retire on October 9.  He passed away nine days later, on Oct. 18.

But just three days after Young’s death, on Oct. 21, someone with a campaign credit card spent $902 at Indian Rocks Beach’s Salt Rock Grill, according to federal filings.  The expense was listed as “meals for campaign workers/volunteers.”

Questions to former Young staffers were forwarded to the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC), a Washington DC-based organization committed to getting Republicans elected to Congress.

Young’s campaign also reported a $13,978 expenditure for a campaign worker/volunteer reception at the Sheraton Sand Key resort in Clearwater.  The NRCC said the event took place the day after Young’s death and was for the Congressman’s long-time campaign volunteers to comfort each other.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s top lobbying firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again.  To learn more visit www.corcoranfirm.com.***

GOP HOPEFUL USES SUPER BOWL ADS TO LAUNCH RUN FOR TREY RADEL’S SEAT Full blog post here

After disgraced U.S. Rep. Trey Radel quit Congress this week, the race for his successor is now wide open, even before Gov. Rick Scott announces a special election.

Political newcomer Curt Clawson has announced he will enter the race for Florida’s 19th Congressional District, and he is doing it in a big way — with ads during Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.

Clawson is a retired CEO of Hayes Lemmerz International, an automotive-wheel manufacturer with $2 billion in annual sales. He also served as Chief Operating Officer of American National Can.

So far, Clawson wrote several checks to run ads during both Sunday’s pre-game show and the “most coveted slot on TV,” the Super Bowl Halftime Show. He believes a Super Bowl ad will be the most effective way to get the word out about his campaign.

“I don’t think it’s a half-court shot,” says the former captain of the Perdue University basketball team. “This is more like a three-point shot to win.”

“And I’m pretty good at making three-pointers.”

Clawson is also inviting the public to a free Super Sunday event, which features his old Purdue basketball coach, the legendary Gene Keady. The party starts 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2 at Doc’s Beach House, 27908 Hickory Blvd. in Bonita Springs.

HEARING that Sen. Benacquisto has lined up prominent Republican fundraiser Ann Herberger to help her prospective congressional campaign. Spokesman Brian Hughes says he cannot confirm or deny this as there isn’t a congressional campaign.

IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE: Sarah Criser, spox for U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis. Criser emails, “…while I am sad to leave the Sunshine State, I am excited about the new opportunities life has in store. On Monday, I will be joining Congressman Bob Latta’s office as his Communications Director, so please keep me in mind if you need anything.”

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OP-ED OF THE DAY via former Senator Dan Gelber

Gov. Scott’s decision to zero out the state budget for Farm Share program and food banks is just mean.

Farm Share is a program that takes fruits and vegetables that might otherwise not be used by retail grocers, and distributes it to thousands of low-income households including single parents, seniors and the disabled. It’s run by committed professionals and volunteers who believe in the idea that it is a good thing to alleviate the hunger and malnutrition confronting some of our less fortunate neighbors.

That’s why folks like Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and US Senator Marco Rubio gladly serve on its Board. And also why Governor Scott has no trouble posing for photo ops at Farm Share events.

It’s not the first time Scott has shown his disdain for the people Farm Share serves. He vetoed their state money two years ago, which reportedly caused them to shut down two distribution centers.

As a society we are judged by how we treat our least vulnerable. Our poor, our aged, and our children.  It’s a sorry day when in a growing economy we can find enough money to give a tax break for major corporations, but not a few bucks to ensure our most vulnerable have access to something as basic as food.

This is quite a commentary on what’s really important to Rick Scott.

This time Scott took even more out of their budget. Scott’s decision is especially mean-spirited at a time when the federal congress is cutting the national food stamp program by millions. According to the anti-hunger group Feeding America, the proposed federal cuts will mean thousands of families –  including children — in Florida will just have to forgo 34 meals each month.

APPOINTED: Thomas Eineman to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTED: Dawn Nichols to the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court.

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BILL PUSHES FOR DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME YEAR-ROUND via Preston Rudie of 10 News

How about an extra hour of evening sunshine in the Sunshine State?

State Rep. Mark Danish of New Tampa and state Sen. Darren Soto of Kissimmee both think it’s a great idea and are proposing Florida become the first state in the country to move to daylight saving time year-round.

The move would mean an extra hour of daylight during the winter months because Floridians would no longer roll their clocks back in the fall.

“It’ll be very good for the economy, it’ll also save energy by not having to use the light so early so it does help us,” Danish told 10 News on Thursday.

Danish says the extra hour would be good for the state’s tourist industry, giving visitors an extra hour of daylight to enjoy at Florida attractions.

He also cites a 2008 report to Congress that concluded an extension of daylight time saved about 0.5% of the nation’s electricity per day. That’s enough energy to power 100,000 homes for a year. However opponents have argued in recent years that gain is offset by an increased use of AC.

Soto told 10 News he thinks the biggest hurdle in getting their bill passed is that “it’s a new idea.” He says Federal approval may also be needed to make the year-round change.

Currently Hawaii, Arizona and Puerto Rico do not observe daylight saving time.

If approved, the change would take effect July 1st, 2014.

DWIGHT DUDLEY CONTINUES PUSH FOR REPEAL OF UTILITY TAX FOR NEW NUCLEAR PLANTS via Ivan Penn of the Tampa Bay Times

State Rep. Dwight Dudley continued his campaign Thursday to repeal a state law that allows utilities to charge customers for new nuclear power plants before they are built.

Backed by a handful of supporters, Dudley, urged state leaders to stop the “utility tax” that has allowed Duke Energy to collect money from its 1.7 million customers for new nuclear power they will never receive.

Duke used the fee to increase power at the Crystal River nuclear plant, which it permanently closed because of damage during a botched upgrade. And the utility canceled the proposed Levy County nuclear project that is costing customers as much as $1.5 billion.

It’s an outrage,” Dudley said during the gathering outside Duke’s St. Petersburg headquarters. “I hear from hundreds of consumers. They are sick and tired of being taken advantage of.”

He has filed legislation to repeal the nuclear advance fee and a measure to increase use of renewable energy, such as solar power.

DAY TWO OF FLORIDA HEALTH CARE AFFORDABILITY SUMMIT Agenda here

FOLLOW: @FloridaNP @HMSHealthcare @JamesGrantFL @MaryShedden

SPOTTED: Adam Putnam, Former Speaker Larry Cretul, Sen. Aaron Bean, Rep. Jason Brodeur, Rep. James Grant, Rep. Alan Williams, Slater Bayliss, Rachael Bjorklund, Melanie Brown, Jon Costello, Hayden Dempsey, Leslie Dughi, Mike Hightower, Bob Levy, Jennifer Lux, , Toby Philpot, Melissa Joiner Ramba, Teye Reeves, Monica Rodriguez, Eric Robinson.

FLORIDA AMONG LEADING STATES FOR HEALTH INFORMATION TECH

As Florida’s healthcare thought leaders gather for the Associated Industries of Florida Health Care Affordability Summit,  new data emerges regarding physicians’ adoption of health information technology (HIT) and electronic medical records (EMR).

Long believed to be an integral aspect of health care cost containment, the promise of these savings are limited by high setup costs — particularly for small practices.

Data released this week by the Commonwealth Fund suggest that financial incentives by private, state and federal programs are working: adoption of HIT rose dramatically from 2009 to 2012.

Among U.S. primary care physicians, EMR adoption increased by half, from 46 percent to 69 percent, from 2009 to 2012. During this time, the proportion of physicians able to issue prescriptions electronically rose from 34 percent to 66 percent, the practice of electronic prescribing rose from 40 percent to 64 percent, and electronic ordering of lab tests rose from 38 percent to 54 percent.

Primary objectives in the use of HIT include the ability to communicate securely with patients and other physicians. In 2012, these practices were operational in only about one-third of primary care practices.

One third of physicians could exchange clinical summaries with other providers and 35 percent could share the content of lab or diagnostic tests with outside physicians. By about the same margins, physicians provided electronic access to patients, such as the ability to electronically view tests results, request refills or make appointments.

HIT adoption in larger practices of 20 or more physicians is substantially higher (90 percent) than those in smaller groups (about half).

“Although federal funds have led to a rapid expansion of health information technology, solo practices continue to lag in adoption,” The Commonwealth Study concludes. “Technical assistance programs and financial incentives could help bring these physicians up to speed and enable them to provide high-quality care more efficiently.”

Where does Florida stand on EMR and HIT adoption relative to other states? A 2008 study found that the overall EMR adoption rate in Florida rose from 24 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2008; and a 2012 report listed Florida as having the third highest rate of EMR adoption in the nation, at 37 percent.

MEANWHILE … Rebecca O’Hara emails: “… Although Gilead is based in California, I remain working in Tallahassee. Please enjoy a happy and healthy 2014.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you in part by the Florida Medical Association: Affordable, safe, patient-centered health care in Florida starts with a physician-led team, with all health care professionals playing valuable and appropriate roles. Learn more here.***

WILD GAME DINNER & FUNDRAISER TONIGHT

Republican candidates for the state House — Danny Burgess, Shawn Harrison, Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls — will raise money through a Wild Game Dinner at Crooked Creek Ranch, 29325 Darby Road, Dade City, beginning at 5 p.m.

Donations will be accepted up to the state maximum of $1,000 per individual to support each campaign.

Burgess, the current mayor of Zephyrhills, is facing a primary against Minerva Diaz in District 38, the seat currently held by Will Weatherford. Harrison also has a Republican primary challenger for District 63, Bret Wedding, for a seat currently held by Mark Danish, D-Tampa.

Latvala has filed to run in District 67 in a seat currently held by Ed Hooper. He’s facing Christopher Shepard and Frederick Thomson so far in the primary.

Sprowls is a candidate for District 65, in a seat currently held by Carl Zimmerman. He is expected to face off with Debbie Faulkner in his primary.

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CONTEXT FLORIDA: FLORIDA SHELL GAME, MEDICAL MARIJUANA, COMMON CORE AND THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY

On Context FloridaDaniel Tilson examines the “shell game” of the State Legislature’s Work Plan Florida 2014, a cleverly worded effort by Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford that prioritizes special interests over those of working and retired Floridians. Florida is not usually seen as an early adopter, but Gary Stein notes that there is one issue where key legislators are working to stay in the forefront — medical marijuana. Is anyone in Tallahassee smarter than a fifth grader, Shannon Nickinson asks. It doesn’t seem so after Rick Scott put the brakes on the adaptation of Common Core educational standards. America has somewhat lost its status as a “land of opportunity,” says Erin O’Flaherty, where discrimination is widespread — by nationality, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, political views and social status.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

WEEKEND TV

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Steve Bousquet, Wayne Garcia, Rita Ferrandino, and Bill Bunting.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Chris Latvala

Political Connections on Orlando’s CF 13: State of the Union review

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, and Nan Rich.

***Madison Social – Tallahassee’s Hottest Spot – is your location for lunch, happy hour, and dinner. Catering for your meetings are also available. For lunch service, complementary valet is available so you can leave the office and return within one hour. To see our menu, please visit here.***

CONGRATULATIONS to Southern Strategy Group’s Laura Boehmer on her engagement!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to congressional candidate Gwen Graham.

SUPER BOWL WEEKEND

It appears MetLife Stadium won’t be covered in snow … It’ll still be plenty cold on Sunday, but the bone-chilling temperatures many were concerned about might not be too much of a worry … Sunday’s high temperature is expected to be 38 degrees — which would make it the coldest of the 48 Super Bowls. With the opening kickoff scheduled for about 6:30 p.m., the mercury could drop into the 20s by the time the game ends.

BRONCOS OUTSCORE SEAHAWKS IN POLITICAL DONATIONS via Fredreka Schouten and Christopher Schnaars of USA Today

The Denver Broncos aren’t just the NFL’s highest-scoring team; its employees also have given more money to federal politicians than have their rivals in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Broncos’ owners, employees and their relatives have contributed at least $84,000 to federal candidates and political parties since Jan. 1, 2011 — nearly twice what people affiliated with the Seattle Seahawks have donated.

Individuals affiliated with the National Football League, its 32 member teams and the players’ union donated nearly $7.7 million to federal campaigns in that same time period. Nearly three-quarters of the money went to Republican candidates and causes.

The Broncos are no exception. Among the top givers: team executive and former quarterback John Elway, who pumped more than $50,000 into Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and has donated $3,500 over two election cycles to Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican who represents parts of suburban Denver.

The biggest giver on the Seahawks’ roster was owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who donated more than $40,000 during the period examined. The contributions were divided nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats, ranging from Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., who chairs the House tax-writing committee, to Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., a former Microsoft executive now in her second term.

This year’s Super Bowl contenders, however, are not the NFL’s powerhouses in political giving. No NFL team is as active as the Houston Texans, whose billionaire owner, Robert McNair, plowed $3 million into super PACs working to elect Republicans to the White House and Congress in the last election. The lion’s share went to a pro-Romney super PAC.

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.