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.

OBAMA APPROVAL NOW AT 60%

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll finds President Obama “has advanced to his highest personal popularity since his first year in office, and Americans who’ve formed an opinion of his second inaugural address last week broadly approve of it.”

60% of Americans now express a favorable opinion of Obama overall, up 10 points since last summer, in the heat of the presidential race, according to the poll.

EPILOGUE: Lynn University’s Jason Walton has put together this presentation about the impact and associated benefits of hosting the Final Presidential Debate of 2012.

WHY REPUBLICANS SHOULD IGNORE OBAMA by Ramesh Ponnuru:

“Republicans can and should continue to stand for their principles on the many occasions when they conflict with Obama’s. What they shouldn’t do is conceive of their near-term political task as winning a series of confrontations with the president. Because they’re unlikely to win very often. Obama has inherent advantages in political debates with more than 200 House Republicans, and his re-election will only strengthen his hand, at least for now. The Republicans are better off sidelining Obama to the extent they can and fighting congressional Democrats — or, better yet, getting congressional Democrats to fight one another.”

BILL NELSON: RUBIO GIVES GOP COVER ON IMMIGRATION 

Nelson said Wednesday that Senator Marco Rubio is giving “a lot of cover” on immigration to Republicans who “otherwise would choke on this.” 

“I think he is going to give a lot of cover to the Republicans who otherwise would choke on this,” Nelson said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” 

CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien asked Nelson about Rubio’s statement that he’d support only legislation that included stricter border security, pointing to a potential sticking point between Democrats and Republicans. 

“Give him a break, he’s got to cover,” Nelson responded. “Just wait until they get to the details, they’ll hammer it out. Remember, he had to go on Rush Limbaugh and start convincing Rush Limbaugh, who as recently as last Monday said, ‘No way, Jose.’ And as a result, Marco was successful.”

RUBIO ATTEMPTING TO SELL MIAMI HOME, MOVE FAMILY TO DC

Senator Marco Rubio wants to sell his Miami home and move his family to Washington, DC.

After two years of only seeing his wife and children on the weekends while the Senate was in session, the Florida senator has decided he wants to move his family to D.C. during the school year if he can.

“Senator Rubio has four young children he is away from during the week,” spokesman Alex Conant explained to The Daily Caller on Wednesday.

It’s a decision many lawmakers with families face after being elected: do you keep your children in schools back home, or do you find one for them in Washington where you can spend more time with them?

>>>Rubio will deliver remarks on “middle class opportunity” today at 1:15 p.m. to the National Association of Wholesalers-Distributors’ annual meeting and executive summit.

DAN WEBSTER SLASHES OFFICE BUDGET via the Orlando Sentinel

Congressman Webster once again is cutting his office budget and returning the unused money to taxpayers.

The sophomore legislator announced today that he slashed his office budget by $360,000 in 2012 and that he is returning that money to the U.S. Treasury. He did the same in 2011 for a total return of $842,000 in two years.

“I learned as a father of six children and a small business owner how to live within my means by prioritizing my spending and doing more with less during tough times,” said Webster in a statement. “Washington needs to embrace the same approach by spending less rather than simply borrowing more, and I believe that starts with me.”

***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. ***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will unveil his 2013 Florida Families First Budget at the Florida State Capitol at 2:00 p.m.

TWEET, TWEET: @Mdixon55: Will @TheDailyShow make an appearance this year at @FlGovScott budget unveil?

SCOTT WANTS $1.2 BILLION MORE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Scott announced Wednesday he will ask the Legislature to increase funding for public schools by $1.2 billion next year. Speaking to the annual AP news forum in Tallahassee, Scott presented a case that Florida’s economy has steadily improved under his direction and that now is the time to “strategically invest” in public education.

LEADERS REACT TO PROPOSAL

Florida State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand: “Investing in Florida’s children is investing in our future.  Proposing a $1.2 billion increase in education over last year’s budget shows that Governor Scott recognizes just how important it is to prepare our students for success in college, career and life. Florida has made significant progress over the past decade and the governor’s budget will help us continue in the right direction.” 

Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent: “Governor Scott and the Legislature have dealt with significant budget shortfalls over the past couple of years and they have made difficult decisions. We are pleased to see that, as the economy recovers, the Governor is making public education a priority in his recommended budget.  Moving this priority forward could make a significant and positive impact on our students, our teachers and our entire community.  While there are many competing interests and significant needs to be dealt with, this is clearly an investment in young people and in the future of our state.”

Senator Bill Montford: Through continued interaction with superintendents, teachers, parents and others, Gov. Scott’s budget clearly responds to the unprecedented challenges facing school districts. These additional funds will go a long way in meeting these most pressing needs and students throughout Florida will benefit from his decision.

SCOTT BUDGET TO ALSO INCLUDE $115M MANUFACTURING EQUIPMENT TAX BREAK via The News Service of Florida.

The budget Gov. Rick Scott will propose today will call for eliminating sales taxes paid on new manufacturing equipment. Scott, who has talked about the proposal on a few occasions in the last few weeks, said many companies would rather make equipment purchases in other states.

“Our current tax policy puts the state at a competitive disadvantage because most states do not force manufacturers to pay taxes on the purchase of equipment or require them to adhere to regulations for tax exemptions,” Scott said Wednesday. “Knocking down this barrier to job creation will create more job opportunities for Florida families…” The elimination of the tax, which Scott said was a top priority in the budget, will reduce state tax collections by $115 million, but Scott said it would save companies about $140 million.

There already is a sales tax exemption for new equipment, but to qualify companies must prove they’ve increased their “productive output” by 5 percent after buying the equipment.

DEMOCRATS WARY OF SCOTT’S FOCUS ON EDUCATION via the News Service of Florida

Leaders of the House and Senate Democrats both said Wednesday that they’re glad Governor Rick Scott wants to boost spending on education and pay for teachers, but said it seems opportunistic and a bit fishy.

“I think it’s great to give teachers the raise … but when you look at what we’ve done … it’s not a net gain for teachers, because of what he’s done in the past,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale after Scott proposed a $1.2 billion increase in education funding to go with an earlier proposal to boost teacher pay. “…. It’s not really putting them ahead.”

So why do they think Scott’s doing it?

“To have this sudden epiphany to me, reeks of – election year’s coming,” Smith said.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Plantation said House Democrats will likely support Scott’s teacher pay proposal, but noted that Scott signed a budget two years ago that cut education spending.

“We don’t think you become the education governor when you cut $1.3 billion,” Thurston said. “Education is something you do consistently.”

LET’S GET TO WORK TOPS $1.1M IN JANUARY

The “Let’s Get to Work” political committee that will play an important role in Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election effort has raised about $1.17 million in January, according to the group’s website. That haul comes in addition to about $5.2 million that the committee raised in 2011 and 2012.

Members of the Collier family, which has long been prominent in the Naples area for its real-estate and business interests, contributed $200,000 to the committee in January, the website indicates. Other large donors included the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, which contributed $30,000; Gulfstream Park Racing Association, which contributed $25,000; and Alico, Inc., which contributed $25,000. Scott has not opened a personal campaign account for the 2014 race, but Let’s Get to Work is expected to be an important vehicle to help finance the re-election bid.

‘LITTLE KNOWN’ NAN RICH MAKES CASE FOR GOVERNOR by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Rich, who was termed out of the Senate in 2012, focused her criticism on Gov. Scott for turning away billions of dollars in high-speed rail money, making it harder to vote, attacking abortion rights and resisting Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law.

“I’m definitely a fed-up Floridian who is tired of seeing state government abdicate its responsibility to improve the lives of the citizens of our state,” Rich said.

She parodied Scott’s campaign slogan, “Let’s Get to Work,” saying he and Republican legislators “worked to make it harder for people to vote. They worked to slash support for public education. They worked to restrict women’s reproductive rights. They worked to block Floridians from the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. None of these initiatives created even one job.”

***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.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Enterprise Florida, the state’s lead economic development entity will unveil Florida’s first-ever business brand following its board of directors meeting today. 11:15 a.m., 119 E. Park Avenue, Tallahassee.

DC ADVOCACY GROUP ACCUSES JEB BUSH’S EDUCATION FOUNDATION OF UNDUE INFLUENCE via The Gradebook 

In the Public Interest — an offshoot of the labor advocacy group Partnership for Working Families — issued a  press release Wednesday stating that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has influenced laws and policies in several states, often in a way that might benefit some of the companies that underwrite its existence.

The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers.

“Testing companies and for-profit online schools see education as big business,” said In the Public Interest Chair Donald Cohen. “For-profit companies are hiding behind FEE and other business lobby organizations they fund to write laws and promote policies that enrich the companies.”

REAPPOINTED: Ronnie Duncan to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

***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.***

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS PUSH MESSAGE OF COMPROMISE by Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union

In most years, like clockwork, leaders in the House and Senate begin to fight. They are very different chambers with often very different priorities.

This year, though, legislative leaders are pushing the idea that they are in lock-step and political wrangling is a thing of the past.

Only time will tell if the bond will hold as they dice up the state’s more than $70 billion budget, but for now the message is one of compromise.

Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford rolled out their “Work Plan for Florida,” a set of proposals they are identifying as their “joint agenda.”

“We different members of both part of the state…and they see things differently, but there are isues that are so vital that Speaker Weatherford and I…decided that some things should to be above politics,” Gaetz told a group of reporters and editors at the Associated Press’ media day in Tallahassee.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY — FULL-TIME LEGISLATURE? PLEASE, GOD, NO! by Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News 

We’ve got four states in the nation in which legislators spend 80 percent or more of their time with their head up the government bubble — California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. They, sir, are in deep fiscal trouble — certainly worse off than Florida. And every one of the four has at least one faction calling for a legislative downgrade.

Does Florida really need bigger legislator salaries, fatter government, more crazy bills coming in out of the twilight zone? Do we want to give our lawmakers another excuse to spend more time away from their constituents?

Florida established a part-time Legislature for a reason. If we go the way of big blue states like California and New York, we risk creating a professional political class devoted to playing political games, seeking out even higher office for itself, and for 365 days a year — not just 60-plus days as they have now —  finding ways to make life miserable for the rest of us. Don’t you think we’re doing enough of that already?

Clemens’ constitutional amendment would need voter approval to succeed, and frankly, it seems unlikely. But I don’t want to take a chance.

BUDGET HOPES SET FOR COLLISION WITH REALITY by Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current

State economists predict tax collections will grow 4 percent throughout the 2013-2014 fiscal year and the state will bring in $26 billion, more than $1 billion more than the current fiscal year, but still $6 billion short of pre-recession levels. Lawmakers crafting the budget got a further boost when the Florida Supreme Court decided this month to uphold a 3 percent pension contribution for state workers, freeing up another $2 billion.

But there are more hands than handouts. Much of that extra revenue will likely be swallowed up by higher health care costs, and some lawmakers are already eyeing the added revenue for the state’s reserves.

“One of my top priorities is to keep our reserves at an appropriate level,” Sen. Joe Negron, told reporters, adding that as much as $2.5 billion could go into reserves. “I’m going to be pushing hard to keep our reserves at a high level. I don’t think we know for sure what the future holds and we want to be prudent.”

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM PLAN REVEALED by Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Florida House leaders unveiled what they believe will be behavior-changing campaign finance reform Wednesday, phasing out candidate-controlled political committees and ushering in stricter reporting deadlines, more contribution accountability and campaign contribution caps of $10,000 per election.

“It’s a way to start the conversation,’’ said Weatherford, who has made reforming what he considers a “messed up” campaign finance system a top priority.  “We are keeping the baby and throwing out the bath water.’’ 

The most dramatic proposal of the 47-page bill filed by House Rules Chairman Rob Schenck is targeting the elimination of nearly 700 Committees of Continuing Existence, political committees that can collect unlimited campaign checks but may not expressly advocate for candidates. The CCEs have been increasingly used as personal slush funds by candidates who can legally spend the unrestricted money on travel, entertainment and meals as well as steer money to other candidates and causes.

The bill requires all CCEs to be shut down by Nov. 1, giving time for organizers to allow them to become traditional political committees. Traditional political committees will remain in law to be used to advocate for a candidate or an issue and would be allowed to accept unlimited contributions from donors.

REAL INTRO TO PRESS RELEASE FROM SEN. MARIA SACHS: “Reporters will be able to test their skills while texting and driving on a controlled track or driving in a simulator.”

WEATHERFORD: TIME FOR PENSION CHANGES IS NOW by Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel

Weatherford made the case Wednesday for major changes to the state pension system that include switching it to a 401K-style plan for new employees.

“Now is the time to do it,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what the cost is. We obviously will weigh that before we do anything. But it will be a lot cheaper than the tax increase that other states are putting on their citizens.”

Weatherford has expressed concern that though the state’s $127-billion pension system is in good shape now, it may not be that way in the future. And if it declined, the state may be forced to further tax Floridians to pay for it. Other states, notably Illinois, have struggled to keep their state pensions afloat.

***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.***

4TH FLOOR FILES: The latest installment of the “4th Floor Files” features Jim Daughton of Metz, Huband and Daughton. His clients include American Express, the Florida Bar, and Siemens. Here’s the file on Jim

FLORIDIAN PARTNERS RAISING $ FOR REP. DANA YOUNG TONIGHT: Floridian Partners’ Ana Cruz is hosting a fundraiser for rock star State Representative Dana Young on January 31 at Cruz’ office in Ybor City. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. 

LOBBYISTS LINE UP FOR NURSING HOMES via The News Service of Florida

Business groups are building lobbying teams for the upcoming legislative session, with groups such as the Florida Health Care Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce already registering 10 or more lobbyists. The Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, had 11 registered lobbyists, according to a state lobbyist-registration website. The Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, had 10. Other groups or businesses that have hit double-digits in their lobbying teams include the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, with 10; the Everglades Foundation, with 10; and Microsoft Corp., with 10.

PERSONNEL NOTE: THERESA “CISSY” PROCTOR NOW SERVING AS DEP. DIRECTOR OF LEG. AFFAIRS AT DEO

Theresa “Cissy” Proctor, formerly of Bryant Miller Olive PA, is now serving as the Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. As a member of the Agency’s senior team, Cissy’s new role will be focused on advancing the economic needs of Florida in partnership with the Governor’s Office and Legislature. 

***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***

SPOTTED: Senator Jack Latvala and Representatives Kathleen Peters and Carl Zimmermann at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Annual Dinner keynoted by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. The dinner also honored former Governor Buddy McKay, former Senator Dennis Jones and Tampa Bay Times reporter Lucy Morgan.

YOURS TRULY took home the “Fang & Claw” award for asking Robinson whether President Obama had an “unhealthy crush on fifty year old white men, as demonstrated by his cabinet picks.”

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.