Sunburn for 2/1 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

MUST-READ: “MARCO RUBIO’S BAD DEAL” by Rich Lowry of National Review for POLITICO

“It’s never a good sign when lawmakers can’t call things by their real names. Even conservative star Marco Rubio – the gang [of 8]’s most important member, who has been energetic and fearless in making his case – calls illegal immigrants ‘undocumented’ workers. He referred to them in a recent blog post as people ‘living in the United States without proper immigration documents.’ … If we’ve established a bipartisan consensus on anything over the past 25 years, it is that immigration laws don’t matter. … [T]he Obama administration picks and chooses which elements of the immigration laws it wants to enforce through its ‘prosecutorial discretion.’ Does anyone believe it will be zealous in effecting new enforcement mechanisms that are opposed by its base and resisted by employers and civil liberties groups? … [T]he ‘blanket amnesty’ of 1986 is indistinguishable from the bipartisan principles of 2013. Supporters of comprehensive reform don’t like to be reminded of 1986. Since the enforcement never happened, the law stands as a monument to bad faith. Washington may be about to build another one.”

TEAM RUBIO SPARS WITH DAVID VITTER

Senator Marco Rubio’s associates, furious about fellow Republican Senator David Vitter calling the Floridian “nuts” and “naïve” over his immigration reform efforts, are hitting Vitter where it hurts.

“David Vitter has done some nuttier things in his life,” a source close to Rubio wrote in an unsolicited email to POLITICO.

That’s a not-at-all subtle reference to Vitter’s 2007 admission that his phone number appeared on a client list of a Washington, D.C. madam. A New Orleans-based prostitute and madam have also, separately, accused Vitter of being a client, but he has denied those charges.

Asked for comment about the jab, Vitter’s press secretary didn’t respond to two emails. A receptionist at Vitter’s Washington office said the press staffer “must be away from his desk.”

WHAT’S RUBIO’S ENDGAME? by Dan Larison

If Rubio ends up backing an immigration bill favored by Obama, it will become extremely difficult to prevent a conservative backlash against him. So it’s possible that Rubio is the one trying to play both sides of the issue, and he may end up succeeding. It would suit Rubio’s interests to make some effort to promote Bush-era legislation, which earns him favorable coverage from non-conservative media and boosts his reputation as a “reformer,” but then become an opponent of whatever legislation comes before the Senate. Rubio will say that he wanted to make a deal, but the other side was too unreasonable in its demands. That way, he can neutralize most of his conservative critics while retaining a reputation for “bipartisanship.”

Is Rubio that cynical/canny of a politician? Maybe not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out this way.

***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. ***

SCOTT’S BUDGET BIGGEST IN STATE HISTORY by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Scott proposed a record, $74.2 billion budget Thursday that would expand health-care and services to the disabled, give teachers and state employees raises, offer more tax cuts to businesses, and restores cuts to universities.

The budget is a far cry from two years ago, when the Republican governor used the GOP-stronghold of The Villages has a backdrop to propose a $65.8 billion spending plan that would have cut $4.7 billion in state spending.

Flanked by university presidents and teachers, the Republican governor said his “Florida Families First” budget was made possible thanks to higher sales tax collections that allow him to press his top two priorities this year: eliminating taxes on manufacturers and the $2,500 raises for teachers.

“This is further evidence that Florida’s economy is back on track and growing again,” Scott said in a brief speech.

The budget would also include more than $300 million for bonuses for high-performing state employees, whose ranks would shrink from 117,930 positions to 114,283 under the spending plan.

Scott’s budget would include $393.3 million in additional funding for state universities, including $167 million for “performance funding” and $15 million for the University of Florida to use to attempt to climb into the Top-10 for public universities.

TIMES EDITORIAL: SCOTT’S BUDGET “A GOOD STARTING POINT”

“Scott, as he begins to eye his re-election campaign in 2014, is clearly becoming more attuned to Floridians’ priorities. This is the most well-rounded budget the governor has presented since he took office, but it is just a preliminary blueprint. It will be up to the Legislature to improve upon it.”

REAX TO SCOTT’S BUDGET

Associated Industries’ Tom Feeney is pleased across-the-board:

“Gov. Scott’s budget proposal is all about growth – it plants the seeds of opportunity that will enable Florida businesses to grow and flourish, particularly industries critical to Florida’s future such as manufacturing.”

“Shedding additional tax burdens will enable Florida manufacturers to be more competitive, and put more money into business expansion and high-wage job creation. Manufacturing is making a rebound and, in Florida, this industry has unparalleled job creation potential given its impressive history of creating three indirect jobs for every direct job,” added Feeney.

The Everglades Foundation is impressed with the possible funding earmarked for restoration:

“We thank Gov. Rick Scott for his proposed budget for restoring America’s Everglades. We strongly support his recommendation to provide $60 million for Everglades restoration,” said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO. “We appreciate the governor’s commitment to Everglades restoration and we believe the Florida Legislature will more than match his recommendation. We look forward to working with Gov. Scott and the Legislature during the upcoming session to ensure that this funding proposal moves forward.”

Likewise, the Florida Forever Coalition sees the budget as a positive first-step:

“The Governor’s Florida Forever budget recommendation is a positive step forward for Florida. His $75 million recommendation puts Florida Forever back on the right track. With the economy recovering, it is important to allocate funds to preserve our state’s natural areas and protect the places that make Florida special.  We look forward to working alongside the Governor this legislative session to advocate for the appropriation of funds for Florida Forever.” 

The Florida Democratic Party notes Scott’s about-face:

“Twenty-two months out from re-election, with every reinvention failing, Scott is clearly flailing – desperately attempting to reverse course on his toxic Tea Party agenda. But Scott’s about-face on issue after issue is fooling no one and simply underscoring his central problem: he can’t be trusted. No wonder polling shows that Scott’s ‘chances for re-election are in jeopardy.’ “

Florida TaxWatch is pleased to see its recommendations incorporated into Scott’s proposal:

Florida TaxWatch is pleased to see that the Governor’s budget includes a number of efficiency measures,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “These ‘Enterprise-Wide Initiatives’ have all been recommendations of Florida TaxWatch’s Government Cost Savings Tax Force. Additionally, the proposed budget follows the recommendation of the very recent Florida TaxWatch study, Investing in Tourism, and allocates additional funding to support and expand Florida’s tourism industry.” 

DEO Executive Director Jesse Panuccio is in lock-step:

“Funding proposed by Governor Scott for the Department of Economic Opportunity will help identify job creation and economic development opportunities, create economically competitive communities, and assist Florida’s workforce with finding employment. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and look forward to continuing to identify ways our agency can be transparent, accountable, and efficient, while having a positive effect on Florida families.”

The Florida Medical Association is “thrilled” with Scott’s budget proposal:

“The FMA is thrilled that Gov. Scott has made graduate medical education a priority in his budget recommendations. The proposed increase in GME funding would ensure more residency slots in Florida and, in turn, encourage physicians to remain in Florida once they complete their training. The governor clearly understands the importance of having a substantial supply of physicians to meet the increasing health care needs of Florida’s families. His commitment to GME funding will pay dividends to the state of Florida for years to come.”

House Democratic Whip Alan Williams reacts to @FLGovScott’s budget (via Troy Kinsey): “I would call it what I believe is the education of Gov. Scott.”

The Police Benevolent Association is saying thanks, but no thanks:

“We appreciate the Governor’s acknowledgement that the officers deserve a reward for their outstanding accomplishments,” said Matt Puckett, Florida PBA Executive Director. “But we believe base salary increases are long overdue.  Some officers have gone six years without a wage increase due to state budget constraints — not poor performance.  Therefore, although we appreciate the gesture, we are going to pursue salary increases through the Legislative budgeting process. We are hopeful that the Governor will have a change of opinion and support our efforts.” 

The Sadowski Coalition is commending the Governor for recommending $50 million to fund the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program:

“The Sadowski Coalition is extremely pleased and encouraged to learn that Governor Scott has taken the lead on using dedicated revenue in Florida’s housing trust funds for SHIP, which is in critical need,” said Jaimie Ross, facilitator for the Sadowski Coalition and president of the Florida Housing Coalition. “If the monies dedicated for housing are used for their intended purpose, Florida is able to help the economy, while providing safe, affordable housing for Florida’s workforce and its most vulnerable populations, including the homeless, children, veterans, and the frail elderly.” 

“The increasing strength of Florida’s housing market continues to help the state’s economy rebuild,” said Dean Asher, 2013 Florida Realtors president and broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates, Inc., in Orlando. “The housing recovery is putting people back to work in much-needed jobs, stimulating local spending and revitalizing communities. For Governor Scott to advocate setting aside $50 million to support crucial housing programs is a significant step, and one that realtors across Florida fully support.”

ROMANO COLUMN: IF LAWMAKERS REALLY CARE ABOUT EDUCATION, PROVE IT

This is the Legislature’s opportunity to show whether they are serious about education, or if they simply use it as a political platform.

THANKS BUT NOT THANKS, PBA TELLS GOVERNOR by Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Even before Gov. Scott publicly touted a new bonus plan for some state employees, a union representing some of those workers told the governor, “Thanks but no thanks.”

The union is the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), which represents officers in the Florida Highway Patrol and other agencies. The PBA said it would seek across-the-board raises for its members instead of what Scott is proposing, which is a one-time $1,200 lump-sum bonus for employees.

“We appreciate the governor’s acknowledgement that the officers deserve an award for their outstanding accomplishments,” PBA executive director Matt Puckett said in a statement. “But we believe base salary increases are long overdue. Some officers have gone six years without a wage increase due to state budget constraints.”

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FLORIDA SHERIFFS HONOR SCOTT WITH LEGISLATIVE CHAMPION AWARD

This week at the Florida Sheriffs Association Winter Conference, Governor Rick Scott was awarded the Florida Sheriffs Association Legislative Champion Award. This is the first time a Governor has received this award, which is given to an individual who has championed public safety and law enforcement issues at the Capitol. Florida’s Sheriffs recognized Governor Scott as their partner in fighting crime and making common sense policy decisions that protect Floridians and its millions of annual visitors. 

Highland County Sheriff Susan Benton, President of the Sheriffs Association, Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford and FSA Executive Director Steve Casey presented Governor Scott with the award this week during their midwinter conference in Destin. 

Supporting the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, cracking down on PIP fraud, and ensuring felons serve at least 85 percent of their sentences were a few of the highlights of the Governor’s work during session.  

BONDI, DYER TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY TO DISCUSS NATIONAL MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT

Attorney General Pam Bondi and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will host a press event to discuss the national mortgage settlement and the relief that is available to Floridians. Beginning at 9:00 a.m. at the Orlando City Hall Rotunda.

CFO ATWATER PUSHING FOR CONTRACTING REFORM IN 2013

As CFO, Atwater has already increased transparency via Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System or ‘FACTS’ and accountability through 600 audits of contracts and grant agreements last fiscal year. Now he is asking the legislature to move Florida further ahead by dealing with contracting reform legislation in this upcoming session. 

“The best protection for taxpayers’ money is to implement a higher standard of auditing state contracts,” CFO Atwater said. “We have an obligation to reform the system to prevent poorly written contracts from being executed.  If we pre-audit a contract at the beginning, then follow up with an audit at the conclusion of the contract, we can ensure that the promised goods or services were delivered at the best possible price.” 

In addition to higher levels of accountability through tougher auditing standards, Atwater wants vendors to help identify inefficiency in the ways Florida buys products and services. 

“In Florida, we have hundreds of smart entrepreneurs who interact with state agencies every single day. We need a process to invite them to identify areas where the state is wasting money or taking longer than necessary to get the job done. If state agencies become smarter, more efficient consumers, we can save money.” 

***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.***

ADD PRO SOCCER, MAYBE JAGS AND A SPEEDWAY IN ASKS FOR LEGISLATIVE CASH by David Royse of the News Service of Florida

Up to two Major League Soccer franchises would be eligible for subsidies given to other pro sports teams in Florida under a bill filed in the Legislature, a nod to Orlando’s bid to bring an MLS team to the area. 

MLS has made it clear that it wants a franchise in the southeastern United States – particularly Florida. League Commissioner Don Garber said in November that Orlando is among the cities at the top of the list – if the question of a home stadium for a team could be worked out. A lower-division club, Orlando City, and its owner Phil Rawlins, are trying to elevate the club to the sport’s top U.S. league.

A measure (SB 358) filed earlier this month by Sen. David Simmons would add MLS to the list of leagues in which franchises are eligible for a $166,667 monthly subsidy from the state. Currently, NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams are eligible for the payments. Simmons’ bill says two facility certifications for new MLS franchises should be reserved. 

The help for a future Orlando soccer team comes in addition to a request by the Miami Dolphins NFL team for help with stadium renovations, and the speaker of the House said Wednesday that he expects other bills to be filed to provide help for renovations to an auto racing facility and for the Jacksonville Jaguars to make renovations at EverBank Field.

FPL CHIEF DEFENDS NUCLEAR COST LAW

The president of Florida Power & Light made clear Thursday that his company will fight legislative attempts to repeal a controversial law that has allowed utilities to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from customers for nuclear-power projects.

Eric Silagy said in an interview that the 2006 law has allowed FPL to upgrade already-existing nuclear plants in Miami-Dade and St. Lucie counties, along with taking steps toward possibly building two new reactors. He said the upgrades, for example, already are saving millions of dollars a month that otherwise would need to go toward buying fuel for generating electricity at other power plants.

Silagy said he thinks the law “should be celebrated, not repealed, because it’s worked.”

Two outspoken critics of the law, Reps. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, have filed a bill to try to repeal it during the legislative session that starts in March. Such attempts have failed in the past, but The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, indicated he is open to possible revisions.

SUPREME COURT: TUITION POWER RESTS WITH LEGISLATURE by Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected an argument that would have allowed the Board of Governors to set tuition rates without limits, saying the Legislature could restrain the board or even set the rates itself.

The ruling in the case, Graham v. Haridopolos, resolves a key question about the board’s power under the 2002 constitutional amendment that created the panel, replacing the Board of Regents. Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham had argued that the BOG could set tuition rates without interference from lawmakers.

But writing for the majority, Justice Barbara Pariente said the Legislature’s authority to control how state money is spent was tied to the ability to raise money to pay for those expenses — including tuition.

“Nothing within the language of article IX, section 7, of the Florida Constitution indicates an intent to transfer this quintessentially legislative power to the Board of Governors,” Pariente wrote.

Her opinion was joined by Justices Peggy Quince, Jorge Labarga and James Perry. Chief Justice Ricky Polston and Justices Charles Canady and Fred Lewis agreed with the result of the decision but didn’t necessarily adopt its reasoning.

UNNECESSARY PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Former Democratic Opponent Gail Gottlieb Welcomes, Sees Irony in State Representative Ross Spano’s About-Face on Human Trafficking”

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Old Capitol will be flooded with Red lights on National Wear Red Day to Celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Go Red For Women which coincides with the start of American Heart Month. Beginning at 6:15 p.m.

4TH FLOOR FILES: This installment of the “4th Floor Files” features Nick Iarossi. Nick’s clients include American Insurance Association, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. Here’s the file on Nick

COLLINS CENTER FORCED TO CLOSE ITS DOOR via The Miami Herald

The Collins Center for Public Policy, one of the state’s most well-respected think tanks, announced Thursday it is closing its doors after 25 years as a non-partisan policy center based in Miami.

A roller coaster period of growth, followed by recession-induced decline over the last two years, led to a financial fall from which the organization, named after former Gov. LeRoy Collins, could not recover.

“This is a sad, somber day for the Collins Center, the causes it espoused so valiantly, the numerous people and organizations the center helped and those who’ve fought to save it from a fiscal abyss that proved too deep to overcome,” siad Merrett R. Stierheim, the board’s most recent chairman, in a statement.

Parker Thomson, a Miami lawyer who served as the board’s long-time chairman, said the center had been “the standard bearer for the legacy of former Gov. LeRoy Collins and his vision for a better Florida.” 

For years, the center was called upon to craft solutions to difficult policy challenges, Thomson said. It became the “conscience of Florida” on issues as diverse as ethics and election reforms, racial and ethnic discrimination, public safety, the environment, natural disasters, education, constitutional amendments and smart growth.

FEC: LETTER TO VERN BUCHANAN WAS A MISTAKE

A letter sent to Congressman Vern Buchanan about alleged mistakes in his campaign finance was sent in error and has been withdrawn, a spokeswoman for the Federal Election Commission said. The original letter charged that Buchanan had not properly documented the return of more $80,000 in illegal straw donations. Buchanan was never implicated in the scheme but agreed to return the donations.

FLORIDIANS FOR BETTER TRANSPORTATION NAME COURTNEY CUNNINGHAM NEW CHAIR

Floridians for Better Transportation (FBT) President Matthew Ubben announced that Courtney Cunningham, president of the Cunningham Group, a public involvement and strategic communications firm, will serve as FBT’s Chairman in 2013, succeeding Kevin Thibault, a vice president at Parsons. 

“We are excited that Courtney will continue to volunteer his leadership on the FBT team. He is a well-respected professional whose proven leadership skills and experience in Florida will help us strengthen our voice for transportation,” said Kevin Thibault, FBT’s 2012 Chairman. “I appreciated the opportunity to lead FBT and look forward to assisting Courtney as we promote a safe and efficient transportation system for all Floridians.” 

LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST at All Children’s Hospital, beginning at 7:30 a.m. at ACH’s Outpatient Care Center. This event will bring together legislative leadership, community hospital and business leaders, and other key constituents to discuss issues critical to children’s health in the region.

THE VILLAGES HIRES AL CARDENAS TO LOBBY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ON TAX ISSUES via Open Secrets

One of the Republican Party’s biggest donors — a Florida real estate developer who apparently is facing a federal investigation over the use of special tax districts for his retirement complex — hired a lobbyist in the last quarter of 2012 for the purpose of “contacting the federal government” about the districts.

The Villages, owned by developer H. Gary Morse and his family, had not previously hired a lobbyist at the federal level, according to OpenSecrets.org records. But the new lobbying report shows that it paid $30,000 during the quarter to Cardenas Partners, led by Al Cardenas, the Cuban-born two-time chairman of the Florida Republican Party. Cardenas has done state-level work in the past for the Villages. 

An overwhelmingly white, mostly Republican retirement community 90 miles north and inland from Tampa Bay, the Villages cuts through parts of three counties. Sometimes referred to as Disneyland for retirees, it includes dozens of golf courses and about 50,000 homes.

WHERE DID THE MIAMI NEW TIMES GET ITS GOOD WOOD ABOUT JIM GREER?

This past month, the Miami New Times‘ Terrence McCoy has made waves throughout Florida’s political waters with hard-charging stories about former Governor Charlie Crist and the trial of former Florida GOP chair Jim Greer.  Perhaps too hard-charging. Delving into McCoy’s recent story about Greer’s trials and tribulations, it would appear as most of the best of McCoy’s story originated from the work of WTSP investigative reporter Mike Deeson, such as this documentary produced by WTSP investigative reporter Mike Deeson.

McCoy relying on Deeson’s work would not be a problem if a) McCoy at some point credited Deeson and b) didn’t claim that his interview with Greer is the “most in-depth interview in years.” It’s actually Deeson and company who can make that claim.

Also, McCoy attributes his best wood — the line about the “Shakespearean play where everyone dies in the end” to Greer when, in fact, it’s Greer’s lawyer, Damon Chase, who promised a bloodbath. You can see Chase saying the line at the :07 mark in the documentary produced by Deeson.

Again, McCoy is trying to shake things up with his reporting, but after reading his interview of Greer and watching Deeson’s work, I wonder if he’s just covering familiar territory?

***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***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Emil Infante.

THANKS FOR THE FOLLOW: Senator Jeff Clemens @ClemensFL

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.