Sunburn for 2/13 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms. You need their team on your side during this Legislative session for media, grassroots and netroots support. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team and how they can help you.

IN STATE OF THE UNION, OBAMA VOWS MORE JOBS

Pledging to revive a “rising, thriving middle class,” President Barack Obama promised Tuesday night to create solid new jobs without raising the federal deficit. He’s calling for a “smarter government” but not a bigger one.

In excerpts released ahead of his State of the Union address, Obama called job creation his “North Star” and implored a divided Congress to center its work on attracting more jobs to the U.S., equipping Americans to compete for those positions and making sure hard work leads to a decent living.

“It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country — the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love,” Obama said.

The president said his proposals to increase spending on manufacturing, infrastructure and clean-energy technologies would be fully paid for, though he did not specify in the excerpts how he would offset the cost of his proposals.

“Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime,” Obama said. “It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”

In focusing his annual address on jobs and the deficit, the president is underscoring the degree to which the economy still threatens to disrupt his broader second-term agenda. Despite marked improvements since he took office four years ago, the unemployment rate is still hovering around 8 percent and consumer confidence has slipped.

OBAMA PLANS VOTING COMMISSION; FLORIDA COULD BE GROUND ZERO FOR REVIEW via The Huffington Post

President Barack Obama will announce a bipartisan presidential voting commission to focus on improving the Election Day experience.

The commission is one of a number of efforts the Obama administration is making to address the problems that plagued voting on Election Day 2012. The commission, which will focus specifically on Election Day issues and not broader voting reform, will likely be co-chaired by one Republican and one Democratic lawyer.

OBAMA PREPARES TO SCREW HIS BASE via Ben Smith

“President Obama’s enemies often accuse him, in the starkest political terms, of crudely acting to shift resources toward his political base: green-energy donors, single women, Latinos, African-Americans.”

“But the next 12 months are likely to reveal the opposite. Imminent elements of Obama’s grandest policy move, the health-care overhaul known as ObamaCare, are calculated to screw his most passionate supporters and to transfer wealth to his worst enemies.”

PRESIDENT’S POLICIES PREFERRED OVER GOP’S 

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 52% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the policies President Obama wants to pursue in his second term.

In contract, 55% hold a negative view of the policies they expect the Republicans in Congress to offer in the next four years.

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EXCERPTS OF RUBIO’S RESPONSE TO THE SOTU

Rubio delivered the Republican Address to the Nation, immediately following the President’s State of the Union address. Below are excerpts of his remarks, which were delivered in separate English and Spanish responses: 

“This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington.  It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.  Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.  But President Obama?  He believes it’s the cause of our problems.”

… “Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.  The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs.  And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.  So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

… “Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class.  Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.  But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.  Tax increases can’t do this.Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.”  

… “The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.  The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now.  I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.”

… “Despite our differences, I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America. I pray we can come together to solve our problems, because the choices before us could not be more important.  If we can get our economy healthy again, our children will be the most prosperous Americans ever.  And if we do not, we will forever be known as the generation responsible for America’s decline.”

TWEET, TWEET: @JeremySWallace: Marveling at @marcorubio ascent. 3+ yrs ago looked at end of elected life. Now being asked to save same GOP 2nite that wanted Crist over him

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FL DEMS CHAIR ANNOUNCES TWO DONOR HEAVYWEIGHTS TO LEAD NEW PARTY FUNDRAISING EFFORT by the Florida Current

Chairing the Florida Democratic Party is going to be a ‘busy and interesting’ job for Allison Tant … In the two weeks since [taking office], Tant tapped former Congressman Ron Klein of Boca Raton to head a trustees brain trust and Andrew Weinstein of Parkland, who headed Lawyers for Obama, as finance chair. She said she’s setting up a special fund for the governor’s race, which has already lined up $200,000. She takes over a party of 4.8 million that’s showing signs of reawakening. After a disastrous 2010 performance, when Scott and an all-Republican Cabinet were elected and four Florida congressional seats went Republican, the Democrats carried the state for Obama, re-elected U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, won four U.S. House seats and made gains in the Legislature.

MY BLOG POST FOR FLORIDA VOICES – FATHERHOOD IS CHANGING MY POLITICS Full post here

As it relates to politics, my worldview is completely changing. They say everyone is a Democrat until they are mugged. Well, imagine how significant the change is when you have a daughter. There are even times when I find myself embracing fascism, or at least the part about curfews. 

Then again, it’s sometimes the conservatives who frighten me the most. Like the parents who refuse to allow their children to be immunized, mostly because of what ex-Playboy model Jenny McCarthy wrote in her book on parenthood — about how the shots lead to autism. My wife and I met parents like this at a prenatal class. There, the doctor — the guy who went to a decade of school to learn about such things rather than pose nude — told the parents-to-be that there was no dumber decision than refusing to get your child their shots.

Yet this one set of parents kept arguing with the doctor. That was, in fact, their right. However, not only do I not want my child going to school with a child who has not been immunized, I don’t want her going to school with a child whose parents think it is OK not to be immunized. Those are just two totally different worldviews that will never be reconciled. At least not until their child catches measles.

It’s because of parents like that that my wife and I start to think about home-schooling (not really) and charter schools (absolutely). This coming from two parents who value highly the benefits of public education.

There’s really no issue of which my opinion has not changed since Ella came into the world. 

NELSON’S BILL AIMS TO SHORTEN ELECTION DAY WAIT TIMES by Mark Mattews of the Orlando Sentinel

Nelson, who survived both the 2000 and 2012 elections, announced today that he would join fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer of California in sponsoring a bill that would establish new standards for Election Day so that no voter would have to wait more than an hour to cast a ballot.

“People should not have to stand in line for hours to exercise a basic right, not in a democracy like ours,” said Nelson in a statement.

Their measure comes on the heels of a joint investigation by the Orlando Sentinel and Ohio State University that estimated  200,000 or more frustrated Florida residents gave up before casting ballots last November because of long lines.

THE FUTURE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS BY THE POOL AT THE BILTMORE via BuzzFeed

(S)ometime this year, the swirling circle of donors, activists, and politicos who spend their evenings gossiping at the Biltmore’s bar will decide whether Rubio gets a chance to become president in 2016 — or whether that honor should be given to Miami Republicans’ other favorite son, former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

In the months that have followed the 2012 election, the Biltmore, a 400-room luxury resort surrounded by banyan trees, has emerged as a national center of gravity for Republican politics: a must-stop for campaign fundraisers, and a favorite vacation spot for retired presidents. Bush runs his foundation out of an office at the hotel, and Rubio, who lives just a few miles away, has been spotted at the hotel gym’s morning spin classes.

SEE JEB BUSH SPEAK IN PASCO TODAY

There are a limited number of tickets left to see Jeb Bush speak tonight at Saint Leo University in Pasco County.

Bush’s topic is “Leading in a climate of change” and is part of the university’s fourth annual International Business Conference. The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Marion Bowman Activities Center, 33701 State Road 52.

Tickets are free and available on a first-come, first-serve basis in advance of the event. For more information, call (352) 588-8837.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will be joined by First Lady Ann Scott to hold a press conference with child advocate organizations to announce efforts to support victims of human trafficking. State Attorney’s Office, Miami. 1:45 p.m.

ENTERPRISE FLORIDA GOES AFTER INTEGRITY FLORIDA — HARD by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Enterprise Florida CEO Gray Swoope blasted Integrity Florida for not including his response in its report (which is required in public audits and customary in journalism). Well, now that point-by-point rebuttal is out, and it ravages the two-man Integrity operation for not getting facts straight, confusing agencies, and misstating its obligations.

“As I wrote in my letter to you last week, due to Enterprise Florida’s increasing concerns about the objectivity and balance of your analysis of the state’s economic development tools, we are requesting that you publicly post and distribute this response to your report in the same manner that you publicized your initial report,” Swoope said in the response released Tuesday.

“This response includes pertinent information omitted from your report, such as the accountability and transparency measures implemented by Enterprise Florida in accordance with Florida law in all of its economic development activities.

“It is rather questionable and certainly unfortunate that you continue to use innuendo and misinformation to attack Enterprise Florida – an entity committed to helping create new job opportunities for Florida families – its board and supporters of the state’s economic development mission.”

Integrity Executive Director Dan Krassner said last week that Swoope’s arguments weren’t included in its report because they weren’t convincing.

NEW STUDY: CITIZENS SUBSIDY HARMING FLORIDIANS

With the start of the legislative session just weeks away, the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI) today released the whitepaper “Welfare for the Rich: How Citizens Insurance Corporation Harms Floridians.”  The paper analyzes Florida’s current property insurance market and provides important research which demonstrates how the current structure of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is benefiting Florida’s more affluent consumers – including many out-of-state and foreign consumers – at the expense of the majority of Floridians.  Among the recommendations provided by ACI are downsizing Citizens, bringing capital back into the state, ending harmful subsidies, encouraging price competition, rewarding mitigation and providing more protection to consumers who live in the state.  

“Most Florida consumers, as well as a number of elected officials, are unaware of the real, ongoing risks associated with Citizens Property Insurance Corp.,” said Steve Pociask, President of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research.  “The current structure of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is benefiting Florida’s most affluent, including non-Floridians, and hurting the 77 percent of non-Citizens policyholders as well as all businesses, renters, churches, charities and automobile policyholders.  During the 2013 state legislative session, the Florida Legislature has the opportunity to implement policies that will protect consumers by getting adequate capital back into the state, and ending the cross-subsidies that provide no net benefit to Floridians as a whole.” 

The study is available here.  

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GAETZ WOULD BE ‘FINE’ WITH ENDING CCE’S via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union

Gaetz said Tuesday that he’d be willing to go along with eliminating committees of continuous existence, though he acknowledged that the chairman of the Senate’s ethics committee wants to consider changing the law affecting the murky campaign finance organs rather than getting rid of them.

Speaking to property appraisers visiting the Capitol on Tuesday said he agreed with House Speaker Weatherford that CCEs have been misused by lawmakers in some cases, noting that some legislators “basically lived out of their CCEs, and subsidized their filet mignon lifestyles.”

Gaetz noted that getting rid of CCEs is a top priority for Weatherford. “I’d be fine with that,” Gaetz said. “We’re trying to figure out here (on the Senate side), can we mend them, or do we need to end them.”

BRANDES FILES SCHOOL SAFETY BILL

Brandes filed SB 790 designed to prepare students, teachers, and support personnel for potentially dangerous situations at their schools. 

“The goal is to enact straight forward solutions that can be implemented now to increase safety for our students” said Senator Brandes.

The bill requires that schools have at least as many emergency lockdown drills as they have emergency evacuation drills per year. The proposal further encourages local law enforcement and fire officials to participate in emergency lockdown drills and provide recommended improvements for school safety. Finally, the proposal requires that the schools submit an electronic after-action report after each emergency lockdown drill to the school district to better establish best practices and identify safety concerns.

“Ensuring that our students have a safe learning environment is one of the highest priorities of the legislature,” said Brandes. “As a military officer I used after-action reports as an invaluable tool to improve my unit’s performance. It is my expectation that this tool will also improve the safety procedures at our educational institutions.”

DEMS CONCERNED ABOUT MED MAL PROSPECTS via the News Service of Florida

There’s no legislation filed in the Senate yet dealing with medical malpractice, but Senate Democrats are already signaling they aren’t likely to support any new efforts to make it harder to win malpractice lawsuits.

During a Senate Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday Sen. Jeremy Ring noted that a number of restrictions have been put in place on medical malpractice litigation already, including caps on damages – and he said lawsuits are down. “I just don’t know what more we should allow,” said Ring. “We’ve done so much, now they’re inventing vignettes to come up with another med mal bill,” added Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale. “There comes a point where you do so much, so much, and now you’re really infringing on people’s rights.”

A Senate committee last week began discussion of the possibility of changes to medical malpractice laws, including the possibility of additional restrictions on expert witnesses who testify against doctors.

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP BILL UP NEXT WEEK IN SENATE COMMITTEE 

A domestic partnership bill will get a hearing this year in the Senate, thanks to the bill having been referred to the Children and Families Committee, which is chaired by a Democrat who happens to be the measure’s sponsor. The bill (SB 196) would allow Floridians to enter “domestic partnerships” resembling marriages.

It’s been filed before but hasn’t gotten far. But it will be heard this year. The bill, sponsored by Children and Families Chairwoman Eleanor Sobel, is on the agenda for the committee’s Feb. 19 meeting.

The committee has several moderate Republicans, though the vice chair is Sen. Alan Hays, one of the Senate’s most conservative members. In all, the committee has four Democrats and six Republicans. In addition to Hays, the Republicans are Sen. Thad Altman, Sen. Charlie Dean, Sen. Nancy Detert, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Sen. Denise Grimsley.

TAXWATCH SUMMIT ON NURSE PRACTITIONERS FORESHADOWS LEGISLATIVE FIGHT TO COME

On Monday, Florida TaxWatch hosted an ARNP Scope of Practice Summit, seemingly designed to justify its existing position that nurse practitioners should be permitted to do more, and with less (i.e. no) physician supervision.  

Speakers and panelists laid out a multifaceted attack on Florida’s existing practice act, although the gist can be summarized as this: “Everybody loves nurses and our nation’s health care system is upside down, therefore, let nurses do more… God forbid a physician oversee a team of nurses…” 

Although good public policy shouldn’t be based solely on how kind, loved and plentiful certain professionals may be, it seems that this go around the nurses have some bigger guns on their side. Panelists included: Associated Industries of Florida (Tom Feeney), Florida Blue (David Pizzi), Baptist Health South Florida (Phillis Oeters),  and Walgreens (Sandra Ryan).  So, if nursing scope legislation makes its way to the committee floor this Session, expect a different, more animated — and much more “fiscal” — sh*tshow than in years past. 

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LEGISLATIVE BRIEFS via The News Service of Florida

In the House

The House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee takes up a proposed committee bill dealing with the fallout from the snafus in the November elections. The measure (PCB EES 13-01) would provide up to 14 days of early voting in each county, loosen rules on where early voting could take place, and would limit the first proposed ballot summary of any amendment proposed by the Legislature to 75 words.

The House Insurance and Banking Committee considers a measure to increase how much lenders can charge in interest on certain consumer finance loans. The bill (HB 425) would raise from $2,000 to $3,000 the limit on principal  to which interest rates of 30 percent can be charged. The panel will also take up HB 435 related to medical malpractice insurance. 

The House Education Committee holds a workshop on early learning. Funding and governance for early learning programs are shaping up as major issues this year, with a key change — better collaboration by the once-sparring stakeholders of the billion-dollar industry. 

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee gets an update on the status of efforts by the Department of Corrections to privatize health services in prisons, an effort that is moving forward in the southern part of the state. DOC has signed a $48 million contract for turning over the health services in the southern tier of Florida to Wexford Health Services, and expects to save about $12 million a year through the contract. An initiative to turn over health-care services in other parts of the state to Corizon, Inc., is tangled up in court after a Leon County judge struck down a decision by the Legislative Budget Commission to authorize that transfer. The state has appealed that decision. The committee also hears a presentation on efforts to make improvements at the Department of Juvenile Justice and a status report on how many beds are in use in DJJ facilities. The panel also looks at the governor’s budget recommendations. 

The House Government Operations Subcommittee hears a presentation by the LeRoy Collins Institute on the challenges to local pension funds. The panel will also take testimony from local officials and other stakeholders in the debate over local pension fund changes.

In the Senate

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development continues discussions from Tuesday on budget proposals. Included in the discussion are transportation, military affairs, highway safety and emergency management.

The Senate Education Budget Committee gets an update on the implementation of Common Core Standards, the new nationwide standard measurement system for schools, and on the Race to the Top grant program for schools. 

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4TH FLOOR FILES features Jeff Johnston of Corcoran and Johnston. His clients include Florida Crystals Corporation, HCA Healthcare and TECO. Here’s the file on Jeff.

YOU’RE INVITED: Get your checkbooks ready, PAC chairs and Tallahassee uber-lobbyists, there is a fundraiser for Representative Bill Hager tonight. It’s hosted by Speaker Weatherford and Speaker Designates Steve Crisafulli and Richard Corcoran, along with Rep. Bryan Nelson. The event is slated to begin at 5:00 p.m.

ANOTHER INVITATION: There is a second fundraiser for Frank Artiles’ and Clay Ingram’s re-election campaigns tat The Governors Club Library Room. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rubio communications czar Alex Burgos. 

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.