Sunburn for 2/17 – 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.***

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

1. How will the Florida State University community react to the departure of President Eric Barron to Penn State University.

2. What will the fallout be from the Times/Herald‘s unpacking of the story showing the contrast between Gov. Scott’s Department of Economic Opportunity and job centers across the state helping the unemployed navigate the new CONNECT system?

3. How much money will state lawmakers raise this week? The fundraising season all but shuts down in two weeks for the legislative session, but not before dozens of legislative candidates work the Adams Street circuit to raise money for their campaigns. The checks will be written fast and furious this week.

4. What will Charlie Crist say next? The former governor is earning tens of thousands of dollars in earned media during a promotional tour for his new book, “The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.” He’s also generating headlines by staking out, um, new positions on a variety of issues, including the embargo of Cuba. As Crist heads to the final stop on his tour in his hometown of St. Petersburg, what might Crist say to keep the earned media and headlines going?

5. How many Sunburn readers are still in shock after watching the first episode of the second season of ‘House of Cards?’

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DRIVING THE NAT’L DISCUSSION – GAY-MARRIAGE FOES SCRAMBLING AFTER COURT SETBACKS via The Associated Press

Opponents of same-sex marriage are scrambling to find effective responses, in Congress and state legislatures, to a rash of court rulings that would force some of America’s most conservative states to accept gay nuptials. … In Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia, federal judges have voided part or all of the bans on same-sex marriage that voters approved between 2004 and 2006. Each of the rulings has been stayed pending appeals, and a final nationwide resolution may be a few years away in the U.S. Supreme Court. The trend is unsettling to the activists who oppose gay marriage, and some have called for extraordinary measures in response. …

Gay marriage opponents have fought for strong exemptions in every state where lawmakers have already decided the issue. … However, the resulting exemptions have generally been limited in scope — and haven’t come anywhere near to what gay marriage opponents sought. … In light of this track record, opponents in red states have been proposing pre-emptive bills with broad accommodations for religious objectors. Most of the bills aim to protect individuals or businesses who, for religious reasons, don’t want to serve same-sex couples. … In some states, they have suffered setbacks.

SEC’Y SEBELIUS TO TALK HEALTH IN ORLANDO

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will make an announcement about enrollment in health coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act. 11:30 a.m.

FIVE YEARS AGO, PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNED STIMULUS BILL

From A17 of the NYT of Feb. 17, 2009, “As Recovery Measure Becomes Law, the Partisan Fight Over It Endures” — President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill into law … as leaders of both parties moved to position themselves for a political battle over who was responsible for the economy’s problems and whether the legislation was the solution. … “I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems. Nor does it constitute all of what we’re going to have to do to turn our economy around.”

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EMAILS SHOW FLORIDA OFFICIALS CELEBRATED LAUNCH OF UNEMPLOYMENT WEBSITE AS IT FAILED FOR CLAIMANTS via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

A day after the debut of Florida’s $63 million unemployment benefits website, the man in charge gave a sunny appraisal.

“The system was up and running 100 percent of the time,” project manager Tom McCullion wrote Oct. 16 to his agency’s top brass. “The two issues that caused claimants to receive an error message have been resolved.”

Times/Herald review of nearly 1,000 of McCullion’s emails reveals a stark division between Gov. Scott’s Department of Economic Opportunity and job centers across the state helping the unemployed navigate the new CONNECT system. McCullion and other top officials publicly declared an early victory. Those at job centers warned of an unfolding disaster.

Time has proven the Cassandras correct: CONNECT was a fiasco from Day 1. Federal officials intervened. In December, the DEO began fining the website’s contractor $15,000 a day because of technical glitches. Thousands of job seekers went weeks and months without the money they need for essentials like rent, food and bills.

Through it all, information about what went wrong has been restricted within the agency. Three days after CONNECT’s launch, an internal memo warned staff to “not convey the wrong message to the public.” If they wanted to advise claimants that the system was down, they needed to wait for confirmation from management.

As McCullion’s emails show, the DEO was hardly a source of reliable information. Top officials insisted within hours of the launch that CONNECT was a success and users were encountering only minor issues — a drumbeat of misinformation that continued for weeks.

DEO officials say they have greatly reduced the backlog of claims from a high of about 60,000 to about 11,000 as of this week. But much of that progress was made possible by the 330 employees the agency hired in January — at a cost of $165,000 a month. With CONNECT’s budget climbing, and the DEO openly feuding with the contractor, it’s not clear when the system will operate as promised.

FSU PREZ ERIC BARRON HEADED TO PENN STATE via The Tallahassee Democrat

Barron will be presented as the finalist for the top job at Penn State University on Monday.

Penn State’s board of trustees will then vote on the selection committee’s recommendation. If selected, Barron would be returning to his professional home.

He has spent the bulk of his professional career at Penn State.

The university said late Friday that a special meeting next week it had announced earlier in the day will be “to consider the appointment of a president.”

Barron’s top staff at FSU said Friday they were hearing reports about Barron but were unable to verify if they were true.

David Coburn, Barron’s chief of staff, said FSU’s president had been “off the grid” visiting family in New York City.

Barron, FSU’s 14th president who earned his undergraduate degree from Florida State, was chosen to lead his alma mater in December 2009. He’s now paid $402,000.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson plans to retire by June. Published reports say he is paid $600,000.

News outlets in Pennsylvania first reported Barron as the likely choice Friday evening. Barron, a 1973 FSU graduate with a degree in geology, has deep ties to Penn State. He was a professor of geosciences, director of its Earth System Science Center and dean of its College of Earth and Mineral Sciences during more than 20 years at Penn State.

CRIST’S CUBA REVERSAL ADDS TWIST TO RACE via William March of the Tampa Tribune

Charlie Crist has set off a volatile, ground-breaking issue in the Florida governor’s race by advocating lifting the Cuba trade embargo — a sharp reversal of the position the former Republican took as recently as 2010.

It is a step even many of his fellow Democrats say is premature, and one Republicans likely will use to accuse Crist of flip-flopping in campaigning among Florida’s Cuban-Americans.

As far as several experts and activists on the Cuba issue can remember, Crist would be the first major-party candidate for statewide office in Florida to oppose the embargo.

He did so just as a new poll came out that seems to back his contention that public sentiment is shifting against the embargo. The Atlantic Council poll said lifting the embargo is favored by 56 percent of adults nationwide; 63 percent of Floridians; 62 percent of Latinos; 64 percent of Miami-Dade County adults; and 52 percent of Republicans.

Still, it goes beyond the stance of Crist’s political patron in his switch to the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama, not to mention Florida party leaders including Sen. Bill Nelson, Pinellas County Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who’s national Democratic Party chairman; and Democratic statesman Bob Graham.

His position changed when he answered a question from talk show host Bill Maher on Feb. 7, saying the embargo hasn’t worked. He said increased trade would bring prosperity to Florida and would help bring democracy to Cuba. He agreed with Maher’s comment that Florida politicians need to “stand up to that small Cuban community” that supports the embargo.

OBAMACARE HUGE SEPARATION POINT FOR RICK SCOTT AND CHARLIE CRIST via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

The Florida gubernatorial race heated up this week as the two leading candidates clashed over President Barack Obama’s controversial health care law on the national airwaves.

If there is a single polarizing issue for Gov. Rick Scott and his predecessor, it is Obamacare.

Scott rose to political prominence by opposing Obama’s health care law after his career in the private sector, including hospital management such as his stint at HCA/Columbia. But he recalled his younger years on Thursday as he pushed against the law.

Scott called for the repeal of the federal health-care law, arguing it’s a job-killer.

Continuing to make the rounds to promote his book on why he left the GOP to run partyless for the U.S. Senate in 2010 before becoming a Democrat at the end of 2012, Crist also made a national appearance Thursday. He visited “Politicking with Larry King” on oraTV. During his appearance on King’s show, Crist defended the health-care law.

Crist then went after Scott’s record at HCA/Columbia, during which that company paid $1.7 billion in fines to the federal government over Medicaid fraud. “The issues we’ll focus on will be ethics, No. 1,” said Crist, who made no mention of questions he faces on his own ethics issues — particularly after the accusation by former friend Scott Rothstein that Crist traded judgeships for campaign contributions in 2009.

Crist went out of his way to praise Obama for passing the health-care law, though he noted “other fine presidents” including Bill Clinton had tried. “This is the only president that’s ever gotten it done,” Crist said. “This is where we are. It has taken a long time. My hat is off to this administration. …”

DISNEY CAMPAIGN DONATIONS DON’T INCLUDE GOV. SCOTT via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel

Walt Disney World, one of the largest political donors in Florida, has spent more than $1.7 million so far during this campaign cycle, cutting checks to more than 100 candidates and committees throughout the state.

But one notable candidate hasn’t made Disney’s donation list: Gov. Scott.

Though Disney says it is supporting Scott, state records show that Disney hasn’t given any money directly to Scott or his Let’s Get to Work political committee, even though the Republican governor is furiously raising money for what some predict will be a $100 million re-election campaign.

The omission is striking because Disney has contributed to so many other Florida politicians — including all three Cabinet members, all but two of the 20 state senators on the ballot this year and more than 60 of the roughly 100 state House members running for re-election.

A spokeswoman for Disney would not say why the company hasn’t contributed to Scott’s campaign, though she said the company is backing the incumbent governor.

“Governor Scott has a strong record on tourism and economic growth, and we are supporting him in 2014,” Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said.

Disney hasn’t given money to any other candidate for governor, either, including Scott’s likely Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist. Unless Disney shifts course, this will be the first governor’s race in which it hasn’t directly contributed to a contender since at least 1994.

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CD 13 SPECIAL ELECTION

MORE THAN 44K BALLOTS ALREADY CAST

The race to succeed the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young is well under way, as Pinellas County voters cast more than 44,000 ballots so far in Florida’s 13th Congressional District contest.

Of the 191,296 ballot requests for CD 13 as of Friday, 23.1 percent — 44,326 — have returned to county Supervisor of Election offices.

Republicans hold a slight lead in the number of returned ballots broken down by party affiliation:

  • Republican — of the 77,863 requested, 18,786 (41 percent) were returned, or 42 percent of all returns.
  • Democratic — of the 70,645 requested, 17,387 (37 percent) were returned, or 39 percent of all returns.
  • Other/No Party Affiliation — of 42,788 requested, 8,153 (22 percent) were returned, or 18 percent of all returns.

ALEX SINK REJECTS CHUCK TODD FOR DEBATE via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO

When it came to laying down the ground rules for a [Feb. 25] debate … Democrat Alex Sink – who seems allergic to the national attention her race is getting – had big demands: No NBC. And no Chuck Todd. With all eyes trained on the race between Sink and Jolly, NBC officials … proposed that Todd, the network’s chief White House correspondent and a Florida native, lead the questioning of the two candidates. For the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the forum, getting NBC and Todd involved sounded like a coup. There would be plenty of exposure – the debate would be played on local NBC network affiliates and clips would appear on MSNBC, where Todd hosts ‘The Daily Rundown.’

But … Sink’s campaign … said it wanted to stick with the initial plan to have Susan McManus, a University of South Florida political scientist, handle the questioning. .. As she’s come under fierce assault from Republicans who’ve spent millions of dollars on TV ads casting her as a supporter of President Barack Obama and his unpopular health care law, Sink’s aggressively tried to turn attention to local issues such as the rising cost of flood insurance premiums. Todd, who caters to a national audience, could have thrown a wrench into her strategy by focusing his questions on issues such as Obamacare.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND via Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for Jolly: “What will she ask for next? A teleprompter or for one of her handlers just to do the debate for her?”

DAVID JOLLY ATTEMPTS TO REACH OUT TO COUPLE WHO SLAM HIM IN COMMERCIAL via Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing

Not only are Jolly and Sink miles apart ideologically in their contest to succeed the late Bill Young in Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District next month, they also apparently have different ways of wanting to engage the electorate.

… Jolly was attempting to speak directly to that retired Largo couple featured in a new ad slamming his take on Social Security that was produced by a major Democratic super-PAC.

“I am sure that every professional consultant would have advised me against calling people who appear in my opponents commercials, but I looked up their phone number on the Internet without telling anybody and I called them,” Jolly told CL on Saturday morning outside his campaign offices in Clearwater.

Jolly says he recognized the name of the couple, Elizabeth and Rod Snedeker, because they would occasionally contact former Congressman Young over the years when he worked in his district office.
However he says he was unsuccessful in his attempt to speak to them on Friday, saying the phone rang about 20 times and wouldn’t allow him to leave a message.

TWEET, TWEET: @CWBill2: “David Jolly reaches out 2 couple who slam him in tv ad” Total Bill Young move! @DavidJollyCD13 learned from best!

MEANWHILE, IN THE CD 19 SPECIAL ELECTION … TEA PARTY SUPPORT LOOKS TO BE TEPID THIS TIME via Heather Wysocki of NewsPress.com

Republicans running in the 19th Congressional District special election could find it harder to get organized tea party support than Trey Radel did in 2012.

In 2012, the Lee County Patriots endorsed Radel, then a conservative radio talk show host, in the primary and straight into the office.

But similar support likely won’t be forthcoming for any of the five Republican candidates — big-name or grass-roots — who’ve announced intentions to run in the special election for the seat vacated by Radel. His January resignation came several months after his arrest and guilty plea for cocaine possession.

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel and political newcomers Curt Clawson, Michael Dreikorn and Gerald Gallagher have announced their candidacies.

Early in Radel’s campaign, tea party-associated group Lee County Patriots had already expressed its support for him.

But two years later, the group meets socially and relies on newsletters to communicate. And it’s unlikely that same support will be behind any one candidate.

The Naples Tea Party didn’t wholly support Radel in 2012, and it probably won’t for a candidate this time around, former leader Lavigne Kirkpatrick said.

The group has “pretty much dissolved itself,” he said, though the Naples area still has other active groups.

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INSIDE FLORIDA’S RACING INDUSTRY, WHERE 74 GREYHOUNDS DIED ON TRACK PROPERTY IN SEVEN MONTHS LAST YEAR via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times

The death of a greyhound like Penrose Jake would have normally gone unreported in Florida. But track operators are now required to notify the state within 18 hours of a greyhound’s death at a track or racing kennel in Florida. Approved by lawmakers in 2010, the rules didn’t take effect until last spring — more than 80 years after dog racing became legal in Florida — a testament to the greyhound racing industry’s power and influence in Tallahassee.

According to death reports reviewed by the Times/Herald, 74 dogs died on racetrack property between May 31 and Dec. 31, 2013 — one every three days.

The most deaths over the seven-month reporting occurred at Derby Lane and the Daytona Beach Kennel Club. Each reported 12 deaths. At Flagler racetrack in Miami, six dogs died. Mardi Gras Racetrack and Casino in Hallandale Beach reported no deaths since the start of its five-month racing season, which began in December. And at Bonita Springs, the greyhound track between Naples and Fort Myers, there were two reported deaths.

The Florida Greyhound Association, which represents dog owners and trainers, blames the track owners for failing to invest in improvements on their tracks for many of the dog injuries and deaths. The association opposes expanding the death reporting rule to mandatory injury reporting.

Since 1990, the total amount of money waged for the 13 facilities that ran greyhound racing in Florida fell 67 percent — from $933.8 million to $265.4 million in 2012, according to the Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey-based research firm hired by lawmakers to assess the economic effects and social costs of expanded gambling in Florida. As attendance dropped, profits have also plummeted. The industry lost $35 million in 2012 on dog racing, Spectrum said.

Florida’s greyhound tracks are caught in a legislative bind. Despite the decline in popularity, dog tracks in Florida have barely reduced the number of greyhound races since 1996 because of a state law known as the 90 percent rule. The rule permits tracks to add poker tables so long as they continue at least 90 percent of the live races they were running in 1996.

Now track owners have joined in an unexpected alliance with their animal rights critics. Together, they want legislators to reduce the number of required races while allowing them to keep other gambling operation. A massive rewrite of the state’s gambling laws expected to be released next week in the state Senate is likely to include reduced racing requirements, supporters say, and bills to require injury reporting have been filed in both the House and Senate.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: #Awkward — all of those ads for @Derby_Lane dog track on @TB_Times website next to investigation of dog deaths at @Derby_Lane dog track.

WHO WOULD WANT TO RUN THE ORLANDO EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY via Dan Tracy of the Orlando Sentinel

The job listing could go something like this: five-year contract paying $185,000 annually, plus benefits, for a professional willing to put up with a warring board of directors at an agency that might not exist in another year.

Now that ex-Rep. Steve Precourt has walked away from the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, the question becomes: Will anyone take this job?

The five-member board of the authority is split into factions, and — that dysfunction aside — running the agency does not offer a lot of security. Starting in 1991, the past four full-time directors have been forced to resign.

Depending on your point of view, Precourt — who would have been the agency’s eighth director ever — either was fired before he got his first paycheck three weeks ago or rejected the post because he contended the board had undermined his credibility before his nameplate was affixed to his office door.

And there’s more: Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton is investigating up to three board members on suspicion of breaking a public-meetings law, and a bill is working its way through the state Legislature that would completely overhaul the authority into a regional operation also covering Lake, Seminole and Osceola counties.

Nobody, it appears, is quite sure how that will work, including possibly the sponsors of the would-be law.

“I tell everyone: Put pen to paper and write what you think we should do,” said state Sen. David Simmons, theAltamonte Springs Republican leading the regional push in the Senate.

Despite the challenges, at least three people still are willing to take on the job, according to the authority. A top agency manager checked with the three finalists passed over by the board in favor of Precourt, and they professed they were still in.

Given that information, authority Chairman Walter Ketcham said the board can move to hire one of the three, start the search all over again or wait until Ashton concludes his probe before deciding what to do.

WHAT IF FLORIDA ACTUALLY OKS MEDICAL MARIJUANA?  via Cindy Swirko of The Gainesville Sun

First, lots of regulations will have to be written on who can buy, where they can buy and who can sell. That process will take months.

If the measure passes, the department will have six months from Jan. 6, the effective date of measure, to develop regulations that will include:

* Procedures for issuing identification cards to patients with physician certification.

* Procedures for issuing cards to caregivers of qualified patients.

* Procedures for the registration of treatment centers that include issuance, renewal, suspension and revocation of registration, and standards to ensure security, record keeping, testing, labeling, inspection and safety.

* A regulation that defines the amount of marijuana that could reasonably be an adequate supply for a patient’s medical use, based on the best available evidence.

The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research used six approaches to estimate how many people might qualify as patients. Among them was a review of other states with medical marijuana and the number of people with various diseases that would qualify for marijuana use.

Estimates ranged from 452 to more than 1.6 million. The lower number reflects a slow rollout of the program, while the higher number is based on people who self-reported marijuana use, the report states.

Meanwhile, the DOH estimates the number of annual patients would be 417,252 if the program were to be fully implemented. It also estimated that another 250,351 caregivers would qualify to get marijuana for their patients.

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FIRST IN SUNBURN: MOST FLORIDIANS OPPOSE EXPANDING NURSE RESPONSIBILITY, SAYS FMA SURVEY

Six in ten Florida voters oppose allowing nurse practitioners to practice independently from a supervising physician, according to a new poll by the Florida Medical Association.

The FMA survey was in response to a recent proposal spearheaded by State Rep. Cary Pigman, which would grant advanced nurse practitioners more authority and freeing them from treatment guidelines prescribed by licensed physicians.

When asked, 61 percent of respondents said they opposed expanding advanced nurse practitioners’ powers, with only 32 percent approving.

The statewide poll was of 606 likely Florida voters, conducted by Voter/Consumer Research for the FMA from February 1– 5, 2014.

Respondents also do not like the idea of nurses and other health care workers who are not physicians prescribing narcotics (including painkillers). Nearly eight in ten (79 percent) of respondents opposed, with 19 percent approving.

In addition, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of voters said they are satisfied with the healthcare they personally receive. Even more (79 percent) say they are satisfied with access to health care.

GAETZ ONCE BOUGHT MARIJUANA FOR A DYING FRIEND via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

E. Ronal Mudd was a Methodist chaplain who helped open Florida’s first hospice in Jacksonville, then became a cancer patient in it.

By 1984, Mudd’s final weeks were consumed with just trying to keep his food down. He asked a friend to get him some marijuana.

That friend was Don Gaetz, now the Republican Florida Senate president.

“The quality of his life was undermined by this intense nausea,” Gaetz recalls. “Ron Mudd said to me, ‘I understand that marijuana might help; can you get me some?’ And I did, and it helped.”

The story of how the Panhandle politician broke the law to help a dying friend illustrates how more conservative Republicans — much like Americans generally — are moderating their views about marijuana’s medicinal value.

NO SINGLE FACTOR DETERMINES “RESIDENCY” ACCORDING TO JOINT LEGISLATIVE MEMO Full story here

Every ten years, new district lines are drawn for the Florida House and Senate. Sometimes, a legislator or candidate lives a few houses away from the district they would like to represent; sometimes they live many counties away. They rent a place to qualify to run, wage a campaign, and plan (or, as it turns out, “plan”) to move into the district upon being elected. Doesn’t always happen that way, as we’ve seen from a recent spate of legislators found residing outside where they are constitutionally required to live. Mostly, lately, this has seemed to be a South Florida Democrat thing.

During the summer of 2013, Sen. Jack Latvala wanted answers. Senate President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford directed their respective General Counsels to examine the judicial and administrative precedents of interpreting residency requirements in different contexts and to provide a set of criteria that could be considered to demonstrate compliance with residency requirements. On Jan. 8, 2014, legislators were provided this information in a detailed memo, and through a thorough review of its recommendations, House and Senate leadership agreed that an enforceable rule is necessary. To implement a joint rule, Senate Concurring Resolution 954 was drafted. (Sidebar: Is it a beautiful coincidence that 954 is the area code for Broward County, where most of the residency mishaps have occurred? Hm.)

This rule will be brought before the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday by Sen. John Thrasher. In sum, it provides a set of criteria that in totality can be used to validate a member’s claim of residency. For example: where one receives mail, is registered to vote, has a homestead exemption, and customarily resides.

These terms were developed through various interpretations of what it means to “reside” somewhere. In other words, just because a member sleeps 95 percent of the time away from where he claims to live, he may not be in true violation of the law. Just in contradiction to one clear interpretation of the law.

REAX: “I am very happy that the President and Speaker have responded to my concerns and taken this very significant first step to assuring that people in districts throughout Florida will in fact be represented by those who actually live among them.” — Sen. Latvala

NATIONAL WASTE & RECYCLING ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2013 LEGISLATOR OF THE YEAR AWARDS

The Florida Chapter of the National Waste & Recycling Association announced the winners of its 2013 Legislator of the Year Awards earlier this month during legislative visits at the Capitol.

The Association honors key legislators annually who have demonstrated efforts to move proactive legislation as well as constructively resolving issues pertaining to the waste and recycling industry in Florida.

The chapter honored more legislators than usual this after a very successful 2013 legislative session. This year’s winners include Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Doug Holder for sponsoring a Florida law banning texting while driving, Sen. Wilton Simpson and Rep. Lake Ray for sponsoring the Natural Gas Fleet Fuel Rebate Program and Sen. Thad Altman and Rep. Jimmy Patronis for sponsoring environmental legislation.

WELCOME TO THE TWITTERS: Rep. @EdEHooper1

ERIC EISNAUGLE BUILDS HUGE FUNDRAISING ADVANTAGE IN HD 44 SPECIAL ELECTION 

Candidates in a special election to replace former state Rep. Steve Precourt faced a Friday deadline to file campaign-finance reports. With all of the checks totaled up, former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle has a huge financial lead over his (nominal) opponents, Republican Vicky Bell and Democrat Shaun Raja.

Eisnaugle collected $72,150 during the month of January to go with the approximate $172,000 he had already raised for the general election race. To date, Eisnaugle has collected nearly $246,000 for his bid to return to the Florida House.

Among those donating to the warchest of Eisnaugle — a likely contender for House Speaker in the next decade — is a veritable who’s who of Tallahassee and Orlando power borkers, including $4,000 from the lobbyists at Southern Strategy Group, as well as checks from Altria, Cardenas Partners, Floridian Partners, the Florida Homebuilders Association, the Florida Restaurant Association, GrayRobinson, JM Family, Bob Levy, TECO, Walt Disney Co. Three dozen medical doctors also contributed to Eisnaugle, meaning the Florida Medical Association is being as helpful as possible.

Eisnaugle’s expenditures include (in addition to advertising on this blog), payments to John Dowless’ firm, Millennium Consulting, and SRH Media.

Even after $58,652 in expenditures so far, Eisnaugle has over $196,786 cash-on hand for the special election. That should be more than enough to deal with Bell, who raised just $1,800, loaned her campaign $2,000 and spent 1,781 and Raja, who, after raising $3,232 and spending $3,109, has just over $100 cash-on-hand.

JAY TRUMBULL DOMINATES HOUSE DISTRICT 6 RACE via The News Herald

Jay Trumbull again trumped his seven opponents in fundraising in January, as he pursues the House District 6 seat.

The Republican from Panama City raised another $12,700 in cash donations, bringing his total to $69,360. He has spent about $11,000.

Trumbull has been embraced by conservative state lawmakers; state Reps. Dennis Baxley, Matt Gaetz, Clay Ingram and Halsey Beshears, all Republicans, co-hosted a fundraiser for him last week, which was not included in January campaign finance totals.

Melissa Hagan remains his closest fundraising competition, pulling in $1,750 in cash donations and $4,046 in in-kind contributions in January. She now has $20,385 in cash donations, $20,500 in loans and $5,022 in in-kind contributions total.

Hagan has spent about $8,000 on the campaign.

Thelma Rohan took in only $100 in monetary donations, but received $2,246 in loans in January. She now has $8,700 in cash donations and $17,246 in loans. She has spent $2,396 on her campaign.

No other candidates in the race received contributions that exceeded $100 in January.

The candidates are running to replace state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.

TONIGHT’S FUNDRAISING LINE-UP

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Speaker-Designate Steve Crisafulli at Governors Club – Plantation Room

5:30- 7:00 p.m. – Rep. Jim Waldman for SD-29 (Ring’s seat 2016) at Clyde’s & Costello’s

***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.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Patrick “Pat” Geraghty, Chair and CEO of Florida Blue, will speak to the Economic Club of Florida on “The Future of Healthcare: A Payor’s Perspective” at noon on Tuesday in Room A2-A3 of the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, W. Pensacola Street, Tallahassee. Florida Blue is the state’s largest health plan, serving more than 7 million Floridians and providing Medicare services to beneficiaries in 15 states.

IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE: Lindsey Perkins from Southern Strategy Group. She’s headed to the Office of Policy and Budget in the Governor’s Office.

NEW ARRIVALS: Chris Dawson at GrayRobinson. Chris is a recent hire through the firm’s Summer Program. Primary handling litigation matters, he will be taking on some governmental affairs clients. Trivia: He’s Sen. Greg Evers’ nephew.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Chris Chaney, Justin Day, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Deloitte Consulting, LLP

Mark Cruise: Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group, LLC: Community Assisted & Supported Living, Inc.

Marty Fiorentino, Bo Bohannon, Joe Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Jacksonville University

Michael Spinelli: ETC of Central Florida, Inc.

SHOULD DAVID BECKHAM HAVE REGISTERED AS MIAMI-DADE LOBBYIST? via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

In June, during his early days exploring Miami as a location for his expansion Major League Soccer franchise, David Beckham toured Florida International University’s stadium with his business partner, an eager investor, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.

With their plans firming up, Beckham, business partner Simon Fuller and Miami-based billionaire investor Marcelo Claure met again with Gimenez in November, this time over dinner at Claure’s house.

That presents a potential problem: At no point did Beckham, Fuller or Claure register as lobbyists.

The Miami-Dade’s ethics commission is examining whether Beckham, his investors or their representatives broke any rules requiring lobbyists to register before making a pitch to public officials. A violation of the registration requirement can result in a fine or a temporary ban from County Hall, though that penalty is unusual.

One of the men who is registered to lobby on Beckham’s behalf, attorney Neisen Kasdin, said Friday neither the retired English soccer star nor his investors had to register because they have only participated in “meet and greets” where no specific proposal before county government was discussed.

The lower-level Beckham group members trying to negotiate a soccer stadium deal have filed lobbyist registrations, Kasdin said.

A county ordinance requires lobbyists — including a company’s “principals” — to register within five days of engaging in lobbying or being retained as a lobbyist.

THE RETURN OF THE “4TH FLOOR FILES”

Returning soon are the “4th Floor Files”, a question-and-answer feature that interviews many of the state’s top lobbyists. Each day at 4 p.m. a new ‘file’ is posted on SaintPetersBlog. Each lobbyist is being asked the same general questions, although the questionnaire may be modified going forward. There is no rhyme or reason as to who has been selected to be interviewed. And there will be very little editing of the responses (even for spelling).

Check out the new repository for the files at 4thFloorFiles.com. And if you are a lobbyist interested in answering the questionnaire, please email me at saintpeter4@gmail.com.

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CONTEXT FLORIDA: CYBERSPACE SELF-CONTROL, FIGURE SKATING, GREYHOUND RACING, POLITICS AND HEALTHCARE

On Context Florida: Political blogger and social media consultant Daniel Tilson, after experiencing a barrage of crude and personal attacks, calling for all of us to try to be better people online. It might be controversial to say, but figure skating is not a sport, says Jamie Miller. Live greyhound racing, when regulated properly and administered safely, is good for both the greyhounds and Florida’s economy, says Jack Cory of the Florida Greyhound Association. Dr. Marc Yacht, retired Director of the Pasco County Health Department, calls for Florida politicians to get out of healthcare administration, especially with the issue of medical marijuana.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

REPORTER NOAH PRANSKY HONORED via the Tampa Bay Times

A WTSP-Channel 10 reporter has won a prestigious journalism award for an investigation last year that revealed how state and local officials had cost Florida drivers millions of dollars in extra fines by reducing yellow-light times.

WTSP was the only TV station in the country to win a George Polk Award, according to the station.

“The award is a tremendous honor,” the recipient, Noah Pransky, said in a press release. “We take a lot of pride in serving as the public’s watchdog.”

The reporting included more than 40 stories and helped prompt officials to lengthen yellow lights. Others involved with the project were Amy Marinec, Paul Thorson and Melissa Rancourt.

SACHS MEDIA GROUP NAMED TOP PUBLIC AFFAIRS FIRM IN FLORIDA

Sachs Media Group has been named the top Environmental & Public Affairs PR firm in Florida and 12th in the nation by O’Dwyer’s, the respected national public relations industry journal. The firm is one of only two in Florida to earn a ranked spot on the list in the February 2014 “Environment” issue of O’Dwyer’s magazine. The rankings are based on 2012 net fees.

“We are proud to be recognized as a top industry leader in public affairs, in our home state and nationally,” said Ron Sachs, president and CEO of Sachs Media Group. “We have assembled a most talented and experienced team of public affairs professionals who are phenomenal at what they do, and our mission is the relentless pursuit of outstanding results and outcomes for our clients.”

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: Another change in @FLPressCorps: @travispillow leaving @TDOnline, headed to Tampa to join @StepUp4Students

***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.***

CONGRATS: @JordanRaynor: Arriving August 19, 2014: @BabyRaynor!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Reps. Mark Danish and Tom Goodson. Celebrating today is Pinellas County’s Paul Gross. Also happy birthday to NBC’s Betsy Fischer, who is so very kind to so many of journos and pols in Florida.

NEW GOLF RESORT IS OUT OF THE ORDINARY FOR FLORIDA via Tamara Lush of the Associated Press

Streamsong Resort opened its golf courses and clubhouse in late 2012, and last month, it unveiled its 216-room lodge. It’s located in the tiny community of Bowling Green, which is closer in DNA to cattle ranches than Disney.

In fact, Streamsong is difficult to find; the journey from the Tampa Bay area included a turn at a ramshackle BBQ restaurant and a drive past several cows. A medium-sized metal sign with the resort’s name is the only thing signaling that one has arrived on the property.

Visitors are first greeted by the sight of large, grass covered dunes and blue lakes, and instead of the flat landscape of central Florida, there are hills and dips and yes, some green of the golf courses. A modern-looking hotel, with its slightly curved exterior, is nestled near a lake.

The resort was built on what was once a phosphate mine. The mining, which was last done on the property in the 1960s, left behind the sand and the dunes. About seven years ago, a Mosaic executive wondered what the company could do with the property.

Golfweek magazine named it the best new golf course in 2012 and in 2013, the magazine listed both courses on the top 40 public courses in the world.

And while Streamsong is a golf-heavy resort and conference center (think high-level executives meeting in conference rooms, then hitting the links in the afternoon) there is more to the resort.

The hotel is something out of South Beach, with its concrete-and-wood exterior — except that it overlooks a beautiful and unusual Florida landscape. There are four restaurants on the property (three in the main hotel and one in the golf clubhouse).

SOME SPONSORS COMPOSE OLYMPIANS’ TWEETS via John Leicester of The Associated Press 

Between photos and insights about their Olympic experience, some Olympians are turning over their social media accounts to sponsors, agreeing to quotas of postings on Twitter and Facebook and letting other people send commercial messages in their name. The agents for US figure skaters Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold both say sponsors draft some of their tweets, plugging their brands. ‘This is the first Olympics where I actually have a social media calendar, where an athlete has to tweet or mention something on a given day,’ Gold’s agent, Yuki Saegusa, said in an interview. ‘We get a list of tweets or social media things that need to be posted and then we approve them for her,’ said Saegusa, senior vice president for Olympic clients at sports management giant IMG.

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.