Sunburn for 2/20 — 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.

RUBIO STILL OPTIMISTIC ABOUT IMMIGRATION REFORM via National Review

While Senate Republicans who aren’t part of the immigration Senate gang have been fairly quiet on the topic of immigration, Rubio’s team stresses that the legislation — which won’t be released until March — is not dead. “Private conservations have been very positive,” says Rubio press secretary Alex Conant of other Republican senators. “People are understandably waiting to see the legislation before they commit one way or the other.” But the White House immigration plan that was leaked this weekend didn’t help. “To the extent we’re trying to build a coalition of conservatives who will support this plan, conservatives are going to be less likely to want to support it if they think President Obama’s just going to pull the rug out from underneath us on it,” says Conant.

IS MARCO RUBIO AGAINST THE WHITE HOUSE’S IMMIGRATION PLAN SO HE CAN EVENTUALLY SUPPORT IT?

Talking Points Memo suggests the leak of the White House immigration reform plan — which Sen. Marco Rubio  immediately shot down as “dead on arrival” — might be part of an overall strategy. 

“Not wanting to be seen as a shill for a Democratic President’s signature achievement, Rubio’s strategy from the start has been to play up his differences with the White House as much as possible. This weekend’s outburst was only the latest incident: in interviews with the Wall Street Journal, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and other conservative thought leaders, Rubio has positioned himself as the right-wing antidote to a far-left White House on immigration.”

“This touring indignation act isn’t just for Rubio’s own benefit. The Republicans he needs to win over to pass a bill will be a lot more comfortable if they think they’re somehow thumbing their nose at Obama by voting for it.”

RUBIO GETS THE NATE SILVER TREATMENT

First, he delivers the Republican response to the State of the Union. Then Marco Rubio became a late-night comedy sensation with his ‘water break.’ Now, the Florida Senator is getting the Nate Silver treatment, as the New York Times‘ uber blogger examines how Rubio’s conservatism compares to the other men and women who might seek the Republican nomination in 2016 — and to other candidates, like Mitt Romney, that the G.O.P. has nominated recently?

There are several statistical methods that seek to rate candidates’ ideology on a left-right scale. FiveThirtyEight used three of these methods in evaluating the ideology of Senate candidates as part of our technique for forecasting those races. The same methods can be applied to presidential candidates.

The last two Republican presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney …  were more moderate than Rubio. Rubio is also rated as being to the right of Ronald Reagan, who had a score of 44, and George W. Bush, who had a score of 46. Among Republican presidential nominees since 1960, in fact, only the extraordinarily conservative Barry Goldwater, who had a score of 67, rates as being more conservative than Rubio.

Rubio stands out less when compared to Republicans of today. Whereas in 1980 the average Republican member of Congress had a score of 30, the average Republican in the most recent Congress had a score of 48, very close to Mr. Rubio’s. Thus, Silver’s contention is that Rubio is a good representative of the Republican Party as it stands today.

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AIRLINE HAILED AS JOB CREATOR BY RICK SCOTT CHARGED WITH THEFT by Aaron Sharockman of the Tampa Bay Times

It was one of the first big job announcements of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration: Vision Airlines was bringing a hub to the Panhandle, promising 4,200 “direct and indirect” jobs to the region.

“This is going to be fun. This is our chance. We are going to win,” Scott said at a Jan. 18, 2011, event, promoting the economic benefits Vision Airlines would bring.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

The airline abandoned its flights to Fort Walton Beach in less than two years. It also, local officials say, abandoned its contractual obligations to the area.

In December, county commissioners sued the company for nearly $150,000 in unpaid airline fees.

And on Monday,  State Attorney Bill Eddins charged Vision Airlines with grand theft, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

DEMS COMPLAINT ON SCOTT BUDGET: TOO MUCH TO BE TRUE via the News Service of Florida

Several Senate Democrats complained Tuesday that Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $74 billion budget includes money the state may not have and said it was a feel-good, but unrealistic suggestion. Things in his proposed spending plan “smack of politics and it’s likely we won’t even be able to do them,” lamented Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, during a caucus meeting. “It’s a set-up. There’s funny money in this current budget.” Soto said revenue estimates project no more than $71 billion being available.

Scott’s proposed budget would spend $2.3 billion more in general revenue than current year spending, while state economists have projected general revenue growth of $1.2 billion. The governor’s budget counts growth in money left last year in cash reserves, money from a national mortgage settlement, sweeps of unused money in trust funds, and about $1 billion more in federal money, mostly in Medicaid. The budget also includes nearly a $1 billion increase in transportation spending, partly through bonding. Sen. Arthenia Joyner also said the Scott proposal was politically-motivated. “This is a continuation of his pie-in-the sky gift to people,” Joyner said.

MY BLOG POST: THE LAST PLACE ALEX SINK BELONG IS ON A CAMPAIGN TRAIL for Florida Voices

Such are the cruelties and vagaries of life that, only in his passing, is Bill McBride able to accomplish something he was not able to do while alive: control the pace of a Florida gubernatorial race. 

It might be macabre to say so, but that is what has happened in the wake of the death of McBride, the 2002 Democratic candidate for governor. Whereas a month ago former Gov. Charlie Crist was prompting the most intense of speculation as to when — not if — he would file to run for governor and Alex Sink, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate against Rick Scott, was forced to adjust to whatever timetable she might have had to in order to keep up with Crist, a moment of pause has set in that may push back any announcement from Crist or Sink until the spring, if not summer.

First of all, Sink deserves as much time as she needs to make any decisions about her political future. I won’t pretend to know what’s going on in her world other than to say, obviously, McBride was more than just a husband to her. He was a political partner and de facto running mate. It goes without saying that she won’t be making any decisions in the near future, as she takes time to care for her family and settle McBride’s affairs.

If you read the Associated Press’ most recent profile of Sink, she, understandably, does not sound like someone interested in running for elected office. 

“Right this minute, if you’re asking me, it’s off the table,” Sink said. “I’m not prepared to say, `No I’m not,’ but I’m much further away from a run today than I was three months ago.”

I am sorry to have to write this, but the last place that poor, noble soul needs to be is on the campaign trail. Alex Sink is grieving. Alex Sink is hurting.

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EDITORIAL – SADOWSKI HOUSING TRUST FUND SHOULD BE SPENT AS LAW OUTLINES from the Bradenton Herald

Over the past two decades, SHIP funds have allowed 8,600 families with children to be placed in affordable and safe housing. Such stability prevents homelessness and improves the health and welfare of children and adults as well as veterans, the elderly and the disabled.

Act money is also dedicated to energy-efficient appliances, after-school programs with computers, and financial literacy programs. Rental and home-buying assistance is available alongside residential rehabilitation, which helps revitalize neighborhoods and improves home values.

Operating with strict oversight, accountability has been one of the hallmarks of the Sadowski Act. This is a Florida state government program that works.

The Legislature should fully fund this economic development and jobs dynamo — which is also a solid investment into the state’s social fabric.

FLORIDA COUNCIL OF 100 TO HOLD EDUCATION SUMMIT

On February 27, the Florida Council of 100; the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the National Chamber Foundation; the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation; and AT&T will be hosting a Florida Education Summit, “Breaking Through Mediocrity – Implementing the Common Core State Standards,” in Orlando.  National, state, and local business and education experts will convene to discuss issues facing Florida’s K-12 educational system and potential solutions that could further drive student achievement.

FLORIDA MAY USE $60 MILLION TO LURE SOCCER TEAMS

Florida lawmakers are considering whether to pay $2 million a year in order to lure Major League Soccer to the state. A state Senate panel on Tuesday approved a measure (SB 358) that would guarantee $2 million a year for the next 30 years to help pay for a soccer stadium. The move to help lure professional soccer is coming at the same time that other sports teams are also seeking state help.

US SUPREME COURT UNANIMOUSLY OVERTURNS FLA. SUPREME COURT RULING, SIDING WITH DRUG-SNIFFING DOG by Karen Cyphers

In 2006, a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Aldo alerted his officer to the smell of drugs in Clayton Harris’ car.  This is after Harris was pulled over in the Panhandle for an expired tag; was found by officer William Wheetley to be nervous and shaking; and refused Wheetley’s request to search his vehicle.  And also, apparently, after Wheetley had been transporting the ingredients for making meth. 

In successful appeals up through the Florida Supreme Court, Wheetley’s defense argued that dogs often make mistakes or are influenced by their handlers, and that prosecutors must provide evidence of the dog’s reliability in the field before the dog’s nose can establish probable cause for a search. 

When Florida v. Harris reached the Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan disagreed, writing: “The question — similar to every inquiry into probable cause — is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime… A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test… Aldo’s did.” 

The Supreme Court’s opinion is that proper training and certification of police dogs is enough for law enforcement’s purposes, and that if defense attorneys have concerns about a specific dog’s qualifications, they could make such a case to a judge. 

***Come celebrate with Florida’s premier think tank, The James Madison Institute, on Wed., March 13, 2013 at JMI’s 25th Anniversary Gala to be held at The University Center Club at Florida State University. Watch the video invitation from event guest speaker, Speaker of the Florida House Will Weatherford. Follow updates on Twitter: #JMI25***

BILL BANNING FUNERAL PROTESTS PASSES COMMITTEE by Jennifer Currington of the Orlando Sentinel

Efforts to prevent picketing at funerals continues to move through both the House and Senate without protests.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto’s bill unanimously passed its third and last committee today before it comes to the floor during session.

The original form of the bill barred protests only at the funerals of military personnel, emergency responders, elected officials and minors.

Matthew Hunter, a Benacquisto aide who presented the bill to the Criminal Justice committee on the senator’s behalf, said the bill was changed to prohibit protests at all funerals because of concern that limiting it to certain groups of people would be considered unconstitutional.

COMMITTEE POSTPONES VOTE ON STATEWIDE DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP REGISTRIES by Kathleen Haughney of the Sun-Sentinel

A controversial domestic partnership bill was pulled from consideration by a Senate committee Tuesday after it became clear the measure did not have the votes to pass.

The measure attempts to create a statewide domestic partnership law, which would extend some of the rights of married couples such as inheritance and hospital visitation to unmarried couples. But many lawmakers said they thought the measure was much broader than local domestic registries passed by several cities and counties around the state — including Orange, Broward, Orlando and Sarasota – and therefore, constitutionally suspect.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel the sponsor of SB 196, said the bill was not about offering a pathway to gay marriage given that the proposal would also benefit unmarried heterosexual couples.

She added later that it’s ironic that members of the gay community were the only ones fighting for marriage.

“They’re fighting to get married,” she said. “Most people I know are getting divorced, two or three times. And then some are deciding they don’t’ want to get married at all.”

TWEET, TWEET: @JohnStemberger: Just hours ago defeated SB 196, the stealth gay marriage bill in the FL Senate.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @JeffClemens: So proud to hear the amazing stories from same-sex couples about the challenges they face in every day situations.

GIFT BAN TWEAKS WILL STAY OUT OF SENATE ETHICS REFORM PACKAGE by Dara Kam of the Palm Beach Post

Tom Lee wanted to put an end to what he called lawmakers out-of-control wining and dining at the expense of lobbyists perhaps looking for a payback for lavish meals.

After returning to the Florida Senate as a freshman this year, Lee is willing to modify the ban after hearing “a parade of horribles” from lawmakers who say the gift ban bars them from participating in receptions held by groups as innocuous as the Boys and Girls Clubs because they fear violating the ban.

Lee had hoped to include the tweak in an ethics reform package, a priority of Senate President Don Gaetz, headed to the floor after the Senate Rules Committee unanimously signed off on the measure this afternoon.

But Lee said including changes to the gift ban in the ethics bill was “a non-starter from the president’s perspective” and will instead file a stand-alone bill to deal with the issue instead.

Gaetz didn’t want his fast-tracked priority ethics reform, expected to get a Senate floor vote possible on the first day of the legislative session in two weeks, to get bogged down in a debate over whether the Legislature was watering down the gift ban.

SENATE FIELD-TRIP TO THE ELECTIONS OFFICE by Dara Kam of the Palm Beach Post

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Leon County elections office Tuesday morning as the panel mulls voting changes.

The trip to Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho’s office gave the bipartisan panel a glimpse of the entire voting process from early voting to absentee ballot canvassing. Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said he wanted the members to make the site visit to see what elections operations are all about. Sancho, a veteran elections supervisor and an independent, has been a harsh critic of the 2011 election law (HB 1355) that shortened early voting and required more voters to cast provisional ballots if they move.

“I thought it would be helpful for some of the members of the committee of actually seeing what goes on to process the ballots both outgoing and incoming. So it was very interesting. A very good experience,” Latvala said.

But the tour didn’t appear to change Latvala’s proposed election law changes. He still favors making it easier for absentee ballots to be counted by loosening the requirement that absentee ballot signatures must match a voter’s registration application. Many voters don’t update their applications but their signatures change, and once an absentee ballot is rejected, voters don’t have an opportunity to change it.

SENATE READIES ETHICS BILL FOR FLOOR VOTE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

A Senate committee unanimously approved an ambitious ethics bill Tuesday and set it up to be the first bill voted out of the Florida Senate but only after it exempted current lawmakers from the “revolving door” limits on lobbying the governor and his agencies.

The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved SB 2, the top priority of Senate President Don Gaetz, which imposes tougher ethics rules on legislators and local officials. The vote came after the committee also approved, without discussion, an amendment to delay a proposal in the bill that would have required legislators who retire to wait two years before they enter into lucrative executive branch lobbying contracts.

The amendment by Sen. Jack Latvala postpones the two-year ban on legislators becoming executive branch lobbyists until after 2014. The change gives legislators who retire after this two-year term the opportunity to immediately join the ranks of the revolving door class. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s one of those kind of things where it sounds so simple, but it’s like putting your finger in the dike and two other holes opening up,” Senator John Thrasher on the complexity of trying to change ethics  laws without undermining its purpose.

TORT ISSUES COULBE BE CONSIDERED SEPARATELY

With business groups and trial lawyers revving up for battle, Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Lee said Tuesday he does not expect his committee to have a broad package of tort-reform measures this year. Lawmakers could move forward with individual bills aimed at limiting lawsuits. “I think these issues ought to have to stand on their own merit,” Lee said.

The Judiciary Committee heard more than two hours of testimony from business officials and trial lawyers about a series of potential changes, such as placing more restrictions on expert witnesses and overhauling the state’s “bad faith” laws. Groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce have made the issues a top priority, saying that excessive lawsuits hurt the state’s business climate. But opponents, such as the Florida Justice Association, say the changes would only help the insurance industry while making it harder for injured people to get compensated.

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LEGISLATIVE PREVIEWS via the News Service of Florida

In the Senate

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice budget committee hears a presentation from the Office of State Court Administrator on a study of the compensation of private court-appointed conflict counsel in criminal cases, and an update on trust fund deficits in the Clerks of Court Trust Fund. The panel also hears presentations on drug courts, and an update on the financial outlook for the Department of Corrections. The committee also hears the latest estimate on criminal justice needs and proposals for budget cuts by various agencies. 

The Senate Finance and Tax Committee on Wednesday joins the parade of committees looking into economic development tax incentives, which have come under more scrutiny this year as the state has pushed hard to offer them in an effort to boost jobs. No legislation is before the committee. 

The Special Order Calendar Group meets Wednesday to set the special order calendar.

In the House 

The House Transportation and Highway Safety Committee workshops draft proposed committee bills on the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles and on Transportation.

The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee takes up three education bills, including two proposed committee bills — one (PCB CIS 13-02) that would revise the state accountability system for some schools and another (PCB CIS 13-03) that would encourage “blended” classes that incorporate online and in-person learning. The panel will also consider a committee substitute for HB 189 that would likely lower the financial penalties some school districts face for violating the constitutional limit on class sizes. 

The House Business and Professional Regulation Committee takes up a bill (HB 493) that would let consumers get security freezes on their record, and put additional requirements on consumer reporting agencies aimed at better protecting people from fraud and identity theft. The panel also considers a proposed committee bill for the Department of Agriculture and a committee bill dealing with timeshares. It also holds a workshop on homeowners’ association issues. 

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee gets an overview of what the state owns from the Department of Management Services, which has completed an inventory of the state’s holdings. 

SENIOR ADVOCATES, VETERANS AND CONCERNED FLORIDIANS TO URGE LEGISLATURE TO SAFEGUARD SENIORS FROM S.T.O.L.I AT CAPITOL PRESSER 

A coalition of senior advocates, veterans, and other concerned Floridians will be joined by Representative Bryan Nelson at noon on the 4th Floor Rotunda in the State Capitol to urge the Legislature to protect seniors from predatory investors and reject any legislative attempts that would bolster the Stranger-originated Life Insurance (STOLI) market during the 2013 Legislative Session.

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APPOINTED: Sharon Phillips and (re-appointed) Bridget Burke-Wammack to the Board of Massage Therapy.

4TH FLOOR FILES features Tim Stapleton, the Executive Vice President and CEO of the Florida Medical Association. Here’s the file on Tim.

BECKER & POLIAKOFF EXPANDING LOBBYING PRACTICE WITH ACQUISITION OF FUENTES RODRIGUEZ CONSULTING GROUP

In an effort to expand its governmental affairs and lobbying practice, law firm Becker & Poliakoff has acquired Miami-based lobbying firm Fuentes Rodriguez Consulting Group

Fuentes Rodriguez lobbyists Jose Keichi Fuentes and Richard Candia will join Becker’s government law and lobbying practice group in Coral Gables. Daniel Espino, a lawyer and former Miami Springs councilman, also has joined the Becker lobbying group, along with George Burgess, Becker’s chief operating officer.  

“Jose, Rich, Dan and George will give Becker & Poliakoff unprecedented access to key policy makers in Miami-Dade, Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.,” said Bernie Friedman, chairman of Becker & Poliakoff Government Law and Lobbying Practice Group.

Fuentes Rodriguez clients include the cities of Homestead, Sweetwater, Cutler Bay, Medley and Miami Lakes, and businesses such as VE Restaurant Group, AMEC Engineering, All Aboard Florida and Ygrene Energy Fund Florida. 

FUNDRAISING CIRCUIT

The highlight of Wednesday night is the fundraiser planned for Senator Jeff Brandes. It will be held in the Capital Room of the Governor’s Club and begins at 5:00 p.m. Get there early as Brandes, the chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, is sure to attract a bevy of well-healed lobbyists.

Nine State Representatives from the First Coast, including Janet Adkins, Daniel Davis, Charles McBurney, Lake Ray, Doc Renuart, Charles Van Zant, Travis Cummings, and Travis Hutson, are part of a Wednesday night fundraiser at the Governor’s Club beginning at 5:00 p.m.

FUNERAL INFORMATION FOR LOBBYIST RALPH GLATFELTER via Lucy Morgan of the Tampa Bay Times

Funeral services for longtime lobbyist Ralph Glatfelter will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Bradfordville Baptist Church in Tallahassee.

Glatfelter, 65 died Sunday, Feb. 17 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.  For 35 years he worked on health care issues, primarily for the Florida Hospital Association.

A native of Zellwood and a graduate of the University of Florida, Glatfelter was active in student government and after college went to work for Attorney General Bob Shevin in his legislative affairs office.

In 1983 he joined the Florida League of Hospitals where he became president and CEO. He joined the Hospital Association when three state hospital associations merged. He is survived by his wife, Sharon “Sukie” McAllister Glatfelter, a longtime House staffer. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Florida Baptist Children’s Home or Ami Training Center, 1021 Maxwell Mill Rd, Suite B, Fort Mill, SC 29708 or a favorite charity.

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MEDIA NOTES 

>>>After dumping Gallup after the election, USA Today announced a new collaboration with the Pew Research Center to survey public opinion on the biggest issues facing the nation. … The new USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll will debut later this week.

>>>President Obama “is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House,” Politico reports. … “Not for the reason that conservatives suspect: namely, that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated. Instead, the mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.”

>>>The Washington Post reports that David Axelrod, one of the chief architects of President Obama’s two presidential campaigns, is joining NBC News and MSNBC as a senior political analyst.

WHAT’S WITH MICHELLE OBAMA’S BANGS? First Lady Michelle Obama cut her hair because she’s having a mid-life crisis, the New York Daily News reports. “This is my midlife crisis, the bangs,” said Mrs. Obama. “I couldn’t get a sports car. They won’t let me bungee jump. So instead, I cut my bangs.”

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.