Sunburn for 2/22 — 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.

A VERY IMPORTANT DAY IN FLORIDA HISTORY

On this day in 1819, Spanish minister Do Luis de Onis and U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams sign the Florida Purchase Treaty, in which Spain agrees to cede the remainder of its old province of Florida to the United States.

POST WATER-SWIG PEW POLL: MARCO RUBIO UPSIDE DOWN by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

The survey finds that the public expresses mixed views of Marco Rubio, following his response to Obama’s State of the Union address. Overall, 26% view Rubio favorably, 29% unfavorably, and 46% cannot offer a rating.

Rubio has a strong image among Republicans and receives particularly high ratings among those who agree with the Tea Party.

Among all Republicans (and Republican leaners) who agree with the Tea Party, fully 70% view Rubio favorably compared with just 7% who view him unfavorably. Among Republicans and leaners who do not agree with the Tea Party, 31% view Rubio favorably and 25% view him unfavorably. 

DCCC BRACKETS BILL YOUNG ON SEQUESTRATION

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching paid grassroots advertising to, as it describes, hold Congressman Bill Young accountable for the thousands of layoffs and other costs in the upcoming sequester.

 “Your Pink Slip” begins today and is the first phase of the campaign,  featuring a web ad that highlights what the DCCC describes as “the consequences of Tea Party House Republicans protecting millionaires instead of the middle class and forcing the sequester to happen.” 

According to the DCCC, “Congressman Bill Young and Tea Party House Republicans left the capital last week without any attempt to negotiate a deal on the sequester – a series of deep and indiscriminate cuts that experts estimate will eliminate more than a million jobs. The cuts will affect areas across the government from defense to domestic spending, including medical research, Army Corps of Engineers projects, federal law enforcement officers, Head Start and services to pregnant women. Republicans have refused to bring up a compromise plan that achieves the deficit reduction by ending special tax breaks for millionaires and corporations.” 

“Thousands of hardworking families in Congressman Young’s district are facing pink slips thanks to his refusal to put middle class families before millionaires,” said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Americans deserve a solution, not more chaos and manufactured crisis from Congressman Young and the Tea Party Congress.”

SUSPECT IN DAVID RIVERA CAMPAIGN-FINANCE SCANDAL TO BE CHARGED FRIDAY via The Miami Herald

A former candidate under FBI investigation with former U.S. Rep David Rivera is scheduled to be charged Friday with federal crimes over his campaign finances.

Sternad is scheduled to surrender Friday morning in federal court, charged with lying on his federal campaign reports to hide the source of secret money funneled into his run for congress. Sternad is also charged with conspiring with others as part of the alleged scheme to defraud the United States. 

Sternad, cooperating with authorities, is expected to plead not guilty. His lawyer, Enrique “Rick” Yabor refused comment.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce new jobs at Advanced Pharma. 2:00 p.m. University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park, 1951 NW 7th Avenue, Miami.

SCOTT’S DECISION TO EXPAND MEDICAID MAY RUN INTO LEGISLATIVE OPPOSITION by Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Governor Rick Scott dropped a bombshell Wednesday when he announced support for a Medicaid expansion. But a day later, it remained unclear whether the idea would get through the Republican-dominated Legislature, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

House GOP leaders appear to have the strongest reservations, with Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel publicly expressing doubts about the wisdom of the expansion.

“I remain skeptical that that’s in the best interests of the state,” McKeel said Thursday morning.

Weatherford, during an appearance before the Florida Retail Federation and in a television interview, also repeatedly used the word “skeptical.” Pointing to broader federal budget and debt problems, he questioned whether Washington would make good on a promise to pay billions of dollars for the expansion.

“We’re talking about a federal government that is not able to pay its bills,” Weatherford said during an appearance on the show, “Florida Face to Face.”

Some Senate Republicans indicated they might be more willing to go along with Scott, who said he would support expanding Medicaid eligibility for three years and then revisiting the issue. The federal government is slated to pay all of the expansion costs for the first three years, before the state has to pick up a portion of the tab.

“I support the governor, and I think the Senate has an open mind on it,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. He later added, “I think we give it a shot and see how it works.”

HOW IT’S PLAYING: Sun-Sentinel editorial board – “Bravo, Governor Scott”

HOW IT’S PLAYING WITH SCOTT’S BASE:  “There may be some high priced consultant sitting in a room doing some polling saying this will help in 2014 but I think he’s got a lot of explaining to do to his base right now.” — Slade O’Brien, Florida director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

BUSH TOLD FLORIDA REPUBLICANS TO OPPOSE MEDICAID EXPANSION via Robert Costa of National Review

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush recently huddled with Republican state legislators and urged them to oppose an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, reports Robert Costa of National Review

… “Everyone was listening to what he had to say, because at the time, no one was entirely sure about how Scott was going to proceed,” says a source familiar with Bush’s remarks. “He said that rejecting the Obamacare expansion was good policy, and told them to come up with some conservative alternatives.”

… “He was there to talk about education, but when he was asked about Medicaid, it was clear where he stood,” says a second source. “He’s a policy guy, and much of what he said was about that. He thinks Republicans should counter” with other proposals.

Sources close to Bush don’t expect the popular former governor to rally against Scott in the coming weeks, since he usually avoids becoming involved in partisan debates or intra-party battles. 

Relations between Bush and Scott are, according to sources, cordial but chilly. When Bush was at the state capitol, he did not meet with Scott. According to the Associated Press, “Bush’s staff offered six different times for a possible meeting,” but the governor’s staff told Bush’s advisers that the governor was unavailable.

TWEET, TWEET: @fgonzalez1978: Why would @FLGovScott not take a meeting with @JebBush when he was in Tally?

CRIST TO MAKE DEBUT SPEECH AS DEM AT MANATEE CO. DEMOCRATS’ ANNUAL DINNER via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald Tribune

Charlie Crist will make his first major speech as a registered Democrat before a Sarasota-Manatee audience in Lakewood Ranch in March.

Crist will be the keynote speaker at the Manatee County Democrat’s annual awards dinner and dance on March 15 at the Fete Ballroom of the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch.

Manatee Democratic Party chairwoman Patty Benson said Crist has a history of working across the aisle and Democrats are eager to hear from him.

“Charlie cares about kids, he cares about education and about less fortunate Floridians,” Benson said in announcing his appearance.

DOCUMENTS SPARK QUESTIONS ABOUT CRIST’S CHOICE OF LEMIEUX by Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

George LeMieux somehow persuaded Gov. Charlie Crist’s chief of staff during a late-night meeting that he deserved an interview to be considered for the U.S. Senate post to which he was ultimately appointed, according to newly unearthed documents.

However, the documents show that chief of staff repeatedly said he did not recall what LeMieux said during that 1 a.m. meeting at a burger joint – and leaving a big mystery from Crist’s four-year term unanswered: Why did he choose a man whom he had previously dismissed as lacking the credentials for such high office?

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, were part of a civil case involving former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer. They contain a deposition given by former Crist chief of staff Eric Eikenberg, who held the late-night meeting with LeMieux.

LeMieux, who worked beside Crist as his campaign manager and as his chief of staff, has maintained he was merely advocating why he deserved a shot at the job.

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GAETZ DOESN’T LIKE IDEA OF $10,000 CONTRIBUTION LIMIT by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Gaetz said Thursday he isn’t sold on a campaign-finance reform rocketing through the Florida House that would raise contribution limits for candidates to $10,000 in exchange for quicker disclosure of those donations online.

Both the House and Senate are likely to take up campaign-finance reforms in the upcoming spring session, although they are apart on several key issues — including whether to dramatically raise how much cash political candidates can raise from a single donor.

House Speaker Will Weatherford has made campaign-finance reform one of his top goals for the session. The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed its bill, HB 569, which would eliminate the stealthy funds called Committees of Continuous Existence, in addition to lifting the  campaign-contribution limits from $500 to $10,000. The trade-off would be requiring those dollars be disclosed far more quickly – in weeks or days, instead of months.

But Gaetz said in an interview Thursday that he didn’t see the same linkage between disclosure and higher limits, and agreed with criticism of the idea stemming from the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and Democrats.

“I think it empowers very wealthy contributors in a disproportionate way,” Gaetz said.

MORE GAETZ: SCOTT’S SPENDING PLAN COMES UP $500 MILLION SHORT by Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union

Gaetz says Gov. Rick Scott’s budget math just doesn’t work.

…“To give the governor what he wants, in most cases, we are still a half-billion shy,” said Gaetz during a Wednesday interview.

Gaetz says that the governor’s office has predicted revenue will continue to increase, an assumption he is not willing to make.

“I can only spend money that is there or I know is going to be there,” he said.

The number was reached by taking the state’s baseline budget, and placing in the governor’s priorities and some of the priorities Gaetz wants to fund. Gaetz said that his office’s assumptions don’t fully fund Scott’s top priorities, which include $480 million for teacher pay raises and a $141 million tax break for manufacturers.

LEGG, BRANDES, LATVALA, SIMPSON PROPOSE BILL TO REFINE OR REPEAL NUKES LAW via the Buzz blog

Barraged by a storm of bad press over the crippled Crystal River nuclear power plant, four Tampa-based state senators announced Thursday they will file legislation next week to require utility companies to surrender the profit they’ve collected from a nuclear cost recovery law if they abandon plans to build the nuclear plants.

“Times have changed,” said Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, the sponsor of the bill, noting that natural gas prices are a third of what they were when the  law was first enacted in 2006. “The time is now to evaluate the role of nuclear cost recovery.”

The bill would require a utility company to return profits to taxpayers from the 2006 Nuclear Cost Recovery Act if it decides not to complete construction of a project. The bill will also sunset the act, estimated at two or three years, unless one of the companies has begun construction.

But the measure stops short of outright repeal of the act that opponents say has effectively transferred the risk of building the costly nuclear power plants from the company’s shareholders to taxpayers.

>>>INSTANT ANALYSIS: “It was an interesting presser. … I liked the calm, professional tone that these senators set … The two most important takeaways were: 1. Encouraging to hear all 4 Senators clearly affirm their agreement that it’s important to retain nuclear energy as part of our future energy mix here in Florida; and 2. These senators raised concerns but did it in a way that set a new … one that was devoid of the hyperbole (and misinformation) that had been promoted by the anti-nuclear activists during the last several months. … During the course of the debate on these topics, hopefully there will be a continuation of this new trend of civility that focuses more on the facts, less on anti-nuclear rants… and gives greater recognition to the benefits we Floridians have had from 5 decades of zero-emission nuclear energy … cleaner air and lower electric bills.  Should be a healthy discussion.”

PAIR OF BILLS OVERHAULING CAMPAIGNS AND ELECTIONS PASSES KEY COMMITTEE via Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

A pair of bills overhauling campaigns and the elections that followed them passed through a key House committee Thursday, with a party-line vote for one and unanimous support for the other.

The sharpest clashes at the House Appropriations Committee came over a measure (HB 569) that would abolish “committees of continuous existence,” or CCEs — outside groups often tied to legislators that are at least nominally independent of campaigns. Those groups are responsible for sometimes fierce attack ads, and many have been used to move money around to where it is almost untraceable.

In return, the bill would raise the limit on individual contributions to a candidate from $500 per person to $10,000 per person.

Supporters of the bill say it will increase transparency in the process by giving candidates greater control over their message and making them accountable for campaign spending.

“We’ll see who is giving to what so that we know whose message this is,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley.

But Democrats hammered the change as something that would not solve the issue of money sloshing around in the electoral process.

>>>Rep. Alan Williams: I am pleased that the House moved a step closer, and in bipartisan fashion, toward improving Floridians’ ability to exercise their right to vote. I am particularly pleased to be the sponsor of a successfully approved amendment to House Bill 7013 to expand early voting hours in Florida.

NE FLA DELEGATION BACKING EVERBANK IMPROVEMENT TAX REBATE

The legislative delegation for northeast Florida announced it is backing legislation that would provide a state sales tax rebate to pay for improvements at Everbank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Gator Bowl, among other events.

The Senate version of the legislation (SB 922), sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. The House bill (HB 721) sponsored by Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, is in House Finance and Tax. “As a Clay County resident who attends every Jaguars home game and the Florida-Georgia game, the regional importance of this facility can’t be overstated,” Bradley said in a statement Thursday. “I have made it a priority to help ensure the long-term viability of the First Coast as a nationally recognized sports and entertainment region.”

OPTOMETRIST APPLAUD PASSAGE OF GARRETT RICHTER BILL EXPANDING ACCESS TO PRIMARY EYE CARE

The Florida Optometric Association (FOA) today applauds the Senate Health Policy Committee for passing Senate Bill 278, sponsored by Senator Garrett Richter, to allow for greater access to primary eye care for patients and a significant reduction in costs to both the patients and the state. Senate Bill 278 would align Florida with 47 other states in the nation that have already allowed optometrists to prescribe approved oral medications for the treatment of eye diseases and conditions, and would do so without compromising patient safety or quality of care. 

“We are very thankful to the members of the Senate Health Policy Committee for their support of this good bill today,” said Dr. Ken Lawson, FOA legislative chair. “We are also very grateful for Senator Richter’s efforts in leading the charge to allow Florida optometrists to prescribe approved oral medications, which 47 other states already do. We are hopeful that, with the legislature’s continued support, we will be able to better care for our patients by prescribing the medication they need, in the form that they need it, to prevent unnecessary complications and secondary visits to another practitioner or the emergency room.” 

“I appreciate my fellow Senators realizing how necessary this bill is to reduce the cost of primary eye care across Florida,” said Senator Richter. “A recent study of Florida Medicaid claims found that allowing optometrists to prescribe the necessary medications in pill form to treat eye conditions would have saved the state $70 million in 2010 alone. Patients will no longer have to incur the costs of multiple physician visits, or emergency visits, just to get the medication that their optometrist should have been able to prescribe in the first place. This good bill would streamline the delivery of proper care to a patient, while providing for frameworks of safety, by prohibiting optometrists from prescribing Schedule 1 and 2 controlled substances, and primarily, by only allowing for the prescription of medications that are solely and directly related to the treatment of eye diseases – nothing more.”

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WEATHERFORD GETS ACU NOD, CPAC SPEAKING SLOT by William March of the Tampa Tribune

Weatherford has been recognized by the American Conservative Union as one of nine young “rising elected leaders” nationwide who will have speaking slots at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March.

The ACU calls its CPAC event “America’s largest gathering of conservative leaders and activists,” and speaking slots there often serve as auditions for political advancement.

Weatherford was chosen along with eight other state legislators from around the nation who will appear at the same podium as top speakers including former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio at the Washington event.

TWEET, TWEET: @JordanRaynor: @willweatherford’s pre-Speakership star seems to be on-par with that of Rubio’s years ago.

TWEET, TWEET: @rumpfshaker: .@WillWeatherford raises national profile as distance grows between Gov. Scott & grassroots

WHO WANTS TO PERFORM THE LEGISLATURE’S GAMING STUDY by Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

The Florida Senate and House of Representatives released a joint “invitation to negotiate,” asking qualified vendors willing to perform a two-part study detailing gaming market information to bid.

Sen. Garrett Richter said in the announcemet, “The study will be used by the Florida Legislature to better understand the economic, fiscal, and social impacts of possible changes in Florida’s gaming environment.”

The “Invitation to Negotiate” is published on the committee’s website.

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APPOINTED: Heidi Roeck-Simmons, Tammy McKenzie and James Spafford, and the reappointment of Carol M. Watson to the Board of Occupational Therapy Practice.

APPOINTED: Christina Pettie, William “Sandy” Quillen and Kay H. Tasso to the Board of Physical Therapy Practice.

4TH FLOOR FILES talks to Keyna Cory about her godson, her St. John dress and Jackie O. Here’s the file on Keyna.

GEO GROUP BUYS NAMING RIGHTS AT FAU’S NEW FOOTBALL STADIUM

EO Group is the mom-and-pop shop with reported revenues in excess of $1.6 billion in 2011 — income generated mostly from state and federal prisons and detention centers for illegal immigrants.

“ ‘It’s startling to see a stadium will be named after them,’ one critic said. ‘It’s like calling something Blackwater Stadium. This is a company whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents that really draw into question their ability to successfully manage a prison facility.’”

QUORUM — TAMPA BAY’S NOT-TOO-POLITICAL HAPPY HOUR — SET FOR TONIGHT; REP. JAMIE GRANT IS SPECIAL GUEST 

You’re invited to Quorum — Tampa Bay’s not-too-political happy hour — beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday at Cassis American Brasserie (170 Beach Drive Northeast, St. Petersburg). Enjoy a cocktail in a bipartisan environment. Rep. Jamie Grant is the special guest with other local politicos, including Senator Jeff Brandes, Representative Kathleen Peters and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker also RSVP’ing. The event is hosted by Peter Schorsch, Michelle Todd, Steve Cona and Alan Suskey and is sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

***The Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute is a non-partisan leadership development program that asks participants to explore the possibility of public leadership in the future (without requiring a commitment to run for office) and learn now about the political process, leadership and public policy, while networking with leaders.  Applications for the next class will soon be accepted. Click here for more information.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY this weekend to St. Petersburg attorney and great friend, Amanda Taylor. Also best wishes to longtime friend Joel Silver (he and I go back to our SGA days at FSU.) On Sunday, both lobbyist Matt Farrar and Rep. Carl Zimmermann are celebrating.

LOOKING FOR LOVE AT WAL-MART: A scholarly study by Dorothy Gambrell of the “missed connections” section of Craigslist shows that more Floridians spy love at Wal-Mart than anywhere else. 

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.