Sunburn for 2/25 — 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.

THE WEEK AHEAD

For the most part it’s a quiet week ahead of the beginning of the full legislative session, which comes a week from Tuesday. 

There is just one legislative committee meeting this week, a meeting of the House’s Select Committee on the federal health care, which meets for a couple hours Thursday afternoon to talk about the effect of the law on the state employee group plan and on insurance regulation. 

The News Service of Florida has a full listing of the week’s events here.

PROGRAMMING NOTE

By the time you read this, the family and I will be somewhere in the Bahamas working on our sun tans. Hopefully, there won’t be any sun burns. There definitely won’t be any Sunburn for the next couple of days while we are on vacation, although SaintPetersBlog.com will be updated by guest writers.

OBAMA OPEN TO SHORT TERM SEQUESTER DEAL

The White House said President Obama supports $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue for a sequester replacement bill, Roll Call reports.

He is also open to a bill that would avert the sequester for as little as two months.

PRESIDENT WRONG ABOUT HOW SEQUESTER CAME ABOUT by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post

The finger-pointing began during the third presidential debate last fall, … when President Obama blamed Congress. ‘The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,’ Obama said. ‘It is something that Congress has proposed.’ The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later. ‘There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,’ Lew said while campaigning in Florida. … The president and Lew had this wrong. My extensive reporting for my book ‘The Price of Politics’ shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors – probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.

Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid … They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved. Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid. A mandatory sequester was the only action-forcing mechanism they could devise. … A majority of Republicans did vote for the Budget Control Act that summer, which included the sequester. Key Republican staffers said they didn’t even initially know what a sequester was – because the concept stemmed from the budget wars of the 1980s, when they were not in government.

HOW THE SEQUESTER COULD IMPACT FLORIDA

Daily News: 3 Southwest Florida airports could lose funding, face closure under sequestration

The Naples Municipal Airport is among 100 U.S. airports and three in Southwest Florida facing closure of its air traffic control tower should the federal government continue with sequestration in the coming weeks.

Herald: South Florida hospitals could lose $368 million from sequestration

The Florida Hospital Association, using data from the American Hospital Association, estimates that over the next decade, sequestration would cause Miami-Dade hospitals to lose $223.9 million and Broward facilities $144.4 million under the Congress-mandated budget cuts that hit virtually all federal programs unless Republicans and Democrats can work out a compromise.

“(B)udget uncertainty” could result in a $204 million “economic loss” and could affect 3,887 jobs, including possibly hundreds of local jobs. The report specifically mentions two local companies, Globe Trailer and Lockheed Martin, as “Florida-Army Industry partners” that may well feel the impact.

More than 100 small air traffic control towers would be closed, 60 other towers may eliminate overnight shifts, and staffing at airports across the country would be cut back, delaying flights up to 90 minutes at peak times

Times: Tampa Bay airports brace for threat of budget cuts

“If sequestration hits and you’re planning on flying out of Tampa International Airport to a major city like New York or Chicago,” said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink, “you should expect that your flight will be delayed.”

WHO WILL WIN THE SEQUESTER SHOWDOWN?

Michael Scherer: “Talking to Republicans and Democrats drafting strategy, there is a clear difference in morale. Republicans are fighting a battle they never wanted to be fighting, with little momentum, a smaller soap box and the most fragile unity within their own caucus. Obama and the Democrats, by contrast, feel ascendent, buttressed by high polls and a recent ballot box win, and are ready to mark what they will believe to be the next body blow to the Republican no-new-taxes-ever vision of shrink-the-beast governing. That said, nothing is certain, and eventually, whether it be four days, four months, or a couple years from now, someone will have to blink. Anyone still could.”

Andrew Sullivan: “For myself, I simply cannot see how a political party that has branded itself in favor of drastic spending cuts can somehow win a public debate in which they are now apparently opposing drastic spending cuts, and ‘blaming’ them on Obama.”

CUBA’S RAUL CASTRO RAISES POSSIBILITY OF RETIRING via the Associated Press

Cuban President Raul Castro has unexpectedly raised the possibility of leaving his post, saying Friday that he is old and has a right to retire. But he did not say when he might do so or if such a move was imminent.

The Cuban leader is scheduled to be named by parliament to a new five-year term Sunday, and Castro urged reporters to listen to his speech that day.

“I am going to resign,” Castro said at a joint appearance with visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an enigmatic smile on his face. It was not clear whether he was joking.

“I am going to be 82 years old,” Castro added. “I have the right to retire, don’t you think?”

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GOVERNOR VS. LEGISLATURE SURE TO CAUSE SPARKS by Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union

With approval ratings in the mid-30s, Scott needs to shepherd the issues that will frame his re-election bid through the often reluctant Legislature.

Many of the biggest ideas he has floated so far — more than $700 million for public employees and expanding the state’s Medicaid rolls under the health care law — have received less-than-resounding support from legislative leaders, who will have their own priorities.

An inherent part of this year’s session will be how the GOP-dominated Legislature balances its priorities versus making sure a Republican governor gets enough legislative victories to build a strong campaign.

HENDERSON COLUMN: WHO IS THIS MAN IN THE GOVERNOR’S MANSION?

It’s a fascinating turn of events for a governor who is looking more liberal by the day. One thing can’t be denied, though. If it comes down to attack ads, the old Rick Scott would have a field day with the new Rick Scott, but how would Democrats approach that? I mean, these days he is doing what they want him to do. Can they rip him for that?

There is no other way to put this: The world has gone mad, and Rick Scott has some explaining to do.

***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****
 
EARLY LOOK AT WHERE THE FUR WILL FLY IN 2014 via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News
 
CD2: Democrats have reasons to lick their chops at the prospect of knocking off Steve Southerland. They have a strong advantage in this Big Bend district and have a 21 percent registration edge over the Republicans.
 
CD13: Every two years the Democrats think they can knock off U.S. Rep. Bill Young, the old-man energizer-bunny of a Republican who has been representing Florida in Congress since winning election in 1970. Every two years, Democrats have high hopes for the likes of Charlie Justice and Jessica Ehlrich and every time out, Young dashes them.
 
CD18: Patrick Murphy is already fundraising for 2014 and national Republicans are already listing him as one of their top targets. But Murphy has learned a bit from West. Unlike the incumbent he defeated, he is already running to the center, playing up his bipartisan credentials. He’s clearly not going to drift off to the left, which would only invite doom in this district. 

CD 26: Almost as soon as (Joe) Garcia was sworn in, Republicans started lining up to challenge the freshman Democrat, and with good reason. It wasn’t just Garcia’s well-known personality challenges, either. While the district is starting to become more Democratic, Republicans still hold a registration advantage.

US HOUSE TRANSPORTATION CHAIRMAN IN MANATEE CO. AND SARASOTA ON FRIDAY via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald Tribune

The chairman of the U.S. House Transportation is set to hold court in Manatee County on Friday.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster is scheduled to attend a luncheon with the Manatee and Sarasota Chambers of Commerce. Shuster, guest of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is scheduled to address the group between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Polo Grill & Bar/Fete Catering & Ballroom, 10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch.

At 2 p.m., Shuster and Buchanan hold a townhall meeting with area residents at the Dan McClure Auditorium, 5900 Airport Auditorium Lane, Sarasota. 

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DJJ REVIEW FINDS SOME MISTAKES IN DRUG PRACTICES via the News Service of Florida

A review of the Department of Juvenile Justice’s practices in giving psychotropic medications to children found some mistakes and errors, but also found little or no evidence for more serious allegations.

The report, from the department’s inspector general’s office, was triggered by a series of articles in the Palm Beach Post about the department’s use of the drugs. Investigators said they couldn’t judge accusations that the agency used the drugs to restrain children because the doctor who made that charge to the Post either wouldn’t or couldn’t identify specific cases. The agency also found allegations of over-prescribing the medicines “inconclusive” and said an employee who had falsified records to cover up a mistake was fired after an administrative review. However, the investigation did find that a contractor failed to run a background check on a doctor who shouldn’t have been allowed to work at DJJ facilities; that records of parental consent for using the drugs didn’t exist or weren’t in order; and that employees sometimes made mistakes in administering drugs to the children.

“While each incident is a significant concern, the incidence of medication error appeared to be negligible when compared with the total volume of medication dispensed throughout DJJ,” the report said.

DJJ said it has tightened up its medication procedures and policies.

“I commend the department’s OIG staff for their thorough review and thank the DJJ Office of Health Services for their recommendations,” said DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters in a press release. “I am now more confident than ever that we have the right policies and procedures in place to assure the health and safety of the youth in our care.”

FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT BUILDS PLANT THAT ACTUALLY WORKS by Ivan Penn of the Tampa Bay Times

The hulking hunk of steel that towers over U.S. 1, across the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center, stands as a monument to one utility’s success — and another’s failure. Come June 1, Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest power company, plans to flip the switch on the state’s newest natural gas plant. The 1,250-megawatt power generator took just over two years to build and will cost FPL customers $970 million. That’s about $130 million under budget. Duke Energy customers could only wish to be so lucky.

For the $3.1 billion Duke wasted on the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and the proposed Levy County nuclear plant that may never get built, the utility could have constructed three natural gas plants with more power than both of the reactor projects combined. And Duke would still have had almost $200 million left over to buy fuel for the gas units.

HEALTH CHOICES SIGNS UP PLANS

Moving toward offering coverage this spring, the Florida Health Choices program on Friday announced the first insurance companies that plan to take part in the online marketplace catering to small businesses. Florida Blue — which was known in the past as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida — and an affiliated firm, Florida Health Care Plans, will sell various types of insurance coverage, according to a news release. Florida Health Care Plans will sell coverage in Volusia and Flagler counties.

“Vendor commitments are a significant milestone, and we are pleased that these quality providers are ready to join,” said former state Sen. Durell Peaden, who is chairman of the Florida Health Choices board. Argus Dental Plan and Liberty Dental Plan also are slated to take part in the program.

Lawmakers in 2008 approved the creation of Florida Health Choices to serve as an online site for people to shop for health coverage, but it has been slow to begin operating.

HOME SALES START STRONG IN 2013

Florida’s housing market reported increased sales, higher median prices, more pending sales and the continued shrinking of inventory levels in January, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors. “This year started out strong for Florida’s housing market,” said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher. “Homes sales continue to rise, mortgage rates remain near historic lows and the inventory of for-sale homes is lower than it’s been in years.”

WORKFORCE FLORIDA’S CHRIS HART TO STEP DOWN

Hart will step down June 30 from his position at the agency tasked with helping train Florida’s workforce to respond to the needs of business.

Hart, who plans to return to the private sector, will remain on board throughout the 2013 legislative session and the organization’s budget approval meeting in May. “My top priority remains ensuring we continue to respond to the marketplace needs of today and tomorrow and, in doing so, remove any barriers to our continued success,”

Hart, a former lawmaker, said in a letter to board members. The agency will conduct a national search for a new president/CEO. “Chris has been and continues to be an outstanding leader of Florida’s statewide workforce investment board and he will be greatly missed,” Workforce Chairman Dwayne Ingram said in a statement.

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. With more than 45 years of combined legislative and regulatory knowledge and experience, Corcoran & Johnston’s ability to navigate through the processes and politics of government and deliver for their clients is unmatched.***

LOBBYIST REFORMS PIT CLOUT VS. GOOD INTENTIONS by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

This week, the Senate amended its sweeping ethics reform bill (SB 2) to allow current lawmakers who plan to leave in 2014 to go ahead and register as executive lobbyists. For all those elected going forward, the bill would ban them from lobbying either the executive or legislative branch for two years after leaving office.

Think of it as the clout culture overcoming good intentions.

…The change does potentially afford a nice parachute for others.

Lobbying is a money-tree for the strategic thinkers, good ole’ boys and street-savvy characters feeding off anyone who wants some say in remote Tallahassee. And there’s a high premium on term-limited lawmakers who have some pull with their former co-workers.

POLITICAL DONOR TO DON GAETZ AND JOE NEGRON ARRESTED FOR ENGINEERING ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTIONS

The arrest of Marc Cereceda, a politically active chiropractor and pain clinic owner in Hialeah, for engineering illegal campaign contributions to candidates across the state, including Senators Don Gaetz and Joe Negron, is spooking elected officials throughout Florida.

Along with his brother, Cereceda was charged with a felony and one misdemeanor relating to illegal contributions. Charges also were brought against Mark Cereceda’s clinic, Florida Wellness & Rehabilitation Center, which specializes in treating traffic accident victims.

Investigators believe Cereceda got his more than 30 employees to contribute more than $25,000 to candidates between 2010 and 2012, according to an arrest warrant. “Most, if not all, of the employees did not have any knowledge of who the candidates were that they contributed to,” according to the arrest warrant by Miami-Dade Detective Joaquin Garcia and State Attorney investigator Bob Fielder.

In addition to Gaetz and Negron, Republican State Representatives Katie Edwards, Eddy Gonzalez, and Carlos Trujillo also received donations from Cereceda.

Investigators do not believe any of the candidates knew of the illegal contributions.

The Cerecedas secured the “straw donors” as an “ongoing practice and pattern of concealing the sources of illegal campaign monies,” according to the warrant signed off on by public corruption prosecutor Tim VanderGiesen.

The Miami Herald‘s David Ovalle has more on why investigators first targeted Cereceda here.

STAT OF THE DAY: The median compensation for a Florida lobbyist in 2011 was 84,998; in 2012, that figured jumped to $105,000.

ORLANDO SENTINEL‘S CHAMP OF THE WEEK: REP. DARRYL ROUSON

Talk about second acts in life. Rouson was homeless and drug-addicted at one point in his life, and only about a dozen years ago. But look at him now. The St. Petersburg Democrat was elected this week to lead his party in the Florida House. The post admittedly isn’t all that powerful, considering the Dems’ membership is a distant second to the GOP. But Republicans and Democrats alike should appreciate Rouson’s inspiring story of rising above poverty and addiction to become a lawyer, a prosecutor, head of the local NAACP and now his party’s leader in the state House.

TRIBUNE EDITORIAL: DANA YOUNG’S REFRESHING WATER BILL

A refreshingly sensible water bill in the state Legislature would make it easier for utilities to invest in drinking water sources other than our imperiled groundwater supplies.

Tampa Rep. Dana Young sponsored an identical measure last year that passed unanimously in the House, but its companion bill stalled in the Senate.

This year both chambers should adopt her measure, which allows utilities to receive longer permits for the production of alternative water sources, such as desalination. Under current law, the standard permit lasts 20 years. The restriction can drive up bonds rates and the costs of financing construction, and thus discourage utilities from making the long-term investment.

Young’s bill would allow permits for alternative water supplies to be issued for 30 years and up to 37 years, depending upon when the bonds are issued for construction.

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APPOINTED: Tristan “Tris” Chapman and the reappointment of Julia Perry to the Edison State College District Board of Trustees; David Warriner to the Gulf Coast State College District Board of Trustees; Robert Champion and Patrick Hogan to the Florida Prepaid College Board; Michael Olenick to the Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees.

FUNDRAISER ON TUESDAY FOR SENATOR JEFF BRANDES AT THE VERY COOL OXFORD EXCHANGE

Get your checkbooks ready, PAC chairs and Tampa Bay uber-lobbyists, for a fundraiser for Senator Jeff Brandes on Tuesday. 

Perhaps the best part of this fundraiser — beyond catching up with Tallahassee-bound Brandes — is that the event will be held at the swanky Oxford Exchange. The reception will begin at 6:00 p.m.

For more information, contact Gretchen Picotte at GP@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com. 

MIKE HARIDOPOLIS IS NOW A LOBBYIST via the Orlando Sentinel

Former Senate President Mike Haridopolos is now lobbying for a rail company called Railex LLC that has ties to rail giant CSX. He’s also gone to work for a gambling company.

Haridopolos registered as an executive branch lobbyist for Railex effective January 16. He is also working for Stronach Group, the parent company of Hallandale Beach-based racino Gulfstream Park as an executive vice president. He is not listed as a lobbyist for them, however.

… Stronach group fared well in the last session where Haridopolos and Cannon presided. The company proposed building a slaughterhouse in Marion County and were given a tax break worth $1.2 million per year.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersblog: If I am @MikeHaridopolos, I name my new lobbying firm, Haridopolobbyist, LLC. #sayfie

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Republic Services of Florida, Limited Partnership

Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: Resorts World Miami

Colleen Castille: Terra Cotta Realty 

Lisa Miller: River City Science Academy

Corinne Mixon: Florida Mental Health Counselors Association; Florida State Oriental Medical Association

Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Broward Co. Sheriff’s Office

TRIMMEL GOMES, PETER DOWLING TO SACHS MEDIA GROUP

Sachs Media announced on Friday the addition of 11-year Florida television and radio newsman Trimmel Gomes, the award-winning statewide news director of Florida Public Radio; and strengthens its digital media and public affairs expertise with Peter Dowling, a former Marine counter-terrorism team leader who most recently has been a writer and editor within a key unit of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington. 

“Sachs Media is adding additional muscle and expertise to the strongest professional team in our industry anywhere in Florida,” said founder and CEO Ron Sachs. “The addition of Trimmel Gomes and Peter Dowling boosts that capability as we ramp up to a more dominant position in the ever-changing space of modern media.”

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Senator Darren Soto and Representative Carlos Trujillo.

SPOTTED at Quorum — Tampa Bay’s not-too-political happy hour — Reps. James Grant and Kathleen Peters, former Mayor Rick Baker, consultant Buzz Jacobs, lobbyists Susan Glickman, Todd Josko, and Jen Lux. And 10 News Mike Deeson, reporter/stalker at large!

THANKS FOR THE FOLLOWS: Jason Harrell, @Jason_Harrell; John Lockwood, @theJohnLockwood. 

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.