Sunburn for 2/8 — 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.

FIRST FORECASTS SAYS ITS UNLIKELY REPUBLICANS WILL LOSE HOUSE IN 2014 via Alan Abramowitz 

The results of the midterm forecasting model indicate that while Democrats have a real chance to buck the normal pattern of midterm elections and gain seats in the House of Representatives, they are unlikely to pick up the 17 seats that they would need to regain control of the chamber. That outcome would require a wave election like 2006 or 2010. But the 2014 midterm election is unlikely to be a wave election. It is much more likely to be a status quo election for the House of Representatives with one party or the other making a small gain and Republicans holding onto their majority.

Barring the emergence of a major national issue that results in a substantial advantage for one party or the other on the generic ballot, the seat swing in the 2014 House elections is likely to be fairly small. Nevertheless, the pattern of out-party gains in midterm elections is strong enough that, like Newt Gingrich in 1998, John Boehner may find his speakership in jeopardy if Democrats make even modest gains in the House elections.

MARCO RUBIO ON THE COVER OF ‘TIME MAGAZINE’

Rubio is on the cover of the latest Time, cast as “The Republican Savior.” To which he tweeted this morning: “There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus.”

The story begins compellingly with a phone call Rubio gets from his mother, Oriales, a Cuban immigrant. 

“That’s why on the morning of Dec. 21, she called her youngest son, Marco Antonio Rubio, the 41-year-old Senator from Florida and great Hispanic hope of the Republican Party—or, as she calls him, Tony. She got his voice mail. ‘Tony, some loving advice from the person who cares for you most in the world,’ she said in Spanish. ‘Don’t mess with the immigrants, my son. Please, don’t mess with them.’ She reminded him that undocumented Americans—los pobrecitos, she called them, the poor things—work hard and get treated horribly. ‘They’re human beings just like us, and they came for the same reasons we came. To work. To improve their lives. So please, don’t mess with them.’ “

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’ve always viewed politics the following way: if you do a good job at the job you’re doing, you’ll have opportunities to do other things in the future. Maybe things you never envisioned.” — Marco Rubio.

JEB BUSH CAMPED OUT IN CALI FOR SERIES OF SPEECHES via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Bush is camped out in the San Francisco Bay area this week for a series of speeches, including one tonight in Marin.

“An articulate student of policy, Bush dissects the current political climate by offering fresh insights on the hot-button issues in the news,” reads a promo.

We asked Bush spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof if he’ll delve into immigration (Bush has a book coming out next month). She said the speech touches on “leadership, restoring America’s promise and the need for reform. It’s not an immigration speech, but immigration reform is one of the reforms he talks about along with education reform, regulatory reform to restore the right to rise and end the practice of government picking winners and losers.”

SABATO’S CRYSTAL BALL: PATRICK MURPHY MOST VULNERABLE DEMOCRAT IN 2014

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the product of University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato, is giving an early season assessment of the 2014 congressional map forecasts that the current national mode could result in modest gains for Democrats.

Modest meaning the GOP should retain its majority in the House.

In the report, when it comes to the most vulnerable Democrat, Sabato expects the eyes of the national Republican National Committee to remain on freshman U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

“Murphy’s victory over Tea Party-favorite Allen West still seems remarkable, given that Mitt Romney actually won the district,” the Crystal Ball report states.

“That speaks to West’s immense liabilities; a different Republican could make Murphy a one-termer given that he too has his own liabilities.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Ron Sachs Communication. Ron Sachs Communications provides its clients with a competitive advantage built on strategic relationships, dynamic creativity and smart and aggressive communications strategies that generate superior results. If you want to win, you’ll want to have Ron Sachs Communications on your side. www.RonSachs.com***

BALLARD SAYS CRIST KNEW ABOUT GREER’S FUNDRAISING PAYMENTS via the Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s attorney general today released a deposition that contradicts a sworn statement by former Gov. Charlie Crist, who said that he did not know that then-Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer would be paid extra to raise funds for the party.

That disclosure comes four days before Greer stands trial in Orlando, charged with six crimes: fraud, money laundering and four counts of grand theft. He’s accused of funneling $125,000 in state party funds into his personal bank account.

During the lunch hour Florida’s attorney general’s released the deposition of powerful Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard, a confidante of Crist and one of the major fund-raisers in Crist’s 2006 campaign for governor.

When Ballard was questioned under oath nearly two years ago, he told Greer’s attorney that he and Crist discussed revamping how the party did fund-raising and that the change would involve paying Greer extra.

“So, it was clear then in his conversation with you that he was quite aware of and approved of an arrangement for fund-raising wherein Greer … would be compensated?” asked attorney Don Lykkebak.

“That was my understanding,” said Ballard.

 

SCOTT DUCKS $100 MILLION QUESTION by William March of the Tampa Tribune

Asked Thursday about reports that he plans to spend up to $100 million on his re-election campaign, Gov. Scott declined to give a direct answer.

Scott didn’t confirm or deny—in fact, wouldn’t even comment on—a report from the Politico web site that his political team is planning a campaign that could cost up to $100 million, and would seek to include the kind of intensive, technology-driven voter contact and turnout machine pioneered by President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.

“Well, here’s what i’m focused on every day. I’m focussed on every day making sure this is the number one state for job creation, the number one state for education. That’s why as you know my two top priorities in this budget this year are, one, get rid of the sales tax on machinery so we’ll have more manufacturing jobs, and two, make sure that all of our classroom teachers get a $2,500 pay raise.”

DAY AFTER HIS COMPANY DECLARES B-RUPTCY, FLORIDA GOP CHAIR NOT REAPPOINTED TO BOARD OF EDUCATION

A day after his Universal Health Care Group declared bankruptcy, Florida GOP finance chair Akshay “AK” Desai was replaces on the State Board of Education by Governor Rick Scott.

Scott on Thursday reappointed John Padget of Key West to the Florida Board of Education and named two newcomers to the board. Dr. Ada G. Armas of Coral Gables replaces Roberto Martinez, who was not eligible to serve another term. John Colon of University Park, a senior vice president with Wells Fargo Advisors, replaces Desai.

Desai’s term was not due to expire until 2014.

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APPOINTED: Dr. Ada G. Armas and John A. Colon, and  John R. Padget (reappointed) to the State Board of Education.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference to highlight investments supporting individuals with disabilities at the Association for the Development of the Exceptional (ADE). 9:30 a.m.

MORE ASSIGNMENTS: Tomorrow afternoon local organizations, including Organize Now and the Pink Slip Rick group Florida Watch Action, will reveal what they describe as “the latest statistic behind Rick Scott’s anti-middle class agenda” during the Tiger Bay Club luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport where the governor is expected to speak. 1:30 p.m.

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BILL WOULD EXPAND, REGULATE CHARTER SCHOOLS

A House committee has approved a bill which would put rules in place for opening a charter school and warding off troubled charters. The bill allows charter schools to use empty school district facilities. Charter schools would have to pay for maintenance, or reimburse the district for maintenance.

HOUSE PANEL VOTES TO EXPAND DRUG-PRESCRIBING POWER OF OPTOMETRISTS by Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

The House Health Quality Subcommittee voted 10-3 to expand the optometrists’ powers, giving them an initial victory in a battle that will play out during the upcoming legislative session. 

… Bill sponsor Matt Caldwell said optometrists are not currently allowed to practice to the full extent of their training. He also said optometrists are allowed to prescribe oral medications, to varying degrees, in 47 other states.

The bill (HB 239) is slated to go next to the House Health & Human Services Committee. A similar measure (SB 278) has been filed in the Senate but has not gone before a committee.

Under the House proposal, optometrists would be required to complete a course and an exam before they would be allowed to prescribe oral medications. The Florida Optometric Association and the Florida Medical Association — two foes on the prescribing issue — would jointly develop and administer the course and exam.

The Florida Optometric Association praised the House Subcommittee on Health Quality for passing House Bill 239.   

“We are thrilled that House Bill 239 is moving forward and that it gained wide support in today’s House Subcommittee on Health Quality,” said Dr. Ken Lawson, FOA Legislative Chair.  “On behalf of the FOA, I want to thank the members of the committee, as well as Representative Caldwell, for sponsoring and supporting this good bill.  We look forward to the bill’s next hearing, and as the legislation makes its way through the process, to serving as a resource for all lawmakers on this critical issue.” 

“I thank my fellow house members for recognizing the importance of ensuring all Floridians are able to access the appropriate level of eye care from an optometrist,” said Representative Caldwell.  “With this legislation moving forward, the outdated law prohibiting optometrists from prescribing oral medication for the treatment of the eye is on its way out, and our state will be in a position to deliver quality eye care to all Floridians.”

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4TH FLOOR FILES:  This installment of “4th Floor Files” features Cynthia Lorenzo of new firm Capitol Insight. Here’s the file on Cynthia.

ENERGY COMPANIES BUILD LOBBYING TEAMS by the News Service of Florida

Florida energy companies have started amassing large lobbying teams as they prepare for the upcoming legislative session. TECO Energy, Inc., has 14 registered lobbyists, while affiliated companies, Tampa Electric Co. and Peoples Gas System, Inc., each have 10, according to the state lobbyist registration website. Also, 10 lobbyists have registered to represent Florida Power & Light. Meanwhile, other types of companies, groups and agencies continue building significant lobbying teams. Among those reaching double digits as of Thursday morning were the Florida Sheriffs Association, with 15 registered lobbyists; the Naples-based hospital firm Health Management Associates, Inc., with 12; Miami-Dade County, with 11; and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, with 10.

PERSONNEL NOTE: DR. ED MOORE TO SERVE AS CHAIR OF NAICUSE

This week it was announced that current president of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF), Ed Moore, will serve as 2013 Chair of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities State Executives (NAICUSE). While continuing to advocate on behalf of ICUF, Dr. Moore’s new leadership role with the national association will give the state valuable perspective as he focuses on working with other states to support higher education students in Florida and across the nation. 

“I am truly honored to have this unique opportunity to serve as chair of NAICUSE,” said Dr. Moore. “It is a privilege to be the leader of an association which often serves as the united voice of independent higher education in the U.S. I look forward to continuing a nationwide conversation as we face higher education challenges together and collaborate with our state counterparts.” 

REALTORS SEEK TAX CUTS, AFFORDABLE HOMES, SMALLER INSURANCE POOL

A tax cut on commercial rents, a streamlined foreclosure process and anything that can be done to shrink the size of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. tops a list of legislative priorities for Florida Realtors going into the 2013 Legislative session, the statewide group announced. The organization says the state should streamline its judicial review process in most foreclosure cases. Florida, which leads the nation in foreclosure rates, has one of the longest foreclosure processes in the country, more than double the national average of 318 days. The group backs measures to reduce the time banks have to come after homeowners while also setting up a faster process for uncontested claims. The Realtors also called on lawmakers to repeal a 6-percent sales tax on tenant leases and fully fund the state’s affordable housing program, which has been the target of trust fund sweeps in recent years. “A stable and growing real estate market is crucial to getting our citizens back to work, revitalizing our communities and renewing the promise of Florida’s future,” said Florida Realtors President Dean Ashe in a statement.

REPUBLICAN STATE SENATORS RAISING BEADS AND MONEY AT GASPARILLA-THEMED PARTY

Beads, pirates and a group of GOP state senators will be on display this Saturday when Senate President Don Gaetz, Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner and several other Republican lawmakers take part in a Gasparilla-themed political fundraiser in Ybor City.

In addition to Sens. Gaetz and Gardiner, Senators Jack Latvala, Thad Altman, Jeff Brandes, Nancy Detert, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson are also listed on the fundraising invitation. Majority 2014 — the Republican Party of Florida’s campaign arm for state senate races — is the beneficiary. 

The event, to be held at a private location along the parade route, is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m in conjunction with the Sant’ Yago Knight Parade.  The parade features illuminated floats and takes place annually one Saturday evening in February and runs into the early morning hours. The event was founded in 1972 by The Krewe of the Knights of Sant’Yago which has hosted the event each year since.

The Sant’ Yago Knight Parade typically takes place a week or two after the main Gasparilla Parade of Pirates and is considered the more “adult-oriented” of the two parades. This begs the question: how far will a state senator go for a check … or a special set of beads?

SPACE INDUSTRY TO VISIT CAPITOL ON MARCH 6 FOR SPACE DAY

Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 6 to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program.

Former NASA astronaut Bob Crippen, pilot of the first orbital test flight of the Shuttle program and former NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Director, will be making appearances throughout the event. Space-related exhibits will be available on the third floor Rotunda of the Capitol.

“Florida is home to nearly 450 aerospace companies who employ 31,000 professionals,” said Don M. White Jr., chairman of Florida Space Day 2013. “This year’s event is critical, as the state’s space industry looks to expand and diversify across many exciting opportunities including non-traditional space related product lines.”

***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.***

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.