Sunburn for 3/1 — 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.

IF YOU READ ONE THING TODAY…

Read Steve Schale’s analysis — first in Sunburn — “Bush 00/04 vs. Obama 08/12…The Road Maps to Winning”

Since Florida truly became a swing state in 1992, you could generally argue that the GOP base vote was equal to or maybe a bit bigger than the Dem base vote in Presidential elections, particularly since the I-4 corridor tended to lean a little to the right.  

But this changed in the Obama coalitions.  Here is how:

In the two Bush wins, the Bush margin of victory in his four base markets:  Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Pensacola and Panama City was about 50% larger than the Democratic margin of victory in the the Miami media market in 2000 and 2004.  In the Obama elections, his Miami media market margin alone was bigger than the the entire GOP margin in their four base markets.  Add all the Democratic base markets (Miami, West Palm, Gainesville and Tallahassee), and we see that unlike the Bush wins, where the base markets were pretty much at parity, meaning that the I-4 markets decided the election, in the Obama wins, the Democratic base markets significantly outperformed the GOP base markets.

OBAMA URGES COURT TO OVERTURN GAY MARRIAGE BAN

In a historic argument for gay rights, President Barack Obama on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban and turn a skeptical eye on similar prohibitions across the country.

The Obama administration’s friend-of-the-court brief marked the first time a U.S. president has urged the high court to expand the right of gays and lesbians to wed. The filing unequivocally calls on the justices to strike down California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure, although it stops short of the soaring rhetoric on marriage equality Obama expressed in his inaugural address in January.

California is one of eight states that give gay couples all the benefits of marriage through civil unions or domestic partnership, but don’t allow them to wed. The brief argues that in granting same-sex couples those rights, California has already acknowledged that gay relationships bear the same hallmarks as straight ones.

“They establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death,” the administration wrote.

BOEHNER BYPASSES HASTERT RULE, ALLOWS PASSAGE OF VAWA ACT

After roughly a year and a half after its expiration, the Violence Against Women Act passed the House by 286-138 vote and will soon be reauthorized once it garners the president’s signature.

The House vote was significant, because, for the third time this year, on a significant piece of legislation, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) showed a willingness to bring a bill to the floor without abiding by unwritten, so-called Hastert Rule.

FRANKEL, MURPHY SAY CONGRESS SHOULD STAY IN SESSION UNTIL BUDGET DEAL IS REACHED via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Congress should stay in session through the weekend and for however long it takes to agree to a plan to replace the automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect Friday, a trio of South Florida Democratic freshmen said this afternoon.

U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Patrick Murphy, and Joe Garcia, held a conference call to promote their “No Fix, No Break” proposal and to reiterate Democratic demands that the looming cuts be replaced by a mixture of tax hikes and spending reductions.

Republicans say taxes shouldn’t be on the table after Congress approved a 10-year, $600 billion package of tax hikes on upper-income filers in January. GOP leaders say the automatic spending cuts, which are called “sequestration,” should be replaced with other, more targeted cuts.

DAN WEBSTER TARGETED BY ROBO-CALLS OVER SEQUESTER via Mark Matthews of the Orlando Sentinel

Proving that it’s never too early for campaign season (does it ever end?), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today is launching a series of robo-calls against Webster and 22 other House Republicans in an effort to convince voters that GOP lawmakers are at fault for looming federal budget cuts.

The DCCC wouldn’t release the cost of the calls, the length they would run or the number of households it would target. But the messaging is clearly part of the ongoing firefight between the White House and congressional Republicans over who should be blamed for the automatic spending cuts that the  White House and congressional Republicans both agreed to.

The text of the call is here.

BILL YOUNG MUM ON ELECTION PLANS via Joshua Miller of CQ-Roll Call

“I never make any announcement or, actually, a decision this — this is way too early!” the Republican told CQ Roll Call during votes on Capitol Hill.
 
… Young, sitting in a wheelchair, said there were a number of factors that would play in his decision about re-election.
 
“There’s a lot of things that I analyze leading up to, you know — what do I do next with my life?” he said. “I’ve been here 42 years. And I’ve had a good run. Most everything that I’ve touched has worked.”
 
Young serves as chairman of the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and he still seems passionate about his top cause.
 
“Most of my life has mainly been national defense,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to come to Congress, to make sure that we provided for national defense. So that’s what I’ve done for 42 years.”
 
“Plus, a lot of other things,” he added.
 
 ***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you 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: Gov. Scott will present school recognition checks to Orange, Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Osceola, Seminole and Sumter school districts.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY: HOW WILL WEATHERFORD WON THE 2014 GOP NOMINATION FOR GOVERNOR via Florida Voices

It was during the last days of the 2013 legislative session, when idle legislators waited to overturn Scott’s threatened veto of their budget, that several of Weatherford’s colleagues, along with two of Weatherford’s trusted deputies — Kathy Mears and Kris Money — first approached the speaker about challenging Scott in a primary. These legislators, first among them state Reps. Richard Corcoran and Rob Schenck, suggested Weatherford rattle his saber as a possible negotiating tool in dealing with an increasingly isolated Scott.

As word spread of Weatherford’s possible insurrection, three letters changed the entire framework: J-E-B, as in Jeb Bush. The former governor asked to meet privately with Weatherford before the speaker made his decision or spoke with Scott. Weatherford agreed to fly to Coral Gables to meet with Bush. There he informed Weatherford that if he did indeed decide to run, Bush would free up his political allies to publicly support him. And, if Scott did not eventually drop out of the race, Bush said he would publicly endorse Weatherford.

…Weatherford’s path was clear. Talk of his running against Scott swirled throughout the Capitol during the final days of the 2013 session. A telling sign of the tense political situation occurred when Scott did not appear at the ceremonial dropping of the handkerchiefs by the two chambers’ sergeant-at-arms signifying the end of the legislative session.

Weatherford announced his candidacy a week after the session concluded. Conservative bloggers and pundits, like RedState’s Erick Erickson and National Review’s Betsy Woodruff, rushed to cheer on “the next Rubio.”

Weatherford’s father-in-law, former House Speaker Allan Bense, served as de facto chairman of the campaign, while dozens of political hands from Bush’s and Rubio’s previous runs flocked to Weatherford’s bustling campaign headquarters in Wesley Chapel.

Republican donors, now free to donate $10,000 checks instead of the usual $500 (thanks to legislation Weatherford shepherded), infused the speaker with enough contributions to offset Scott’s personal fortune. 

By the summer of 2013, polling indicated that Weatherford was within striking distance.

WEATHERFORD: ‘DON’T HAVE ANY PLANS’ TO RUN FOR GOV IN ’14 via the News Service of Florida

Weatherford told reporters Thursday that he doesn’t intend to challenge Gov. Scott in the 2014 Republican primary, but he didn’t completely rule it out. Asked about speculation that he might take on Scott as the governor’s approval ratings continue to lag, Weatherford brushed the idea off. “I think people who are saying those things must not know me very well,” he said. “I’m busy enough trying to be speaker of the House. And, you know, I think the governor’s doing a good job. … I’m not thinking about any of that stuff right now.”

Asked a few moments later if he was ruling out a bid, Weatherford added in part: “Look, I just said, I don’t have any plans to do anything like that. I think it’s funny that I’m being asked it.” Scott has faced questions about his ability to win re-election with low approval ratings, and more recently after he angered conservatives by supporting an expansion of the Medicaid program as part of the federal health-care law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

ALEX SINK STILL COURTING DEMS via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Alex Sink no longer sounds like a likely candidate for governor, but the former CFO and 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee will join Democratic activists in Pinellas March 14 to celebrate the 85th birthday of  Greater Pinellas Democratic Club president Harvey Morgenstein. For 23 years he and Betty Morgenstein, beloved sometimes feared figures in Tampa Bay Democratic politics (pity the aspiring candidate who skips his well-attended dinners) have led the group.

I MISSED THIS WHILE ON VACATION: BUDDY DYER DECIDES AGAINST BID FOR GOV IN 2014

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has decided against challenging Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 elections, he announced Wednesday. “So, after careful consideration, I’ve decided that I will not run for governor,” Dyer said to applause at the end of his annual “State of the City” address. “I believe that I have a responsibility to the people of Orlando to finish what we started.”

Dyer said at the Democratic National Convention last year that he was considering a gubernatorial bid. He said Wednesday that he had come to a decision after thinking about whether his time would be better spent on the campaign trial or working at City Hall. “When you boil it down to that question, the decision was remarkably easy,” he said.

Dyer is the latest Democratic hopeful to pour cold water on the idea of a run in 2014; former state Chief Financial Officer and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink said last week that she was far less likely to run after the death of her husband, Bill McBride.

WHO IS HARRY SARGEANT? by Lucy Morgan of the Tampa Bay Times

A plaque at the Pi Kappa Alpha House on campus calls him “the most powerful man no one knows.” The moniker comes from a 2008 Miami Herald story that noted his friendship with Crist and his wide-ranging business interests.

Sargeant, 55, is a billionaire former Marine fighter pilot, the owner of an oil and asphalt shipping company with global businesses including aviation companies and an oil refinery.

And in the tangled world of Florida politics, Sargeant is a Republican financial powerhouse.

He has long supported Crist while also helping former party chairman Jim Greer, despite the animosity between Greer and Crist since Greer was charged with stealing money from the GOP in 2010. Crist, now a Democrat considering an attempt to return to the Governor’s Mansion, says Sargeant remains a close friend.

Campaign finance records show Sargeant has donated more than $1.5 million to Florida politicians and the state Republican Party since 2000, the year Crist ran for education commissioner.

In recent years, Sargeant has made headlines over fuel he supplied to U.S. forces in Iraq. The brother-in-law of the king of Jordan sued Sargeant in Palm Beach and won a $28.8 million verdict for being cut out of a $1.4 billion defense contract that allowed Sargeant to transport fuel through Jordan. (Sargeant is appealing.) A congressional oversight committee called for an investigation of payments to Sargeant’s company, and last year auditors for the Department of Defense accused the company of overcharging the Pentagon by hundreds of millions. A federal investigation is ongoing. 

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5 QUESTIONS FOR REP. DARRYL ROUSON here, including:

Q: What needs to happen for Democrats to take back the majority?

ROUSON: First of all, we have to expand our reach. We have to embrace all Democrats – I’m talking about the liberal, the centrist as well as the conservative Democrat. All of those are in the big tent party, as well as African Americans, Hispanics, the GLBT community of people, and we have to embrace the beauty of our diversity, and expand upon it, and do even more to be inclusive. 

And not just inclusive of membership, but inclusive of industry and sponsors and organizations and corporations, as well as consumers and citizens….We should be givers in the sense of protections for consumers, and also stimulators of private industry to create jobs and do those kinds of things necessary, both for the development of the party, but more importantly, the development of our economy and our community.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: House Majority Leader Steve Precourt announced that the House Republican Conference will meet at 2:00 p.m. on Monday to conduct the ceremony to nominate Representative Steve Crisafulli to serve as Speaker of the Florida House for the 2014-2016 legislative term.

CREDIT UNIONS SEEK TO PROVIDE PUBLIC DEPOSITORY CHOICE TO PUBLIC OFFICES

The League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates (LSCU) has announced its top priority for the upcoming session. Senate Bill 918 by Senator Rene Garcia and House Bill 251 by Representative Bill Hager will seek to make a long overdue change to state law, reversing the mandate that public entities, such as fire and sheriff departments, schools and libraries, can only use banks and not their local, not-for-profit credit unions for their banking needs. 

“On behalf of LSCU and its members, we want to thank Senator Garcia and Representative Hager for filing this critical piece of legislation to allow credit unions to better serve local municipalities and elected officials,” said Patrick La Pine, president of the LSCU. “Public entities should be given the choice to seek better returns for their tax dollars and lower fees for their business. As not-for-profit financial entities that are held to the same standards as banks, credit unions deserve the opportunity to compete in this market and provide for greater consumer choice, accountability and a more stabilized market.” 

Credit unions are required to meet the same public depository requirements as for-profit banks, and they are held to the same accountability standards and offer the same protections to their customers. However, credit unions across Florida are forced to turn down deposit requests from local government entities because state law renders them ineligible to receive these funds. If successful, the proposed legislation would give local elected officials depository choice and would allow credit unions to bring competition to public deposits that will drive better returns and optimal economic benefits to Florida’s taxpayers.

HOUSE DECISION ON MEDICAID COULD COME MONDAY via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun-Sentinel

A House panel debating the implementation of the Affordable Care Act could make a decision Monday as to whether the state should expand Medicaid.

“We’ll see how it presents itself with the membership,” said Rep. Richard Corcoran.

The House and Senate are slated to have a joint meeting Monday morning where the state economists will present a comprehensive economic study on the expansion of Medicaid and the overall impact of the Affordable Care Act. The two committees are then going to hold separate meetings for committee discussion.

Corcoran, who is personally skeptical of a Medicaid expansion, said that he wants to give committee members time to debate, but if they are ready to make a recommendation, they will.

LOOK FOR INTERNET CAFE MORATORIUM via the News Service of Florida

The House will likely support a drive to impose a moratorium on new Internet cafes, House Speaker Will Weatherford said Thursday, adding steam to the idea with the legislative session five days away.

“I would anticipate legislation in the House getting momentum with regard to at least a moratorium,” Weatherford told reporters after announcing a smartphone app for the House. Legislation to deal with the cafes, which offer sweepstakes in the view of supporters but something akin to slot machines in the view of opponents, died in 2012 because of a disagreement between the House and the Senate over whether to ban or regulate the outlets. Weatherford seemed to pour cold water on the idea of a ban. “I’m not sure if there’s an appetite for that in the Senate,” he said. “You’d have to talk to the senators about that.”

Legislation has been introduced in both chambers (HB 951, SB 1030) that would bar any new Internet cafes until July 1, 2015, to allow lawmakers time to consider major gambling legislation expected to emerge in the 2014 legislative session. Current Internet cafes would still be allowed to operate.

RIP, CCES? LATVALA FILES BILL ELIMINATING ‘COMMITTEES OF CONTINUOUS EXISTENCE’

Senate Ethics and Elections Chairman Jack Latvala has filed a proposal that would eliminate the politically murky “committees of continuous existence,” which have thrived in recent elections.

Previously, Latvala questioned the full-scale elimination of CCEs, an idea backed by House Speaker Will Weatherfordl. The House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee has supported a proposal (HB 569) to get rid of CCEs and to raise limits on individual contributions to candidates from $500 to $10,000.

TSK, TSK PETER NEHR via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Days after he lost his bid for re-election last fall, former Rep. Peter Nehr of Palm Harbor used leftover campaign money to pay his live-in girlfriend $22,000 for “consulting,” records show.

Nehr made three post-election payments to girlfriend Kim Marie, a 47-year-old acupuncturist, listing them as “consulting, editing and fundraising” expenses on his final campaign expenditure report.

The report lists her as living at a fictitious address in Palm Harbor, “2528 Glory Drive.” Property, voting and other state records list Nehr and Marie as both living in a Palm Harbor townhome on Gloriosa Drive, which she owns.

“The fact that I know Ms. Marie on a personal level, and used her as one of my consultants, does not dismiss the fact that she worked very hard on my campaign and is legally entitled to be paid for work,” Nehr said in a written reply to questions.

TSK, TSK TAYLOR BIEHL via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union

A Florida Senate staffer abruptly resigned Thursday after the Times-Union asked about emails showing he used his taxpayer-funded position to push for a job with a lobbying firm and to get free access to the University of Florida’s exclusive president’s box for a Gators football game.

Senate President Don Gaetz’s office confirmed the “resignation” of Taylor Biehl but would not comment further. Biehl, 28, worked for the Senate since July 2011 and was making $41,004 annually as an analyst with the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

EMAIL I OPENED BUT DIDN’T FORWARD: The Taylor Biehl meme. 

WALKING BACK WEATHERFORD’S POLYTECH COMMENTS via the Lakeland Ledger

Weatherford said Wednesday his intentions are not for the Legislature to turn its back on Florida Polytechnic University but to support its efforts for a successful outcome.

Weatherford spoke with The Tampa Tribune’s editorial board earlier this week and was quoted in an article Wednesday as saying the new school is a “disaster.”

He told The Ledger on Wednesday, however, that the remark was targeted at the school’s recent plan to ask for more money. The board of trustees for the new state university talked about asking for $25 million more to help start the Lakeland school, but they later decided against it. A formal vote is slated for next month.

That request was his focus, Weatherford said.

“The context was this: I was asked about the $25 million request, and I said I think it’s a disaster because I believe the whole deal was they wouldn’t be coming back and asking for money. That was a disaster,” he said.

WANT TO WATCH THE FLORIDA HOUSE? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT via the News Service of Florida

The Florida House will move into the smartphone era next week with the release of its mobile app, Speaker Weatherford announced Thursday. The app, set to be released Tuesday, will be available on all Apple and Google products. It will include 600 points of contact divided among the 120 lawmakers; 80 features; and “push” alerts that call attention to updates and events. Users can also access live streams of committee meetings and floor proceedings and track bills on the new app. “I think we have an opportunity to empower people all over our state so they can understand what it is their Legislature is doing. … It’s just another example of government entering into the 21st century and we’re happy to be on the front edge of it,” said Weatherford.

The “FL House” app was developed by Echo, a company based in Orlando, after a competitive bidding process. Weatherford said the project has cost “a little bit more than” the $130,000 called for by the contract for the app. But the House hopes that the program will help save money. “We spend a lot of money on paper in this building,” Weatherford said.

***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***

MORE HOUSE RACES TAKES SHAPE 

Nine more incumbents and four potential legislative newcomers have filed paperwork during the past two weeks to run for House seats in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections website.

The incumbents are Rep. Elizabeth Porter in District 10; Rep. Mia Jones in District 14; Rep. Larry Metz in District 32; Rep. Jimmie Smith in District 34; Rep. Bruce Antone in District 46; Rep. Ben Albritton in District 56; Rep. James Grant in District 64; Rep. Barbara Watson in District 107; and Rep. Erik Fresen in District 114.

Non-incumbents filing paperwork were Lynn Haven Republican Melissa Hagan in District 6; Wesley Chapel Republican Christopher Scott Erwin in District 38; Tampa Democrat Tatiana Denson in District 61; and Tampa Republican Casey James Parente in District 62.

SENATORS DLP, GRIMSLEY, MARGOLIS START RE-ELECTION BIDS via the News Service of Florida

Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla has filed paperwork indicating he will seek re-election in 2014 in District 40, according to the state Division of Elections website.

Also, Sens. Denise Grimsley and Gwen Margolis have joined a growing list of incumbents already planning for 2016 races. Grimsley filed paperwork in District 21, while Margolis filed in District 35. Filing the paperwork, at least in part, allows candidates to raise money.

TURNING THE TABLES — HOW DOES THE TAMPA BAY TIMES POLL WITH LOCAL VOTERS? Full post on SaintPetersBlog.com here.

A new poll indicates a high approval rating among Saint Petersburg voters for the Tampa Bay Times, while also revealing ambivalence, if not, resistance to the newspaper’s candidate recommendations and fierce opposition to its name change.

The results of an automated survey conducted by St. Pete Polls commissioned by SaintPetersBlog show that 62% of registered St. Petersburg voters have a favorable opinion of the Times, while 24% of respondents registered a negative view and 15% said that they were unsure. 

Despite this high approval rating, the Times‘ editorial board’s recommendation of a political candidate hurts more than it helps.  Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by the newspaper, while 33% said they would be more likely. Almost 30% said they were unsure if the Times‘ recommendation would make a difference.

Among Republican voters, the Times’ recommendation is the kiss of death. 60% of those Republicans surveyed said they would be less likely to support a candidate endorsed by the Times.

WHO ARE TAMPA BAY’S MOST POWERFUL POLITICIANS?

After reading a recent article from Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel about the most powerful pols in Central Florida, I thought it would be interesting to determine who, in fact, are the 25 most powerful politicians in Tampa Bay.

So I asked several of the leading political consultants, activists, bloggers, operatives and local lobbyists to provide a list of who they consider the 25 most powerful pols in the region. No suggested names were provided. But I did remove three statewide politicians from Tampa Bay — Charlie Crist, Pam Bondi and Alex Sink — from consideration.

For the purposes of this experiment, the Tampa Bay region is defined as Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota, if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillborough. 

The panel was compromised of: Matt Blair, lobbyists for Corcoran & Johnston; Steve Cona, CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, Gulf Coast of Florida; Tony DeSisto; blogger Michael Hussey; Shawn Foster, lobbyist for Southern Strategies Group; Democratic strategist Carrie Henriquez; Chris Latvala;  Republican strategist Jen Lux; Aakash Patel; political consultant Anthony Pedicini; community activist Darden Rice; Franco Ripple, campaign manager for Rep. Dwight Dudley; Peter Schorsch; Alan Suskey, a lobbyist with Capitol Insight; and public affairs consultant Michelle Todd.

Being listed first on a panelist’s list earned them 25 points, being listed second earned them 24 points and so on to where being listed twenty-fifth earned a politician one point. The points were added up and, voila, the list was created.

The top four or five on the list are probably who you’d expect. But once you get past the top 5, the list gets really interesting. And some of the names which did not make the list will certainly surprise.

The top five will be released on SaintPetersBlog.com today, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Here are #6 – #10: Senator Jeff Brandes, Senator Tom Lee, St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and State Rep. Dana Young.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm.  Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

4TH FLOOR FILES talks to public interest advocate Susan Glickman about Albert Einstein, being a ‘fairy Godmother’, and Dress for Success. Here’s the file on Susan

APPOINTED: Joseph Boyd and Tamara McKee to the Florida Real Estate Appraisal BoardJoshua Burgin and Carlos “John” Melendez to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

COALITION LAUNCHES TO SUPPORT REFORM OF CITIZENS

A collection of statewide business, consumer and conservation groups announced the formation of the Stronger Safer Florida coalition. The nonpartisan coalition is comprised of a wide range of groups, and has formed in an effort to support state legislation that will reform Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. The diverse membership reflects broad support for changes to the state-run insurance entities, which reports indicate do not insure the majority of Floridians, but due to their statutory power to levy assessments do tax them all in event of a major hurricane catastrophe.  

For years, many of these groups have called on the Florida Legislature to make needed changes to Citizens and the Cat Fund in order to return Florida’s property insurance market back to a healthy state. Additionally, members of the Stronger Safer Florida coalition believe reform of Citizens and the Cat Fund are critical to better protecting all Floridians including consumers, businesses, charitable organizations, religious institutions and local government entities, as well as shielding environmentally sensitive areas throughout the state.  

“We are pleased to join together with the other groups of Stronger Safer Florida in an effort to better protect our members and the interests of all Floridians,” said Tom Feeney of Associated Industries of Florida. “When the Florida Legislature convenes next week for the 2013 state legislative session, it is imperative our elected leaders recognize the importance of implementing necessary and needed changes to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Both of these underfunded state-backed programs place an unreasonable financial burden on the backs of the majority of Floridians, and there is no better time, or greater need, for reform than now.” 

The Stronger Safer Florida Coalition consists of 14 member and allied organizations, including Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Consumer Action Network, Florida TaxWatch, the R Street Institute, 1,000 Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, CERES, Florida Coastal and Oceans Coalition, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sea Turtle Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and James Madison Institute. Additionally, there are various field experts who also support the coalition’s efforts. 

FLORIDA CHAMBER TO HOST ANNUAL ‘CAPITOL DAYS’ NEXT WEEK

Job creators from throughout Florida will gather in Tallahassee next week for the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual Board of Governors Capitol Days and direct their focus on making Florida more competitive. 

Scheduled for March 6-8 at the Hotel Duval in Tallahassee, the Florida Chamber’s Board of Governors Capitol Days provides job creators the opportunity to hear from Florida’s top elected leaders, discuss legislative initiatives that will help make Florida more competitive, meet with lawmakers and advocate the Florida Chamber’s 2013 Florida Business Agenda

Featured speakers for the three-day event include Governor Rick Scott, Pam Bondi, Adam Putnam, Jeff Atwater, and Gray Swoope, as well as Will Seccombe, President & CEO, VISIT FLORIDA, Dr. Tony Bennett, Education Commissioner, Frank Brogan, Chancellor, State University System, Randy Hanna, Chancellor, Florida College System, and Chris Hart, President/CEO, Workforce Florida, Inc.

Featured panel discussions will include “Medicaid Expansion – Pro vs. Con”, “Legal Reform – Expert Evidence, Fair Settlement, Accuracy in Damages, Medical Liability Reform”, and “Education – K-12, Higher Education, Workforce.”

View the complete Florida Chamber Capitol Days agenda for meeting times and locations.

MAJOR FUNDRAISER HOSTED BY GAETZ AND WEATHERFORD PLANNED FOR THIS WEEKEND

Fat Tuesday may have occurred two weeks ago, but you can still get in on the Mardi Gras action — while contributing big bucks to the Florida GOP — this weekend at a Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser at Universal Studios hosted by Don Gaetz, Andy Gardiner, Will Weatherford and Steve Crisafulli.

The all-day affair begins with a VIP tour of Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, continues through lunch and dinner and ends with a VIP viewing of the ‘Mardi Gras Celebration Parade and Concert.’

Not coincidentally, the fundraiser is taking place the weekend before the start of the sixty-day legislative session when lawmakers are prohibited raising funds for themselves or a political party. Invite here.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Slater Bayliss, et al; The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Linq3

Chris Carmody, et al; GrayRobinson: City of Oviedo 

Jack Cory, Keyna Cory; Public Affairs Consultants: Heritage Home Health, Inc

Carlos Cruz; Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc

Aimee Gilroy; Raytheon Company

Gregory Oravec: City of Port St. Lucie

Scott Ross, Floridian Partners: Associated Industries

Kenneth Vogel: Jones Edmunds & Associates

SENATOR ROB JOHNSON OF WISCONSIN TO ADDRESS ECONOMIC CLUB OF FLORIDA TODAY

Senator Johnson will speak to the Economic Club of Florida at noon on Friday at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. Media are invited to cover his presentation: “State of the American Free Enterprise System”.

***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.***

DID YOU KNOW that Florida’s beer distributors have an annual economic impact of about $3.2 billion, according to a new report from the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Bob Barker Spearheads New ADI Campaign to End Elephant Suffering at Fairs” from Animal Defenders International

FLORIDA LOTTERY ADDS MEGA MILLIONS: The Florida Lottery said Thursday it is making another multistate game, MEGA MILLIONS, available to Florida Lottery players starting in May. Florida will become the 43rd state to join the multi-state lottery game, lottery officials said in a statement. Florida residents already can play the multistate POWERBALL game in addition to Florida Lottery games.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rosanne Dunkelberger who, according to Florence Snyder, is a “kick-ass newswoman, graduate of the UF J-school, and did a great deal of heavy lifting for the Florida Bar Media Law Conference and Reporters Workshop back when they were nationally influential.” Also celebrating today are Steve Kurlander, Ralph Lair and Adrianna Sekula.

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY to one of our favorites, Representative Kathleen Peters.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: We will be in Tallahassee next week for all of the opening festivities, so please email me at peter@extensive-enterprises if you would like grab a cup of coffee or meet otherwise.

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.