Sunburn for 3/13 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Today’s Sunburn is 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.

CRYPTIC WARNING TO START THE DAY

Do yourself a favor and keep an eye on Florida Times Union reporter Matt Dixon’s column and Tweets (@MDixon55). There are rumblings out of Jacksonville that the arrest of FOP President Nelson Cuba and the group’s vice president Robbie Freitas, stemming from a national investigation of St. Augustine-based Allied Veterans of America (read: Internet cafes), may impact certain elected officials from that region. 

For background on this story, you can read former Times Union reporter Abel Harding’s story from 2010 about how controversial legislation benefiting the Internet cafe industry proposed by then-Representative Jennifer Carroll was dropped after flags were raised over her proximity to Allied Veterans.

Or it could all be nothing…

Now, back to the regularly scheduled program.

ANOTHER BUSH RUNS FOR OFFICE

George Prescott Bush filed the official paperwork to run for Texas land commissioner next year — and put out a campaign video — “hoping to use a little-known but powerful post to continue his family’s political dynasty in one of the country’s most-conservative states,” the Dallas Morning News reports.

HOW MARCO RUBIO COULD END JEB BUSH’S ELECTORAL CAREER 

The New Republic takes a look at the relationship between former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, both viewed as potential 2016 candidates.

“I don’t think Marco would want to run against Jeb in a primary, the way their relationship is,” J. C. Planas, a former South Florida legislator who has worked with both men, told me. “But you never know, just because of the way things work. If Jeb became president, more than likely it means Marco probably never would.”

“Florida Republicans, whose state has never produced a president, approach the prospect of their running against each other somewhere on the spectrum between disbelief and dread. “It’s hard for me to imagine, maybe because I so badly don’t want [it to happen],” says someone who knows them both. “I cannot fathom anybody in Marco’s orbit doing anything to harm Jeb Bush, or vice versa.”

OBAMA KICKS OFF ‘ORGANIZING FOR ACTION’ TONIGHT

President Obama will formally kick off Organizing for Action, his newly-formed independent advocacy group, with a big speech Wednesday night.

It will be Obama’s “first in-person with the group’s core team of advisers, donors and grassroots organizers since its formation following the 2012 election. It comes as Obama seeks to re-energize his expansive grassroots campaign infrastructure around top second-term priorities — from new gun-control measures to comprehensive immigration reform and a plan to replace sequester — and cement the foundation for his presidential legacy.”

SURVEY: AMERICANS HATE CONGRESS, BUT LAWMAKERS LOVE THEIR JOBS

Congress has some of the lowest approval ratings in recent history, but it hasn’t stopped House lawmakers from disproportionately loving their jobs, Roll Call reports.

According to a new Congressional Management Foundation study, 89% of House members said they felt satisfaction that they were “performing an important public service.” When asked whether they were satisfied with their understanding of how their “job contributes to society as a whole,” 90% answered in the affirmative. In response to the statement, “my work gives me a sense of personal accomplishment,” 95% agreed.

WEST FORMS PAC TO ATTACK OBAMA by William Gibson of the Sun-Sentinel

Undeterred by his election defeat last fall, former Congressman Allen West is still raising money while launching a political action committee “to expose and combat the Obama Administration and its progressive plans.”

“We love our great nation too much to sit back and take our loss in 2012 as the final verdict on America,” West, a Republican from Palm Beach Gardens, told prospective donors on Tuesday. “That’s why I intend to use the new-found freedom I’ve been given to take my efforts to defeat the Obama liberal progressive agenda to the next level.”

He plans to unveil his new PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, while addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Thursday.  

EMAIL I REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO OPEN: “Sounding the Battle Cry” from West

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HENDERSON COLUMN: DOOR OPENS A TAD WIDER FOR PUTNAM RUN

If you are anywhere near a Republican strategy meeting and you hear, “Paging Adam Putnam… ” you will know Rick Scott’s own party has sized up the scene and decided its best hope for 2014 is ABR – anyone but Rick.

If that happens, stock up on canned goods and head for the bunker. Chaos will be coming. We may have just gotten one step closer to that.

Key leaders in Scott’s own party just put his high-stakes flip on Medicaid expansion back in his face.

MANNY DIAZ LOOKS LIKE HE’S NOT RUNNING FOR GUV via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is considering whether to leave Florida’s gubernatorial race, a decision that could make it easier for former Republican governor Charlie Crist to sew up the Democratic primary.

For days, political insiders have buzzed with speculation that Diaz won’t stay in the race – for unspecified family reasons – and Diaz isn’t doing much to quell the talk.

“No decision yet,” he said in a brief text message in response to a question about whether he’d drop out of the race.

Top advisors say they’re not sure, either.

“I don’t know if he’s staying in,” said Richard Lydecker, Miami-Dade’s former Democratic Party chairman. 

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AG BONDI ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH GOOGLE OVER “STREET VIEW” MAPPING SERVICES

Bondi announced a $7 million multistate settlement with Google over its collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.

Attorney General Bondi’s Office served on the executive committee that negotiated the agreement, which requires Google to destroy the data it gathered during that time period. The company also agrees to run, for at least 10 years, a training program for employees about privacy and confidentiality of user data. It will also conduct a public service advertising campaign aimed at educating consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.

“In today’s highly technological world, consumers face constant threats to their privacy and personal information,” stated Attorney General Bondi. “We must remain vigilant in ensuring that an individual’s online communications remain both private and secure.” 

Google’s Street View cars were equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected network identification information for use in future geolocation services. At the same time, Google collected and stored data frames and other “payload data” being transmitted over those unsecured business and personal wireless networks.

Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles.

SCOTT’S ‘FINISH IN FOUR’ MOVES FORWARD via Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

A higher education proposal pushed by Gov. Scott — freezing tuition for incoming state university students — sailed through the Senate’s Education Committee today along with several other closely watched measures.

If SB 920 becomes law, in-state students who enroll in a state university would be guaranteed that their tuition and fees would not change for four years. Scott is pushing his “Finish in Four” plan as a way to control costs for families and encourage students to finish degrees in a timely fashion.

The change could cost universities as much as $75 million in lost revenue, according to a staff analysis of the bill. Georgia to abandon a similar “Fixed for Four” program several years ago because of the financial hardship it caused state universities during the economic downturn when coupled with state budget cuts.

SCOTT GETS FUNDRAISING BOOST FROM HOTEL AND RESTAURANT LOBBY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Members of the Florida Legislature are prohibited from soliciting or accepting campaign money during their annual 60-day session, but that ban doesn’t apply to Gov. Rick Scott. The governor attend(ed) a campaign fund-raiser Tuesday evening in Havana, near Tallahassee, at the home of hospitality executive Carol Dover, who is the long-time leader of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. 

APPOINTED: Gov. Scott announced the appointment of Gary Clark and the reappointment of Jerome “Jerry” Pate to the Northwest Florida Water Management District.

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DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP BILL POSTPONED by Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel

A bill to create a statewide domestic partnership bill has been postponed again.

The culprit this time? A scheduling conflict. At least, that’s the official reason.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel the sponsor of the legislation (SB 196) apologized to the groups of LGBT advocates who had come to Tallahassee to support the bill and explained that she had to present another bill in the Senate Education Committee.

But, in truth, a delay was needed to give the bill a better shot at passing.

Of the 10-member committee, there are only four Democrats, who are all expected to vote for the bill. Additionally, at least one Republican, Sen. Nancy Detert, is an expected “yes” vote. Since a 5-5 vote would kill the proposal, Sobol needs at least one more Republican — and it’s not clear she has one.

What is clear, though, is that one of the Democrats, Sen. Geraldine Thompson was absent because of illness. Without her vote, the bill would certainly go down.

GR ESTIMATE COMING FRIDAY 

State analysts will meet at 9 a.m. Friday to revise the state’s general-revenue estimates, an important step as lawmakers prepare to draw up a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. General revenue is a major source of money for education, health care and criminal-justice programs. Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron said the revenue estimate will allow Senate leaders to set what are known as “allocations,” which divvy up money between the various parts of the budget. Earlier, the Senate had said it expected to make allocations this week.

HOLD PLACED ON SPACEPORT BILL AS TEXAS TAKES LEAD TO LAND SPACEX via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Legislation to seek out bold new aerospace businesses for the Space Coast is in a temporary stoppage in the countdown, on hold in the House as the bill’s author works to patch a perceived glitch in the state’s economic projection for spaceports.

The anticipated one-week delay comes as Florida’s grasp on being America’s launching pad faces mounting competition from Texas.

SpaceX founder and billionaire Elon Musk told a Texas House Appropriations Committee last Friday that the Lone Star state is now the front-runner for his efforts to create a more bureaucratic-free commercial orbital launch facility.

“Right now, Texas is in the lead,” Musk told the Texas lawmakers, according to the San Antonio Express News.

Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, put the hold on his bill (HB 135) before an appearance before the House Transportation and Economic Development on Tuesday. Goodson is challenging an assumption by state economists on the negative fiscal impact of creating a spaceport at the Space Coast Regional Airport.

The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference has projected that a spaceport would result in at least a $100,000 a year hit to state revenue by offering tax exemptions on machinery and equipment tied to aerospace activities.

HOSPITALS EYE SENATE HEALTH COVERAGE PLAN

For weeks, Florida’s hospital industry has lobbied to expand the Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act — only to see state lawmakers balk.

But while not backing away Tuesday from the Medicaid expansion, industry officials said a new Senate proposal at least seeks to address their goal of making sure hundreds of thousands of uninsured Floridians receive health coverage.

“For us, getting people covered is the issue, and what you call it is really not that important,” said Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association. 

Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said questions remain about critical details of the Senate proposal to offer subsidized coverage through private insurers. That includes whether Washington would go along with the idea, which will depend on using federal money that otherwise would go toward the Medicaid expansion.

Carvalho described moving forward with the proposal as a “long haul” but, like Rueben, he said hospitals are concerned about making coverage available.

“We want the uninsured Floridians to have access to health care,” Carvalho said.

HYPOCRISY OF FLORIDA’S BANKING LOBBY WORTH NOTING

Just a few days ago, banks claimed they should be the only ones eligible to be public depositories because they pay taxes that credit unions don’t. Yet within the same week, they are making headlines trying to protect one of several tax breaks amounting to millions of dollars that they benefit from. They can’t have it both ways.

If the only argument here comes down to taxes paid, then we can assume that any for-profit bank who pays the same taxes as a not-for-profit credit union should also be considered ineligible to be a public depository. Right?

Wrong. Take Century Bank right here in Tampa, for example. This is just one of about 20-plus banks that operate as Sub-S corporations in Florida, that pay the same taxes as not-for-profit credit unions, yet they are currently allowed to serve as public depositories. No one seems to have a problem with that. Again I ask, if the whole argument for why credit unions should not be allowed to serve as public depositories falls on the issue of taxes paid, then it’s a wonder how this argument hasn’t fallen on its face.

In years past, this proposal has not made it out of its first stop in the House, and from the chatter surrounding the issue, it seems as though it may meet the same fate. Be that as it may, the hypocrisy is worth a note and fairness should go both ways.

NEGRON’S RIGHT TO SPEAK MEASURE READY FOR A FLOOR VOTE by Dara Kam of the Palm Beach Post

Florida’s broad open government laws require that citizens be informed about when public meetings are held but don’t guarantee that they’ll be able to give their two cents if they show up.

Sen. Joe Negron has filed a measure again this year that would change that. He teed up the the bill (SB 50) on the Senate floor today, meaning it could get a vote as early as next week. A similar proposal is moving through the House.

Under Negron’s proposal, county commissions, state agencies or other commissions or boards would be able to set time limits on how long people can speak.

“It’s important that we have in our statutes that you can’t invite the public to something and then say thank you for being here but we don’t want to hear from you,” Negron said on the floor today.

WEATHERFORD TELLS A TALE OF TWO STATES via Tolu Olorunnipa of the Miami Herald

Weatherford tried to draw a clear line between Florida and liberal states like California and Illinois on Tuesday, saying Florida’s conservative governance strategy will win out in the “political science experiment” currently taking place between red and blue states.

Speaking before the Florida chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Weatherford, hinted at some of what he’ll say during a high-profile weekend speech before the conservative gathering CPAC.

Weatherford talked about his positions on Medicaid and pensions, framing his arguments within a broader theme more suitable for a national audience: Tax-and-spend liberal states are struggling while freedom-promoting, conservative states that are prospering.

“There are two distinct directions that states are going,” Weatherford said. “There’s the collectivism, groupthink-type state—California, Illinois, New York and others where [instead of] solving their problems they just raise more taxes.”

He went on to say, “There are other states, like Florida, like Texas, like Alabama, that are actually doing the right things. That are limiting the regulatory burden, limiting the tax burden on citizens.”

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LEGISLATIVE BRIEFINGS via The News Service of Florida

In the Senate

Terms for Justices and Judges in Senate Budget Sub: A proposal before the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee (SB 746) would allow, though not require, the state Supreme Court to establish terms for its justices, courts of appeal, and circuit courts. Currently appointments aren’t for a certain term, though there’s a mandatory retirement age of 70. The panel also takes up a bill that is becoming an annual exercise for lawmakers – the effort to keep up with crafty drug chemists. The bill (SB 294) codifies the listing in the controlled substance law several new synthetic cannabinoids, cathinones and other substances that chemists have come up with. Every year lawmakers add new chemical compounds to the drug statutes and chemists then go out and find ways to rearrange the molecules to find a new substance that isn’t illegal. The bill makes these substances illegal. The committee also considers confirmation for the appointment of Mike Crews as corrections secretary. It isn’t expected to be particularly controversial. 9 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

Education Budget and Cape: The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education in the Senate holds a budget workshop this week as lawmakers start to craft the spending plan for the coming fiscal year. The panel will also get the necessary briefing on the revenue estimates, so it will have a sense of how much will be available to spend, and how many students are expected to be in public schools next year. The panel also takes up legislation dealing with background screening for non-teachers who work on school grounds (SB 318). The committee also may take up a wide-ranging curriculum bill known as CAPE or the Career and Professional Education Act (SB 1076), that would change requirements for the criteria for certain college degree and graduate degree programs, allowing certain degree programs to be designated as high demand. The bill also would change the high school graduation requirements to include financial literacy, among other changes. 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

Econ Development Oversight: The Legislature this year has taken a keen interest in oversight of economic development programs, and is considering a number of bills that seek to force the state to take into account their impact. One of those (SB 406) by Sen. Andy Gardiner which sets up a heightened review of projects receiving state incentives and establishing a set of standard criteria used to evaluate success, is before the Senate Transportation and Economic Development budget subcommittee on Wednesday. The panel also discusses the budgets of several state agencies, including the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Division of Emergency Management. 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Reps. Irv Slosberg and Holly Raschein and Sen. Thad Altman will be joined by advocates in calling for passage of legislation (HB 3, SB 66) that would require children up to age 7 be in a booster seat in a car. Florida is one of two states that doesn’t have such a requirement. 12:30 p.m., Front Steps, The Old Capitol.

LEGISLATIVE AIDE RECEPTION tonight, 5 pm to 8 pm, on Adams Street. $10 per.

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FORMER REPUBLICAN IS FIRST DEM. HOUSE CANDIDATE TO ANNOUNCE SINCE ROUSON’S VICTORY via Dave Trotter of the Political Hurricane

Less than one month after former Republican Darryl Rouson became head of the candidate recruitment for the Florida Democrats, a former Republican has already announced he is running for House District 93 in Broward County.

This candidate is Scott Herman. For those of you who might find that name familiar, this is the same man who ran against current Democratic Party Leader Perry Thurston in 2012…as a Republican.

Of course, we are not entirely sure if Rouson recruited Herman, who has only been a resident of the State of Florida since 2009.

… (D)oes the Herman candidacy (if recruited by Rouson), which is in a key district for Democrats, show a possible trend of Mr. Rouson looking at former Republicans as the backbone of his Democratic recruiting effort? Democrats can hope that this isn’t the case.

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COURTS AND CLERKS VISITING CAPITOL TODAY

The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers  will be holding its annual Capitol Day today. They will be advocating for a statutory change that will provide for stable and predictable funding through a continuation appropriation process.  If approved by the 2013 Legislature and the Governor, this change should effectively address the past budgetary issues that resulted in Clerks offices across the state having to cut hours and their workforce, while still allowing for transparency and accountability in these vital service offices.

FLORIDA TOURISM DAY

Florida’s hospitality and tourism represents a $71.8 billion industry, 23% of Florida’s economy, $4.3 billion in sales tax revenue, and over one million employees, making it Florida’s largest employer. The Partnership for Florida’s Tourism celebrates Tourism Day at the Capitol, with hundreds of members meeting with legislators to ensure tourism, hospitality and marketing programs are fully funded. Please join our ten statewide association hosts for a downtown Tallahassee celebration tonight from 5-8 p.m. A complete Florida Tourism Day schedule of events may be found here.

NURSE ANESTHETISTS HOSTING LEGISLATIVE OUTREACH DAY TODAY AT CAPITOL

The Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists, representing 3,500 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), will be hosting their CRNA Lobby Day in Tallahassee today, to advocate for their role as part of the solution to Florida’s health care challenges. Florida’s CRNAs believe that any conversation about the future of health care in Florida should center around making sure there are enough highly-trained professionals in the field to be able to administer safe care.  CRNAs can deliver safe anesthesia care, lessening the burden on an already overburdened health care system while still put patient safety first.

***Come celebrate with Florida’s premier think tank, The James Madison Institute, tonight, 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***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to consultant Larry Biddle, Ryan Cohn of Sachs Media Group, Hillsborough Democratic Chairman Chris Mitchell, and former Rep. Scott Plakon.

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.