A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Senator Marco Rubio will address the Conservative Politcal Action Committee at 1:15 p.m., stepping to the podium just before Senator Rand Paul, another rookie on the rise.
However, most of Florida’s political class will still be focused on …
AS FORECASTED FIRST IN SUNBURN, JENNIFER CARROLL RESIGNS AS LG
Carroll’s resignation followed the arrest on Tuesday on racketeering and money laundering charges of various people affiliated with Allied Veterans of the World, which runs Internet café establishments around the state. The industry says it allows people to partake in sweepstakes, but critics say the establishments are basically gaming parlors.
Carroll and her firm 3N and JC, served as a public relations consultant to the company in 2009 and 2010 while she was in the House, and Scott chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth said Carroll was interviewed by officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about that work.
“Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliation with the company from distracting from the administration’s important work on behalf of Florida families,” Hollingsworth said in a statement. “She made the right decision for the state and her family.”
If you are a regular reader of Sunburn, you knew at 4:00 a.m. that Carroll would likely be resigning.
CARROLL SAYS SHE RESIGNED BECAUSE SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN A DISTRACTION
“Having learned that Allied Veterans is now the subject of an investigation by federal and state agencies, I have and will continue to fully cooperate with any investigation,” Carroll said in a 400-word statement emailed to the news media Wednesday. “Although I do not believe I or my company are targets of the investigation, I could not allow my company’s former affiliation with Allied Veterans to distract from the administration’s important work for the families of Florida.”
CARROLL WAS A POLITICAL LIABILITY FOR SCOTT via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Carroll’s abrupt resignation spares Gov. Rick Scott a decision he was expected to eventually make — to drop her as his running mate in 2014.
Carroll’s military background and race brought diversity to the ticket in 2010, but she had become a political liability by violating the cardinal rule of her office.
She became an embarrassment to Scott and a distraction from his agenda.
… The latest sign of Carroll’s growing irrelevance came last week. In Scott’s annual State of the State address to the Legislature, Carroll merited only a passing, one-sentence mention. The Miami port director, Bill Johnson, received more time than that.
More recently, Carroll and Scott rarely spoke face to face, and they did not even speak when she quit.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: “One down, one to go” from Florida Watch Action
Florida GOP Chair Lenny Curry:
“Lt. Gov. Carroll has been a great leader for our party and our state. She was a terrific advocate for Florida’s military and economic development efforts. Her resignation is disappointing, but she made the right decision to protect both her family and the work she has done to move our state forward over the last few years.”
Senator Andy Gardiner:
“Jennifer Carroll is a very dear friend and anytime you see a friend go through something difficult, your heart goes out to them. I think she did probably what was the right thing to keep the governor’s agenda moving forward. And so it won’t be a distraction. But it still hurts. It hurts for her, it hurts for her family.”
Senator John Thrasher:
“I’m sad for Jennifer Carroll. She is a good friend and someone I’ve known for a longtime.”
House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston:
“I’m very saddened by it. I wish the best to her and her family.”
FLORIDA DEMOCRATS MISSED AN OPPORTUNITY AT MAGNANIMITY WITH ITS RESPONSE TO NEWS OF CARROLL’S RESIGNATION
In response to the news that Carroll had resigned, the Florida Democratic Party released the following statement from Chairwoman Allison Tant:
“Floridians expected an administration focused on solving the problems facing Florida’s families, but instead got a scandal plagued Governor and a revolving staff door. Rick Scott and his administration have made a mockery of the Governor’s office — embarrassing Floridians while failing to accomplish his legislative priorities. Scott campaigned on changing Tallahassee but his first three years have been more of the same corruption and waste that taxpayers have come to expect from Florida Republicans.”
At first brush, such a partisan attack might seem appropriate, but, as a colleague convinced me, such a response is infantile and tacky. It’s only one step removed from trailer park language.
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping reaction to news that Jennifer Carroll has resigned as Florida’s Lieutenant Governor is that of Republican strategist Susie Wiles. Quoted by the Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington, Wiles said she couldn’t imagine any work she did for Allied Veterans was anything but above board.
“I don’t think she’s done anything that’s wrong,” Wiles said. “I have every reason to believe that when this is completed she will be exonerated. I base that on a long time of knowing and respecting Jennifer.”
Of course, Wiles also thought Jon Huntsman was going to win Florida’s Republican presidential primary.
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BONDI NEXT IN SUCCESSION TO GOV UNTIL LG REPLACEMENT
If something were to happen to make Gov. Scott unable to fulfill his duties as governor before he can name a replacement for former Carroll, Attorney General Pam Bondi would become governor.
State law spells out the gubernatorial line of succession, and also doesn’t leave Scott the option of permanently leaving the office of lieutenant governor open, even though the job has no officially prescribed duties. The law simply says that the if lieutenant governor’s office becomes vacant, the governor “shall” appoint a successor for the remainder of the term. Scott said in a statement Wednesday that “we will not turn our attention to this topic (a new lieutenant governor) until after the conclusion of the legislative session,” which is in early May.
State law says that if there’s a vacancy in the office of governor and lieutenant governor, the attorney general shall become governor. If the attorney general’s office were to be vacant, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater would be next in line, followed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. If somehow all of those offices were vacant, the Legislature would choose a new governor.
WHO WILL REPLACE CARROLL?
ANITERE FLORES EMERGES AS LEADING CANDIDATE
Hours after Carroll’s resignation, some South Florida political observers took to Twitter to recommend Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, be tapped for the job. Sen. Nancy Detert endorsed that idea. Flores “has all the great qualities of leadership. She’s got the background, the experience,” Detert said. “Geographically she fits. Being Hispanic doesn’t hurt in Florida. She’s an attractive candidate, smart woman…I don’t know if she’s interested or where she stands.”
HASHTAG TO FOLLOW: #Anitere4LT.
GALVANO: “I would not accept” the Lieutenant Governor’s job.
LATVALA: “Can you see me cutting ribbons?”
WEATHERFORD: “Not interested”
OTHER NAMES IN THE MIX: Marti Coley, Gayle Harrell, Doug Holder
ELLYN BOGDANOFF, SELF-DESCRIBED ANGEL OF DEATH, MAY BE READY TO LIVE AGAIN AS LG
Bogdanoff, the self-described “Angel of Death” for her willingness to kill legislation, may be ready to live again as Lieutenant Governor, if asked by Rick Scott to serve.
“If the governor called, I would be glad to have that conversation,” Bogdanoff said today.
The Broward Beat‘s Buddy Nevins said that the former senator has a lot of pluses that might appeal to Scott. “A telegenic Jewish woman from Southeast Florida with a solid history of working on education issues, she could strengthen Scott’s appeal in next year’s election.”
Sunshine State News grabbed some wood from political consultant Randy Nielsen of Public Concepts, who said Bogdanoff is someone Gov. Scott should seriously consider. “She’s socially moderate, from South Florida and is well-thought-of as a small businesswoman and legislator.”
Of course, Bogdanoff really has nothing to lose by serving as Scott’s LG. She would not have to give up elected office as some of the other possible candidates, such Flores or Rep. Dana Young, would have to do.
I think her best selling point is, as Brian Crowley outlines, her ability to sell Scott’s agenda in the State Senate. Unfortunately for Bogdanoff, Scott said today he does not intend to appoint a new LG until after session.
Perhaps the Angel of Death will have to find another outlet for her abilities.
DANA YOUNG A DARK HORSE POSSIBILITY
First of all, Young is from battleground Tampa Bay. Where better to pluck a running mate than from the heart of Charlie Crist’s home base?
Speaking of campaigning, no one worked harder for her colleagues on the campaign trail in 2012 than Young. She’d be a real asset to Scott in 2014.
Young is fiercely loyal (just ask Will Weatherford), downright brilliant, staunchly conservative and telegenic.
Representative Young also, honestly, doesn’t have anywhere to go after she’s finished in the Florida House. She’s blocked for running for the Florida Senate because her friend and ally Jeff Brandes represents Senate District 22. She would like to be mayor of Tampa one day, but Bob Buckhorn likely has that job locked up until 2019.
Young could do worse than running as Scott’s LG in 2014. Scott would be hard pressed to do better than having Young by her side.
TWEET, TWEET: @MattGaetz: Weird Gov Scott hasn’t called yet to offer me the LG spot. I really think I can help lock up the Tea Party base in the Panhandle
***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.***
HOUSE, SENATE TO TAKE UP INTERNET CAFE BANS by Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel
The Senate sent out a release saying that the Senate Gaming Committee will meet next Monday to consider a ban.
“I fully support such a ban as a precursor to additional legislation that may result from the comprehensive gaming review the Senate Gaming Committee has initiated,” said Senate President Don Gaetz.
Gaetz went on to say that he does not believe he accepted any direct campaign contributions from the group, but that he has asked for a “top to bottom review” or his own campaign contributions as well as funds raised by the Republican Senate Majority during the 2012 cycle. The group had several subsidiaries that were donating money for them.
The House has also scheduled its meeting for this Friday, where they will consider HB 155 to ban Internet cafes.
SHUTDOWN OF INTERNET CAFES WILL BE “EXPEDITED”, WEATHERFORD SAYS
House Speaker Will Weatherford called for a speedy passage of a ban on Internet cafes in light of a federal probe into Allied Veterans, a major Internet cafe operator in the state.
“I think what we’ve learned here in the last 24 hours with regard to Internet cafes has expedited something that has been a House position for quite some time long time, which is these machines and these Internet cafes need to be closed down,” Weatherford said.
He hopes the Select Committee on Gaming will pass HB 155 that bans Internet cafes this Friday so the bill can be heard on the floor next week.
NO LONGER JUST FOR MORATORIUM, THRASHER NOW CALLING FOR OUTRIGHT BAN via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida
“My goal would be to get rid of them,” said Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican who is chairman of the powerful Rules Committee.
… Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican who is chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, said he plans to hold a meeting Monday to take up a Thrasher bill (SB 1030) that called for the moratorium. Richter said he expects discussion during the meeting about possibly going beyond a moratorium.
“Well, certainly I think we have to have the discussion,” Richter said. “We don’t want illegal businesses thriving in the state of Florida.”
TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: W/gaming co at center of fraud probe, FL GOP lawmakers say: shut them. After shootings? Well, we need more facts before talking gun control
RESIGNATIONS EN MASSE FROM LOBBYISTS WHO REPRESENTED NOW-DISGRACED COMPANY
Nine lobbyists who had been representing International Internet Technologies, the now-disgraced Internet cafe company linked to Carroll’s resignation, resigned en masse, according to the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Withdrawal paperwork for Sarah Bascom, Douglas Bruce, Carlos Cruz, Scott Dick, Richard Gentry, Ron Greenstein, Jeff Hartley, Eliakim Nortelus, and Greg Turbeville was received this morning, although it is my understanding that the lobby team decided as a group to resign from representing IIT before Carroll’s resignation. Once the lobby team learned it had been misled by executives at IIT, the decision was made to withdraw.
International Internet Technologies and its owners and affiliates made $340,000 in campaign contributions during the last election cycle.
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BAN ON TEXTING WHILE DRIVING PASSES SECOND COMMITTEE
Since 2008, legislation has been filed in the Florida House of Representatives to ban a person from texting while driving. Unfortunately, the bill never received any consideration in that Chamber until now.
HB 13 sponsored by Rep. Doug Holder received a favorable vote today from the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. This is the second committee that has approved this legislation within one week.
HUDSON WANTS REVIEW OF ELDER AFFAIRS AGENCY via the News Service of Florida
Representative Matt Hudson, a Naples Republican who in recent years spearheaded a reorganization of the Florida Department of Health, now wants to focus attention on the state Department of Elder Affairs.
The House Healthy Families Subcommittee on Wednesday approved a Hudson-sponsored bill (HB 601) that calls for a study of the elder-affairs agency. “This bill would be the beginning of a process to look at the Department of Elder Affairs,” said Hudson, who plays an influential role as chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
The review would be conducted by the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.
The role of the Department of Elder Affairs is expected to change in coming years, as a new statewide Medicaid managed-care system takes effect for seniors who need long-term care. Some programs that the Department of Elder Affairs oversees would be largely absorbed into the new Medicaid managed-care program.
LOOKING FOR STRIPPERS? LEGISLATORS INSIST YOU LEAVE EBT CARD AT HOME via The News Service of Florida.
A House subcommittee approved a bill (HB 701) that would bar public-assistance recipients from using their electronic benefit cards at adult-entertainment establishments, gambling venues and liquor stores.
Sponsor Jimmie Smith said lawmakers need to approve the bill to comply with federal law or risk losing public-assistance money.
“We are simply following the lead of the federal government,” Smith told the Healthy Families Subcommittee, which voted 9-2 to approve the measure. The bill would affect people who receive food or cash assistance on what are known as “electronic benefits transaction” cards, which are similar to credit cards or debit cards.
The bill is next scheduled to go to the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
PENSION OVERHAUL HITS SNAGvia Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times
One of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s top priorities appears to be troubled two weeks into session.
Weatherford wants to close the Florida Retirement System’s pension plan to new employees after Jan. 1, 2014. He wants to steer employees away from the guaranteed benefit system, which he says will require a major taxpayer bailout in the future, and toward 401(k)-style plans instead.
But the Florida Senate, at least so far, is going in another direction. SB 1392, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson would make such a shift to 401(k)s voluntary for most new employees.
Only the highest paid employees such as senior managers and department heads would be forced to enroll. But other employees, from teachers to bus drivers to police and secretaries, could remain in the system as long as they choose to stay (it does include a new default to the 401(k)-plans). The bill provides for an enticement: all employees in the investment plan will contribute 2 percent of their salary towards retirement. Employees participating in the pension plan will continue to pay 3 percent.
Simpson’s bill is considered more palatable to senators who still aren’t convinced the FRS is in such dire condition.
SENATE’S TAX INCENTIVE SUPER BILL EMERGES via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
Florida lawmakers are advancing a sweeping package of reforms of state economic-incentives that would require more rapid and detailed disclosure of the tax-breaks companies have received to fill jobs and closer scrutiny of their economic impact.
A Senate panel Wednesday merged three different economic-development bills into one (SB 406) carried by Senate Economic Development Chairman Andy Gardiner, which, among other changes, requires all the assorted tax incentives, rebate and credit programs to undergo more study every three years.
“This provides a common yardstick for us to use as appropriators and to insure taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately and that we truly understand the economic benefit,” Gardiner said.
… Between the state and local governments, taxpayers have coughed up $977 million in incentives to entice companies large and small to stay or relocate to Florida over the last 17 years. Of the 177,000 net jobs projected under the contracts inked, about 87,000 have been confirmed.
But so far, companies that have inked deals under Scott’s watch appear to be faring better: while they’ve got 20 percent of their money, they’ve created 55 percent of their required jobs, according to an Ernest & Young analysis completed last month for Enterprise Florida.
TWEET, TWEET: @PatRooneyJr: Proud to have passed HB15 protecting the solemnity of funerals. Great working with @lizbethkb and @DaneEagle on this noble cause.
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HAYS LEADS LEGISLATURE WITH MOST BILLS FILED via The News Service of Florida
Sen. Alan Hays is the most prolific member of the Legislature. The 40 bills filed by Hays are the most by anyone in the Legislature this year. There are no limits on the number of bills senators can file. House members are generally limited to filing six bills, though there are a number of types of bills, such as local bills and measures that only repeal laws, that aren’t counted toward the House limit. Tied for second in the most bills filed for this year’s session were Sen. Jeff Brandes and Sen. Darren Soto, each of whom filed 37 bills.
SENATE TO HAVE LIGHT WEEK BETWEEN PASSOVER AND EASTER
The Senate will take off the week leading up to Easter, which also includes the beginning of Passover. Rules Chairman Sen. John Thrasher said Tuesday that the Senate won’t work on Monday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 26, the first day of Passover off. The Senate will hold committee meetings on Wednesday, March 27 and be in session that day from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Thursday, March 28, the Senate Budget Committee will meet from 9 a.m., to 12 p.m., before taking another off day on Good Friday, March 29. The House hasn’t released its schedule for the week yet.
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SECOND ORANGE COUNTY COMMISSIONER ENDORSES BOB CORTES IN HD 30
Cortes’ campaign announced the endorsement of Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke. Clarke’s endorsement is the latest in a series of prominent leaders who have also endorsed Cortes including former United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Hans Hertell, Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz, Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, former State Representative John Quinones, and former Seminole County Commission Chairman Fred Streetman.
“Bob Cortes will bring renewed focus on improving our economy and will make education a key part of that effort,” said Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke. “He understands what it takes to create jobs, and he wants to make sure that our youth have every opportunity possible to realize their dreams.”
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Stuart Brown, SKB Consulting Group: Sallie Mae
Richard Coates, Tidewater Consulting: Prolacta Bioscience, Inc
Bradley Cornell: Collier County Audubon Society
Michael Cusick: Future Builders of America, Inc
Matt Doster: Redflex Traffic Systems
Patricia Greene, Metz Husband & Daughton: Consumer Data Industry Association; Microsoft
Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Gerald Wester, Capital City Consulting: Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc
Russell Klenet: Car Charging Group; Elections Systems & Software
Frank Matthews, Hopping Green & Sams: Gulfstream Natural Gas System
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to man-about-town Andy Graham and Seth Platt.