Sunburn for 3/20 — 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.

BARACK OBAMA APPROVAL UPSIDE DOWN

A new CNN poll finds President Obama’s approval is now underwater at 47% to 50%.

HOW REPUBLICANS KEPT THE HOUSE WITH LESS VOTES

Bloomberg has an excellent series on the GOP’s lock on the House of Representatives. 

“One big reason the Republicans have this edge: their district boundaries are drawn so carefully that the only votes that often matter come from fellow Republicans.”

“The 2010 elections, in which Republicans won the House majority and gained more than 700 state legislative seats across the nation, gave the party the upper-hand in the process of redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional seats. The advantage helped them design safer partisan districts and maintain their House majority in 2012 — even as they lost the presidential race by about 5 million votes.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE

Michelle, Ella and I are here as part of Florida Defense Day 2013 to meet directly with state leaders and defense contractors from across the state. This once-a-year event is an opportunity to bring issues important to Florida’s defense economic stakeholders straight to legislative decision makers.

ONE OF THOSE ISSUES IS MAKING CLEAR HOW IMPORTANT THE F-35 PROGRAM IS TO FLORIDA

Nearly 100 defense contractors throughout Florida support the F-35 program. 12,500 Floridians are employed in the F-35 program. The annual impact to the state is $1.5 billion.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida League of Defense Contractors and the Florida Federal Contractors Association will hold a joint press conference for an exciting announcement about the future of the industry in Florida. 2:15 p.m. 22nd Floor of the Capitol.

 

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LATEST POLL: CHARLIE CRIST 52%, RICK SCOTT 40%

A new Public Policy Polling survey that Governor Rick Scott still suffers from a low approval rating and trails a handful of potential Democratic opponents.

PPP puts Scott’s approval at 33 percent, compared with 57 percent disapproval.

Up against Charlie Crist, Scott is down 12 points, 52-40; against former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Scott is down 7 points, 44-37; in a rematch with 2010 Alex Sink, he’s down 5 points, 45-40.

Scott leads against former state Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, 42-36.

SCOTT LIKELY TO SUPPORT SENATE’S MEDICAID EXPANSION ALTERNATIVE via Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott said his objective in supporting Medicaid expansion was to ensure Florida doesn’t turn down billions of federal dollars to help reduce the number of uninsured. He believes the Senate alternative that is taking shape does just that, so Scott now indicates he would sign off on that plan.

“My understanding is it’s consistent with what I said I would support,” Scott said. “It’s 100 percent federal funding. It’s taking care of the uninsured. It’s using the two Medicaid waivers that I was able to get that will give us more flexibility. And it’s going to deal with cost, quality and access to care.”

The Senate plan is the brainchild of Sen. Joe Negronwho will introduce proposed committee bill 7038 at Thursday’s Appropriations Committee meeting. The 47-page plan lines up with the “guiding principles” Negron revealed last week when a Senate select committee voted against Medicaid expansion.

SCOTT RELEASE CAMPAIGN-STYLE VIDEO: View it here.

SCOTT, WEATHERFORD CLASH via the Associated Press

In an uncharacteristic moment, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is already raising questions about some of the early budget proposals emerging from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Scott today openly questioned whether or not House Republicans were going to recommend a $2,500 across the board pay raise for teachers. It’s one of Scott’s priorities for the session.

The Republican governor noted that the initial outline for the House budget calls for across the board pay raises for state workers but not teachers. Scott called the distinction “interesting.”

“State workers deserve to be paid fairly,” said Scott, who recommended a one-time bonus for state employees in his proposed $74.2 billion budget. “But I find it interesting that the speaker is against the pay raise for classroom teachers but is ok with an across the board pay raise for state workers.”

Weatherford responded to the governor initially on Twitter, suggesting that the governor’s staff had misread the initial House proposals. He ended his message on Twitter with “#truth”.

He pointed out later that the House had pledged to set aside more than $1 billion in extra money for public schools.

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FIRST IN SUNBURN: NEW FLORIDA CHAMBER POLL SHOWS MORE FLORIDIANS THINK STATE HEADED IN RIGHT DIRECTION

Voters are about equally divided on the direction in which Florida is headed, with a slight advantage to wrong direction according to a new poll taken for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The poll, taken by Cherry Communications, finds thirty-six (36) percent of likely Florida voters believe the state is headed in the right direction, an increase from a similar poll taken last year which found that 32% of likely voters thought Florida was on the right track.  The new poll also shows thirty-nine (39) percent of likely voters believe the state is headed in the wrong direction as opposed to last year when almost a majority of likely voters — 48% — thought the state was headed the wrong way. 

Governor Scott’s job approval rating continues to remain positive, with 47 percent of the voters approving of the job he’s doing compared to 43 percent who disapprove of his performance in office. 

“We have continued to see an upward trend in the state headed in the right direction,” said Marian Johnson, Senior Vice President of Political Strategy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.  “The fact that likely voters approve of the job performance of Governor Scott more positively is an indication that they agree with his jobs agenda and that he is moving forward with exactly what he campaigned on.”

Jobs and the economy continue to dominate the concerns of Floridians by 27 percent – down from 43 percent in November 2012. Education (14%) and concerns about health care (12%) round out the top three issues.

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REST IN PEACE, REPRESENTATIVE CLAY FORD

Described by friends as humble and a “tender conscience,” state Rep. Clay Ford, R-Gulf Breeze, has died of cancer at age 74.

Ford, who was chairman of the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee but had been absent from this year’s legislative session because of the illness, died Monday night, according to a statement issued by House Speaker Will Weatherford.

“The consummate gentleman of the House, Clay Ford was a friend, a mentor and a tender conscience to all those who served with him,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford and Rep. Jimmy Patronis pointed to Ford’s humble nature, with the speaker saying that Ford had requested that “we not mourn him with ceremony and fanfare” and allow his family to mourn privately.

“Rep. Clay Ford had a long battle with cancer,” said Patronis, who along with Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, paid tribute to Ford during an afternoon subcommittee meeting. “Today is a day that Clay would be very upset if we were grieving, just because there’s never been a picture of humility more in this process I’ve ever crossed than Rep. Ford.”

Ford, an attorney, took office after a February 2007 special election and was re-elected three times, mostly recently when he won a Republican primary in August 2012. An Arkansas native, Ford was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1975 and 1976 and went on to become a member of the Gulf Breeze City Council from 1990 to 2007.

A compilation of reactions and statements on the passing of Rep. Ford:

Governor Rick Scott:

“Ann and I were sad to hear the news of the passing of Representative Clay Ford. Our sincere condolences go to his family and to all of those in the Legislature that served with him. Clay cared deeply for his constituents and it showed during his work in Tallahassee.”

Speaker Will Weatherford:

“It is with great sadness that I inform you of the loss of one of our family members and dear friend, Representative Clay Ford. The consummate gentleman of the House, Clay Ford was a friend, a mentor, and a tender conscience to all those who served with him.  Last night, Clay lost his brave fight with cancer. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Carol, his three sons David, Doug, and Clay, and his nine grandchildren.   

For those who know Clay, you will not be surprised by his request that we not mourn him with ceremony and fanfare, but that we would allow his family to grieve privately. We will work to honor his wishes, while also providing you with details that would be in keeping with their wishes.

In the meantime, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. We all know how painful and significant the loss of this genuinely good man will be to all of us.”

Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli:

“Kristen and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Representative Clay Ford. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Carol and the rest of his family. Clay was a man of the highest integrity and was deeply committed to his family, community, and nation, all of which he served with distinction and honor. 

“Clay was a great friend and someone I could always look to for guidance. It’s been an honor to serve alongside such a great man in the Florida House, and Clay will be deeply missed by all of us.”

Majority Leader Steve Precourt:

“I am saddened by the passing of my friend, Representative Clay Ford and feel blessed in having known him. I acknowledge that he is in heaven with our Savior and no longer burdened by worldly illnesses or pain. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time. May they find peace and comfort in celebrating Clay’s life. He was a tireless and selfless servant to the people of Florida, who made a difference for the better, and will be sorely missed.”

Representative Jose Felix Diaz:

“I was deeply saddened today to learn of the passing of our Chairman, Representative Clay Ford. Clay was an honorable man who dedicated many years of his life to serving our great state and our country. I greatly admired and respected Clay’s strong principles, unwavering integrity and the passion with which he continually fought for the best interest of Floridians. It was a privilege to serve with him in the Florida House and as his Vice Chairman on this committee. My thoughts and prayers are with all of his family and friends during this difficult time. I know he will be missed by all those who knew him and those who he served.”  

Representative Alan Williams: 

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend and colleague, Representative Clay Ford. As state representatives from North Florida and as colleagues on the House Energy & Utilities subcommittee, Clay and I were drawn to one another early in our legislative careers and maintained a strong friendship that transcended politics. Clay had the charm of a Southern gentleman that I greatly appreciated when we faced tough and complex issues. Today, my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Carol and the rest of Clay’s family. Clay will be greatly missed.”

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HOUSE PANEL PASSES ETHICS REFORM via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Less than three weeks into the 60-day session, House and Senate lawmakers are both advancing ethics changes designed to hold politicians to higher standards of conduct while they’re in office and after they’ve left.

But they are also at odds over several of the finer points.

A House panel began advancing package of changes which would require more public officials to undergo ethics training, make it harder for politicians to shirk fines, and impose new restrictions on side-jobs with public employers.

But the House reform takes a different tact on several major pieces of the Senate’s ethics bill (SB 2), which was a top priority of Senate President Don Gaetz and passed out of the chamber the first day of session.

The ethics reform are part of a trade with Speaker Weatherford for raising campaign-finance limits on candidates and doing away with the fundraising slush-funds many lawmakers have called Committees of Continuous Existence.

LEGISLATORS RUSH TO RETURN TAINTED CAMPAIGN CASH FROM INTERNET CAFES by Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Shamed by the notion that they may have filled their political coffers with more than $1.4 million in campaign cash from a phony veterans group facing charges of illegal gambling, the Florida Legislature is scrambling to save face by donating the money to charity.

Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican slated to be House speaker in 2016, sent a letter to his Republican colleagues Monday saying that he’s giving away the $3,500 in questionable cash he received to a local veterans group. He suggested other legislators do the same and even attached a list of the suspected companies. 

“The information that has come to light regarding the Allied Veterans group and their affiliates is outrageous,’’ he wrote. “These allegations of fraud especially in the name of those who risk it all in defense of freedom and our nation — must be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS:  Representative Mark Pafford, the House Democratic Caucus policy chairman, will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. to discuss health coverage in Florida. Fourth Floor Rotunda.

HOUSE PANEL TO PASS SLIMMED-DOWN PRO SPORTS TAX BREAKS 

The tax-writing committee in the Florida House is poised to pass an assortment of tax breaks for professional sports teams today – though the multimillion-dollar subsidies will all be trimmed back a bit.

The House Finance & Tax Subcommittee plans to rewrite three sports bills: One to help NASCAR promoterInternational Speedway Corp., another to help Orlando City Soccer Club become a Major League Soccer team and a third to help the Jacksonville Jaguars renovate their football stadium.

All three bills would still give away tens of millions of tax dollars, just not quite as much as sports boosters initially hoped.

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APPOINTED: Vincent Cassidy and Rebecca Smith  (reappointed) to the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority.

GENTING’S NEW VISION CALLS FOR LUXURY HOTEL, CONDOS via the Miami Herald

By the end of this year, the bayfront site where The Miami Herald now stands will be reduced to vacant land ready for redevelopment.

The demolition of the Herald headquarters is the first step in the Genting Group’s plans to turn the site into a luxury hotel with up to 500 rooms and several hundred luxury condos edged by a pedestrian bay walk, said Bill Thompson, senior vice president of development for Resorts World Miami.

With casino gambling on the back burner, Genting is ready to make a commitment to Miami and move ahead with a scaled-down development plan that will start to take shape immediately after the Herald moves out in May.

“We’ve decided to go with a phased approach,” said Thompson, whose career included more than a decade as an executive with the Related Group. “That seems to be more conducive with what’s acceptable in Miami. You start out with the waterfront property and that improves the value across everything else. Then you stay fluid based on what’s happening in the marketplace.”

LEAGUE OF SOUTHEASTERN CREDIT UNIONS & AFFILIATES COMMEMORATE CREDIT UNION DAY AT THE CAPITOL

The LSCU, along with Credit Union members and supporters from across the state, will be visit lawmakers to express support of the legislative priorities. Today’s lawmaker visits conclude the two-day conference events that included a Financial Outlook address, given by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. The LSCU represents the interests of credit unions in Alabama and Florida before federal and state legislative and regulatory bodies. Among their legislative priorities is a proposal to provide municipalities and public offices with depository choice, making credit unions a qualified public depository.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

David Ash: Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

Brian Ballard, Greg Turbeville, Ballard Partners: LKQ Corporation

Andrea Becker, Smith Bryan & Myers: Dosal Tobacco; InfoGroup; Summit Care Inc.; TicketNetwork

Robert Blair, Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Novo Nordisk, Inc

Ron Book, Rana Brown: Florida High School Athletic Association

Kimberly Case, James Ervin, Holland & Knight: Walgreen Company

Mark Delegal, Pete Dunbar, Martha Edenfield: Bowling Centers Association of Florida

Leo DiBenigno, Bryant Miller Olive: Sarasota County

Marty Fiorentino, Joe Mobley, Mark Pinto: Beaver Street Enterprise Center

Kim Foster, Shoemaker Foster: Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind

Rich Heffley, Kelly Horton: Hayes E-Government Resources

Brian Hudson: The Home Depot

Al Lawson, John Reid: Charter Schools USA

TALLYMADNESS VOTING NOW UNDERWAY; MOBILE VERSION SHOULD BE LIVE LATER TODAY

Voting in TallyMadness — an online competition to determine Florida’s best lobbyist — is underway. Visit TallyMadness.com to vote in 32 first-round brackets.

Also, we’ve heard of issues voting on iPads. We’re testing a mobile version this morning and hope to have a solution later today. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jacob Engel of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcylce Club Redwood Original, Aakash Patel, and Larry Metz

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.