Sunburn for 3/21 — 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.

JEB BUSH CLARIFIES POSITION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM — AGAIN

In a first-person blurb for Businessweek, former Governor Jeb Bush further clarified his position on immigration reform.

“My views haven’t changed,” writes Bush. “I don’t know why it’s hard for everybody to grasp this. It’s not just the question of a path to citizenship or a path to legalization. I’ve been supportive of both. We have to change our laws so that it’s easier for someone to come legally rather than illegally. That’s the point that people haven’t quite grasped. I don’t view that as flip-flopping at all.”

SEQUESTRATION HITS FLORIDA NATIONAL GUARD via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Nearly 1,000 members of the Florida National Guard will be advised Thursday they face one-day-per-pay-period furloughs from the end of April through the end of September due to the national fiscal sequestration.

Another 400 soldiers from Florida won’t be eligible for deployments as required periodic medical exams will be postponed, Major General Emmett Titshaw, head of the Florida National Guard, told the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Additional cutbacks in counter-narcotic operations will result in 85 layoffs by Sept. 1 in drug confiscation and public school education programs, he said.

The cuts could affect the Guard’s ability to respond to disasters, said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS:  Senator Marco Rubio will deliver a keynote address to The Free State Foundation’s Fifth Annual Telecom Policy Conference. 1 p.m. National Association of Home Builders, Washington, D.C.

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Q-POLL SHOWS CRIST BEATING SCOTT, BUT AIF POLL SHOWS STEADY NUMBERS FOR GOV 

With backing from independent voters and little sign of damage from his party switching, former Gov. Charlie Crist has a comfortable lead over Gov. Rick Scott amid speculation that they will battle next year for the state’s top job, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Crist leads Scott by a margin of 50 percent to 34 percent, as the incumbent Republican continues to have low voter-approval ratings, the Quinnipiac University poll shows. Alex Sink also leads Scott by 45 percent to 34 percent.

Associated Industries of Florida also released new polling data, showing a clear contradiction to the Q-poll and Tuesday’s numbers from Public Policy Polling. 

“(T)his poll shows us what many of us already knew, which is that Governor Scott’s approval rating is not on the decline,” continued Feeney.  “But rather, his approval is holding strong at 47 percent, as opposed to dropping into the low 30s.”

COUNTERPUNCH: THE WHOLE RECORD OF RICK SCOTT’S SUCCESSFUL PRO-GROWTH RECORD via Ken Blackwell for the Huffington Post

The state that was exhibit A for economic disaster two years ago is now experiencing a tremendous rebound thanks to Gov. Rick Scott’s pro-growth policies. Washington should take a page — no, several pages — out of Scott’s book. 

Since December 2010, one month before Scott took office, the unemployment rate in Florida has dropped from 11.1 percent to 7.8 percent — that rate is lower than the national average. After two years of Scott’s policies, 282,000 private sector jobs have been created; in the previous four years the state had lost 825,000 jobs. 

The past two years have set records for tourism, Florida’s biggest industry. In 2012, 89.3 million people visited Florida, up 2.3 percent from the previous record-setting year.

HOW THE Q-POLL PLAYED

Tampa Bay TimesCharlie Crist would crush Rick Scott in 2014; The Bradenton HeraldPoll: Crist leads Scott in 2014 governor’s matchup; The Lakeland LedgerPoll Has Crist Beating Scott For Governor; The Miami HeraldPoll: Crist leads Scott in 2014 governor’s matchup; Orlando SentinelNew poll shows Crist leading Gov. Rick Scott; The Tampa TribuneAnother poll shows Gov. Scott trailing Crist, Sink

I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO LINK TO STEVE BOUSQUET’S RIDICULOUS REPORTING (well, yes I am, it’s here — just keep in mind, no one — no one is “expected” to run Charlie Crist’s campaign except Charlie Crist himself.)

SHOULD BILL NELSON FOR GOVERNOR? via Brian Crowley of the Crowley Report

(A) few questions:

Would newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist run against Nelson in a Democratic primary?

Could Crist defeat Nelson?

Would Nelson be able to raise the money?

Would Crist stay out of the raise if Nelson got in?

Is there anybody else in the Democratic Party who could give Crist a serious run for the nomination?

These questions are being asked in Democratic circles – the answers will say a lot about the future of the Florida Democratic Party.

THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT NUMBERS IN THE Q-POLL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RICK SCOTT

That Crist leads Scott, even by double digits, is nothing new or unexpected.

That Scott’s approval rating is still mired in the mid 30s is also nothing new or unexpected.

No, the three most important numbers in this Q-poll are:

Scott crushes Adam Putnam, 47 to 24 percent, in a possible GOP primary. That number should tramp down any talk of Putnam rising up against the Governor. That and the oppo file Scott’s surrogates dropped on Marc Caputo two weeks ago listing some of Putnam’s bad votes while he was in Congress.

The second number is Florida voters say 50 – 40 percent that Crist’s switch from Republican to independent and now to Democrat is a positive thing that shows he is a pragmatist, rather than a negative thing that shows he lacks core beliefs.

The fact that voters think it’s an asset that Crist moved from conservative Republican to a Democrat with very different political views will be a key metric to watch between now and the 2014 voting. “These numbers indicate Republicans will have a tough job turning around Crist’s lead over Scott by reminding voters of Crist’s evolution,” said said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The third number is that by a 50 to 40 percent margin voters want to expand Medicaid coverage to new recipients. Don Gaetz, Joe Negron and Will Weatherford should pay heed to this number as their legislative colleagues continue to block Medicaid expansion. Perhaps this obstruction is why voters disapprove 52 – 25 percent of the job the Legislature is doing.

TWEET, TWEET: @ChrisLatvala: I know it was 2 political parties ago for Charlie Crist but I remember when all the polls said he would crush Marco Rubio.

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RAYS OF POLLING SUNSHINE via Public Policy Polling

-53% of Florida voters support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, compared to 31% of voters who are opposed to it. There’s a bipartisan consensus on the issue with independents (58/25), Democrats (57/30), and Republicans (45/35) all supportive of reform.

-75% of Florida voters support at least civil unions for same sex couples, compared to only 23% who think there should be no form of legal recognition for them. 80% of independents, 74% of Republicans, and 72% of Democrats support either gay marriage or civil unions.

-51% of Floridians say they generally support stronger gun laws, compared to 43% who are opposed to adopting stricter rules. On the more specific issue of an assault weapons ban voters are very closely divided with 47% favoring it and 45% against.

-34% of voters in the state are concerned about falling into one (13% ‘very concerned) while 67% are not worried about that happening to them. Interestingly there is a large partisan divide when it comes to concern about falling into a sinkhole with 46% of Democrats but only 22% of Republicans worried about getting sucked into the ground.

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5 PEOPLE WHO COULD BE NEXT LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Anitere Flores, Doug Holder, Jimmy Patronis, Raquel Regaldo, Dana Young

>>>Jeez, I wonder where Bousquet came up with this list???

FORMER STATE REP. CARL DOMINO CONSIDERING CHALLENGE TO PATRICK MURPHY via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Republican Carl Domino, the Jupiter investor who served in the state House from 2002 to 2010 and was a driving force behind Florida’s property tax portability law, says he’ll take a look at running for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 seat held by freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy.

“I’m going to probably set up one of these exploratory committees…I don’t have to make a decision, obviously, for a long time,” said Domino.

Domino said he’s getting help in setting up an exploratory committee from veteran Republican consultant Randy Nielsen. Nielsen’s past clients include state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who says she’ll make a decision on a congressional run when the legislative session ends in May. Nielsen wasn’t immediately reachable this afternoon.

“I don’t think there’s any way that both Gayle and I will be running,” said Domino, who said he hasn’t talked to Harrell about the race.

MEANWHILE… LEGISLATORS MAY AGAIN URGE CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS via the News Service of Florida

The House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a memorial (HM 763) that implores Congress to limit the number of consecutive terms a member may serve. A similar memorial was approved last year with no response from Congress. Rep. Matt Caldwell, the sponsor of the message, said Congress failed to take up the suggestion from the Legislature last year “as they have with many of the good ideas from Florida, but maybe someday.”

WHO MIGHT REPLACE CLAY FORD IN HOUSE DISTRICT 3? via Rick Outzen

The phones have been ringing about who will run for State Reprentative Clay Ford’s seat. Several hopefuls trekked to Tallahassee to meet with Republican and Democratic party officials.

Escambia County commissioners Grover Robinson and Lumon May have told me that they aren’t interested. Reportedly Gene Valentino has told insiders that he is only interested in the Lt. Governor position.

There is a rumor that Mayor Ashton Hayward might jump in the race to get out of the mess his created at City Hall. I doubt he will take the salary cut.

Councilman Larry Johnson, whose term is up in 2014, has been lobbying for support for weeks, but has yet to gain much traction with the Florida Democratic Party. Charles Bare and Gerald Wingate have been mentioned.

Bare, a Republican, is a very attractive candidate, but may have his sights on the mayor’s job. Wingate impressed local Democrats with his recent handling City Attorney Jim Messer on the Y lease.

Former Councilman Hugh King has been told by the State Democrats to take a hike. He left the party in 2012 to run as NPA against Lumon May and was soundly trounced.

There is always a chance a Benson will run —Lois, Holly or Megan (Pratt) —which could freeze out money from other GOP hopefuls.

Here are other names being mentioned:

GOP: Former City Councilman Jack Nobles (wouldn’t it be great to see a Nobles-Johnson showdown?), Frank White (son-in-law of Sandy Sansing), former State Rep. Dave Murzin, former Gulf Breeze Mayor & Santa Rosa School Board member Ed Gray, III.

Democrats: SRIA member Fred Gant, DeeDee Ritchie Davis, Claudia Brown-Curry, Rev. Joseph Marshall, Aaron Watson, Clorissti Mitchell, Elvin McCorvey, Patrick Madden.

Stay tuned. Florida Democrats think they can win back this seat. GOP want to keep it. Both parties will pour money into this race, but the candidates have to show they’re viable—which means raising about $25K on their own.

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COURT STRIKES PART OF PIP LAW via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel

A Tallahassee judge has temporarily banned part of a massive auto insurance overhaul passed by the Legislature in an attempt to drive down personal injury protection rates.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis issued the ban on a part of the law that banned any payments to massage therapists, acupuncturists or chiropractors as well as the requirement that accident victims get a doctor’s certification that an “emergency medical condition” exists for the full $10,000 PIP coverage.

The Office of Insurance Regulation said it intends to file an appeal by the end of the week.

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “No more dolla bills, y’all, under House arcade amendment” by Dara Kam of the Palm Beach Post

“HEALTHY FLORIDA” ALTERNATIVE UNVEILED; FIRST HEARING SET FOR TODAY

Sen. Joe Negron’s plan, now called “Healthy Florida” will have a hearing today in the Senate Appropriations Committee at 2:00 pm.  SPB 7038 would provide health insurance coverage to households at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about 1 million of Florida’s low income adults, by expanding the role of the state’s Florida Healthy Kids Corporation (FHK).  In addition to offering benefits consistent with those under Health Kids, other plan components include:

  • Giving enrollees a choice of plans, including a 90-day trial period.
  • Rewarding enrollees for healthy behaviors.
  • The establishment health savings accounts for each enrollee.
  • Requiring that administrative costs and profits are restricted to no more than 15% of premiums.

To be implemented, this plan must be deemed eligible by federal regulators for the funding provided to states under PPACA.  At any point that the federal match falls below 90 percent, Healthy Florida would expire at the end of that state fiscal year.

LATVALA CALLS HOUSE APPROACH TO PENSION REFORM “WRONG”, “ILL CONCEIVED” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

The legislative standoff over revamping the Florida Retirement System hardened Wednesday — with Sen. Latvala deriding the House approach as “wrong” and “ill-conceived.”

The Senate Community Affairs Committee approved its more modest approach to the $136 billion fund on a 5-3 party-line vote, with Democrats opposed.

The Senate proposal (CS/SB 1392)  by Sen. Wilton Simpson would give new public employees an incentive by cutting their payroll contributions to 2 percent if they join the state’s 401(k) styled investment plan.

If workers choose the traditional, defined benefit pension plan, they’d pay 3 percent. The only new workers required to join the investment plan would be senior managers, under Simpson’s bill.

The House, by contrast, is looking to close the Florida Retirement System’s defined benefit plan to new employees. The legislation (CS/HB 7011) is expected to clear the House on Friday — over opposition from outnumbered Democrats, who are siding with union allies who are fighting the changes.

SENATE PANEL APPROVES CAMPAIGN FINANCE BILL

The Senate Community Affairs Committee unanimously approved a slightly changed version of a campaign finance bill that would increase contribution limits for statewide candidates and abolish “committees of continuous existence.” The measure (SB 1382) would allow other committees to take on most of the functions of CCEs, but would do away with those organizations while increasing the per-person fundraising limit for statewide candidates to $3,000, up from the current $500. Local and legislative candidates would still be limited to raising $500 from each person for each election.

The bill’s House counterpart (HB 569) would increase the limits to $5,000 for statewide candidates and $3,000 for all other elections.

“We’re going to hold pretty strong on the lower amount for the local candidates and for legislative candidates,” said Sen. Jack Latvala,  The measure approved Wednesday was amended to lower the number of finance reports provided by local and legislative candidates to 14; eight are currently required, but the bill would have required 19 before the amendment.

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HERALD EDITORIAL: HANDS OFF SANDOWSKI FUNDS

This year, legislators don’t have the excuse of a looming budget deficit, but there’s another threat to the Sadowski money. This trick is a kind of legislative bait and switch that lets lawmakers sweep Sadowski funds into general revenue under the guise of using a windfall to cover their actions.

The windfall comes from a settlement obtained by Attorney General Pam Bondi and her counterparts across the nation with mortgage banks involving abuses and unfair practices in lending. The discretionary amount for Florida comes to $334 million or so. Attorney General Bondi did a good job of getting the Legislature to agree that it would use the funds for housing.

But let’s be clear: The money should be used to supplement existing housing programs, not as an excuse to once again raid the Sadowski fund and use the settlement funds for other things. 

HOUSE TO VOTE ON INTERNET CAFÉ BAN TODAY via the News Service of Florida

The move to ban Internet cafés, which law enforcement officials say are just storefront casinos, will be front and center Thursday as the House votes on a measure banning the types of machines used in the facilities. The bill (HB 155), clarifying that certain gaming devices used in the cafés are illegal, is the first measure on the calendar for a vote on Thursday on the House floor. The bill still needs Senate approval, but is also on a fast track there. 

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4TH FLOOR FILES: Not a lobbyist, Alia Faraj-Johnson, as Executive Vice President of Sachs Media Group, still influences the Fourth Floor of the Capitol. Here’s the file on Alia.

SPOTTED: Jillian Hasner, Adam’s better half and a powerhouse political consultant, lunching at the Governors Club with David Johnson.

***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.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to The Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart, uber lawyer Fran Haasch, and political consultant Mary Repper.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

You’re always smart about finding an opening! Mike Allen with Politico has created a model that is worthwhile repeating in busy news places like Fla. … I’d suggest you also look outside the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald news operation for state Capitol news. Take a look every now and again at what we’re doing at the (redacted). You’ll find us out front frequently with smart journalism. Our work is easily found on Google, with our daily stories easily searchable under our bylines (redacted). Or our website: (redacted).”

You know what (redacted), you are absolutely right!

THANK YOU to Madelyn Starr Weatherford’s dad for making time for all of us to get together today. 

ALSO, THANK YOU for the hospitality to our friends Reps. Dane Eagle, Kathleen Peters and Dana Young. And to our friends at Corcoran & Johnston for the table.

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.