Sunburn for 3/24 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***

THE WEEK AHEAD

A budget surplus makes everybody a little happier at the Capitol. But that doesn’t mean everybody agrees on how to divvy up a spending plan that will ultimately be in the neighborhood of $75 billion. House and Senate appropriations committees have set aside several hours during the coming week for debate and possible changes to their initial budget proposals. Meanwhile, lawmakers will grapple with other high-profile issues, such as fixing the troubled child-welfare system and resolving a hospital-industry battle about new trauma centers.

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THIS WEEK

1. What, if anything, will the Rick Scott campaign do to mitigate the damage done by the resignation of campaign finance co-chair Mike Fernandez?

2. Just how nasty will campaigning get in the special election in Florida’s 19th Congressional District? A better question might be just how much money will Curt Clawson spend in the race?

3. Session in January? On Tuesday, The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill (SB 72), filed by Sen. Anitere Flores that calls for starting legislative sessions in January during even-numbered years. Sessions now typically start in March.

4. Will there be more trauma drama? (Of course there will!) After an administrative law judge postponed the start of a hearing in the latest round of legal battles about the state’s approval of new trauma centers, two different legislative committees are expected to take up this week a proposal that would revamp the way trauma centers are approved.

5. What is the future for red-light cameras?  On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to consider a bill (SB 144), filed by Chairman Jeff Brandes that would repeal the state’s red-light camera law.

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HAPPY, UM, BIRTHDAY: The Affordable Care Act turned 4 yesterday.

MARCO RUBIO VIDEO “CELEBRATES” THE OCCASION

Rubio released a video message Sunday marking Obamacare’s fourth anniversary since its passage through Congress, noting how the “failed” health care legislation is having an “adverse effect on millions of Americans.”

The Florida Senator pointed out the Obama administration’s excessive delays to implement various components, using that as “proof” the law needs to be repealed and replaced.

 According to Rubio, individuals can “no longer continue to see the doctors they’ve been seeing for a long time,” since they have “lost insurance they are happy with.”

“That’s why we cannot give up on our efforts,” Rubio says, “not just to completely repeal ObamaCare, but to replace it with real market-based solutions that allow every single American to have the ability to buy affordable health insurance that meets their needs, and to buy it from any company in America that will sell it to them.

“We’re going to have a chance to achieve that soon. We cannot give up.”

FLORIDA STUDENTS ASSIST ‘OBAMACARE’ ENROLLMENT via Kelli Kennedy of the Associated Press

 As federal health officials are aggressively courting young adults to sign up for health insurance with celebrity endorsement and social media campaigns, they are also getting significant help from the very demographic they’re targeting.

Busy medical, nursing and law students across Florida are getting certified as counselors and are staffing enrollment events as the March 31 deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act looms.

More than 60 UM medical students went through a five-hour training to become certified application counselors and have enrolled more than 50 people since December. They’ve staffed several major enrollment events as well as manned tables daily outside their school, where they end up enrolling many low-income patients recently released from the nearby hospital.

Farther south at Florida International University in Miami, seven students were crammed around a massive conference table this week all trying to sign up for health insurance on their laptops.

Since February, they’ve counseled more than 200 students and their families, many who fall into a gap where they can’t get coverage because Florida didn’t expand Medicaid. They enrolled nearly 50, but many are still choosing plans and they expect an influx in the next week.

OTHER STORIES DRIVING THE NAT’L CONVERSATION…

… FLOOD INSURANCE HIKES STILL A PERIL via David Caruso of The Associated Press

As many as 1.1 million policyholders with subsidized government insurance will … be hit with steady rate increases. While no one is sure yet how high rates will go, there is cause for worry in cities and towns that rely on affordable policies to keep businesses afloat and prop up the local housing market. … [T]hanks to the congressional rollback, [the] rate will reset to where it was before — only to immediately start climbing again … [M]any say even the adjusted premiums will soon be beyond their means, though the question remains: Will the government continue to subsidize insurance in places that are increasingly untenable as sea levels rise and storms become more severe?

820,000 homeowners will get hit with increases of up to 18 percent each year until the program is collecting enough revenue to cover a $24 billion shortfall created by the long-running discounts and a series of catastrophic storms. Owners of another quarter million businesses or second homes will see rates rise 25 percent each year, until premiums reach rates that match what building elevation surveys indicate is the true risk of flooding.

… MILLIONS OF STUDENTS TO FIELD TEST COMMON CORE-BASED ASSESSMENTS via Kimberly Heffling of the Associated Press

Field testing begins this coming week in 36 states and the District of Columbia on assessments developed by two different groups of states. Participating students will be asked to sit for hours in front of a computer or use a No. 2 pencil to answer questions.

But there’s no need for kids to worry. The scores won’t count, this time. The actual exam-testing won’t be used for another year.

The Common Core standards spell out what math and English skills students should have at each grade, and are designed to develop more critical thinking skills than traditional school work. They were first pushed by governors concerned about the large number of high school graduates needing remedial college help and lacking basic skills. Most states have adopted them.

The field tests, to be conducted until June, are a big step forward in the push to more fully integrate the new academic standards into the school environment. They will give education officials a chance to judge things such as the quality of each test question and the technical capabilities of schools to administer the tests, which are computer-based but also will be available on paper.

But they also come as the standards face political push-back in many states.

… Common Core supporters hope the field tests provide an opportunity to highlight the best of Common Core.

“There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of planning and it’s actually happening, which I think generates some excitement and some reality, if you will, for the fact that this is moving ahead,” said Jeffrey Nellhaus, director of research, policy and design with the consortium Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

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GOP FIELD HASN’T BEEN THIS SPLIT IN 40 YEARS via Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight.com

In surveys … from January through March of the preceding midterm election year, … the Republican atop the polls has always averaged at least 23 percent … But … Mike Huckabee … leads current polling with 14.8 percent. … While the GOP is more divided than usual, … Democrats are more united. Hillary Clinton has 67 percent … stronger than any contender in the modern era on either side, including incumbent presidents George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Jimmy Carter in 1980.

JEB GETS TOP BILLING AT SHELDON ADELSON GATHERING via The Washington Post

Jeb Bush will get top billing when he and other potential 2016 presidential candidates join billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson for an exclusive Republican gathering next week in Las Vegas.

Bush, who is quietly exploring a run for the White House, will be the featured speaker at an exclusive VIP dinner on Thursday hosted by Adelson and his wife, Miriam, at his company’s private airplane hangar at Las Vegas Macarran International Airport, according to a draft itinerary obtained by The Washington Post.  The Adelsons’ dinner for Bush will kick off the Republican Jewish Coalition’s four-day spring leadership meeting, during which politicians and major GOP donors will mingle at golf and poker tournaments, as well as in political strategy sessions.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton will address the group during its meeting on Saturday morning, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich is to speak at a luncheon that day. The gathering is being held at the Venetian Resort and Hotel, a glamorous property built by Las Vegas Sands Corp., the casino and hospitality company that Adelson runs.

AFTER DAVID JOLLY’S WIN, NRCC REVEALS THE ONE WORD THAT MOTIVATES GOP VOTERS AND IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK via Mike Miller of IJReview

… (T)he word that most motivated Republican voters in Florida to head to the polls in sufficient numbers to put Jolly over the top? Pelosi.

That’s right, Nancy Pelosi. When presented with the grim reality that every time a Democrat wins a House race, Pelosi edges closer to once again becoming Speaker of the House, Republican voters recoil in fear, according the NRCC.

JOLLY OPENS FIRST FIELD OFFICE, ANNOUNCES NEW STAFF Full blog post here

Jolly announced his new Congressional staff, as well as the opening of an office in the Seminole Campus of St. Petersburg College, the first of three branch offices.

The filed office is in the same location as the office of his predecessor, the former U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Jolly’s staff includes:

  • John David “J.D.” White as Chief of Staff of the Seminole District Office. White was previously director of Government Affairs for WellCare Health Plans.
  • Nick Catroppo as Deputy Chief of Staff in Washington, D.C., Office. Catroppo served campaign manager for the David Jolly for Congress Campaign.
  • Jenifer Nawrocki as Legislative Director in Washington D.C. Nawrocki served as a legislative correspondent and legislative assistant in the office of the late Congressman Bill Young.

There are plans to open up other offices in north and south Pinellas County, to “ensure constituents across the entire county can readily access congressional staff and constituent services.”

DIRTY POLITICS: REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR CD 19 TAKES NASTY TURN via Ledyard King of the News-Press.com

Curt Clawson is portrayed as a cruel boss who collected millions in bonuses while laying off workers, cutting health benefits and pensions, and driving his company into bankruptcy.

Lizbeth Benacquisto is painted as a wishy-washy, big-government liberal and one-time Democrat who violated campaign finance laws to promote her congressional candidacy.

Paige Kreegel is depicted as a win-at-all-costs conniver who’s illegally coordinating with a super PAC and who tried unsuccessfully to have campaign staffers break election laws in his previous congressional campaign.

The race for the Republican nomination for the 19th Congressional District seat has turned into a decidedly negative affair, with hyperbolic accusations and character assassination floated freely in television ads, mailers and news stories bombarding Southwest Florida voters.

Observers say a combination of factors have made the GOP primary contest one of the most combative local congressional races in recent memory.

It’s a special election for an open seat that commands attention from political operatives across the state. In addition, outside groups are working hard to influence the outcome, the candidates themselves, led by Clawson, are spending large amounts of their own money, and the campaign season is highly compressed (the primary is April 22).

Two super PACs, Values are Vital and the Liberty and Leadership Fund, have spent over $858,000 on the race. Two-thirds of that financed mailers and television ads critical of either Benacquisto or Clawson, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

DAYS UNTIL THE ELECTION: 224

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ICYMI: TOP RICK SCOTT FUNDRAISER QUITS POST 

Rick Scott has lost a key member of his campaign team in a sudden shakeup.

Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald reported Friday that Scott’s campaign finance co-chair, Mike Fernandez, quit late Thursday night. Publicly, Fernandez said he was leaving to focus more attention on his family and business, but reports said there was trouble behind the scenes.

“Together, we have helped the governor raise more than $35 million,” Fernandez wrote in a letter released by the Scott campaign. “This has been an unprecedented effort, which is only matched by our shared commitment to re-elect our governor this November. I am proud of the team the governor has put together, and I am confident that we are on course for victory.”

Fernandez also acknowledged to the Herald that his exit had to do with the campaign, and not Scott. He vowed to continue supporting the governor against charlie Crist, admitting to some of his own faults in the process.

“To be fair to those people who I have criticized, I probably have overstepped my — or maybe their —comfort zone,” Fernandez told the paper. “Because I’m used to being the CEO. Here I’m not the CEO. I’m a senior vice president at the most.”

CAPUTO COLUMN: MEXICAN ACCENT CONTROVERSY NAGS SCOTT CAMPAIGN

… Fernandez raised a concern in an email last month about campaign associates joking around in over-the-top Mexican accents.

Insiders whispered about the email for weeks, but some of the contents became public only after Fernandez suddenly quit his campaign post, citing the need to spend more time with his family while expressing confidence in Scott’s chances.

Fernandez, however, also expressed some dissatisfaction with the direction of the reelection effort.

The Scott campaign went into double-damage-control mode, reeling from Fernandez’s abrupt departure and downplaying the Mexican-accent issue, which apparently played out in a van en route to a Mexican restaurant in Coral Gables.

“Mike was not in the van,” Scott’s campaign manager, Melissa Sellers, said in an email to the Herald.

“I spoke to every staffer in the van,” Sellers wrote. “If something was said in an accent, no one remembers what it was. We are a diverse organization and we do not tolerate inappropriate comments.”

Fernandez, born in Cuba, won’t comment about internal campaign conversation or about the email. Nor would Sellers confirm whether she received it.

DEM REAX: “With his pay to play tactics exposed, the turmoil in Rick Scott’s campaign has become impossible to hide,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp. “After giving Mike Fernandez over $1 billion in state contracts, Rick Scott thought he had found his money man for 2014. But sunshine is the best medicine, and with their relationship exposed, it was only a matter of time before Mike Fernandez had to leave Scott’s campaign.  … It looks like Rick Scott’s new slogan, ‘let’s keep working,’ actually refers to his never-ending search for replacements to his scandal-plagued, soon-to-be fired senior officials.”

MY TAKE: DON’T COMPARE FERNANDEZ’ QUITTING TO THE BILL HYERS SITUATION

The immediate reaction from Florida Republicans has been to equate Fernandez’ quitting with Bill Hyers being axed from Charlie Crist’s campaign. However, comparing the Fernandez situation with Hyres’ false-start is like comparing apples and oranges.

Indeed, both Scott and Crist have now lost pieces from the chess board, but Fernandez’s departure is on scale with losing a bishop or a rook, while Hyers wasn’t on the board long enough to matter.

Hyres never made it to Florida from New York City because he, reportedly, showed up in casual attire to an upscale fundraiser and, in doing so, upset Crist’s wife. Fernandez contributed $1 million to Scott’s re-election and, in the past, has raised many, many millions for GOP candidates.

Where the Crist campaign was not comfortable with out-of-towner Hyers, it was Fernandez who was uncomfortable with the struggling Scott campaign and its managers, Adam Hollingswroth and Melissa Sellers.

Hyers has been replaced and already improved upon with the hiring of Omar Khan. Fernandez cannot be replaced and the extent of the fallout from his quitting is unknown, especially if Marc Caputo’s reporting about Republican operatives joking around in heavy Mexican accents, gains legs.

The bottom-line here is that campaign managers are a dime-a-dozen, while a billionaire donor with a Hispanic pedigree is a rare commodity.

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FLORIDA DIDN’T BRING HOME STIMULUS BACON, NOR DID RECOVERY FUNDS HIT WHERE NEEDED THE MOST Full blog post here

 A highly cited study released last week by the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity found no evidence that political influence played a role in the flow of stimulus dollars to congressional districts. That’s good, and a departure from what conservative commentators had set their hair on fire about. The study, titled “The Political Economy of Discretionary Spending” looked at how the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds were spent — and where.

Across the states, the stimulus amounted to $469 per capita. Only three Florida congressional districts brought in greater than this average: Allen Boyd, whose district included Florida’s capital and is therefore excluded from the analysis; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Miami at $1,082 per capita; and Kathy Castor in Tampa, at $643 per capita. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic chair, delivered just $54 per capita in ARRA bacon to her South Florida constituents.

While the Brookings study did not find evidence that pork was being doled out based on political boundaries… it also did not find that dollars were flowing more so to districts that needed it the most (areas with high unemployment or shovel-ready projects).Discuss.

MEDICAL POT BACKERS, FOES IN FLORIDA EYE POTENTIAL RULES via William March of the Tampa Tribune

“I don’t think anybody wants us to be like California, with pot shops on every corner,” said Ben Pollara, amendment campaign manager for United for Care. “They got to that state because nobody regulates them.”

The amendment on Florida’s November ballot would lead to “a pretty strict set of rules and regulations” covering production and sales of marijuana and who can use it, he said.

Florida advocates envision carefully controlled growing operations selling products to state-licensed clinics permitted under local zoning laws.

How that industry will work is anyone’s guess. It would depend on regulations and laws the state Department of Health and Florida Legislature would enact.

Opponents in Florida aren’t reassured about the Florida amendment’s regulatory scheme.

The Florida amendment doesn’t rule out marijuana for minors, said California Drug Policy Alliance lawyer Tamar Todd — who helped write it — because “no medicine should be prohibited for young people who have diseases that require it.”

The most significant effort so far may be in Tampa, where entrepreneur Jeremy Bufford has set up Medical Marijuana Tampa with a staff of about a dozen that teaches classes in cultivation and plans to set up a chain of local clinics.

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BUSINESS OF STATE DIFFERS FROM RUNNING A BUSINESS via Laura Layden and Jenna Buzzaco-Foerster of the Tampa Tribune

Gov. Scott might be the most prominent Floridian making the leap from business to politics, but it isn’t unusual. The Legislature has, among others, Senate President Don Gaetz, who owned a health care company, and Sen. Garrett Richter, co-founder of a local bank.

But the transition from chief executive to lawmaker isn’t easy, and experts said being a top-performing executive doesn’t necessarily make a good legislator.

Steve Schale, a Democratic political consultant, said there’s no easy answer to whether executives make good politicians. Although they know how to work with others and make tough decisions, Schale said a key part of being an effective lawmaker is whether someone is cordial.

“I’ve seen a lot of folks who did very well, and lots of folks who struggled,” Schale said.

Going from head honcho to having to work with others is often the trickiest part of the transition.

“The business model isn’t the perfect overlay for public policy,” said Gaetz. “If you own a business, it’s like divine right of kings. In the job I have now, I have to be much more tolerant of other perspectives of doing business than when I was a business owner and my partner and I owned two-thirds of the stock.”

CAN GAMBLING, VOUCHERS AND SPRINGS BILLS EVER BE KILLED? via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

When Florida policymakers set major goals for a two-month lawmaking session in an environmentally and economically fragile mega-state, it is inevitable that entropy takes hold and things start falling apart.

But politicians do have one marketable skill when it comes to making a deal. So look for surprises and good old-fashioned horse-trading in the six weeks ahead on issues such as gambling, school-vouchers and efforts to save Florida’s dying springs.

The Senate declared Speaker Weatherford’s goal of expanding the state’s Corporate Tax Scholarship Program all but dead. Florida’s teachers union rejoiced, and school-voucher supporters fighting the Senate’s insistence on standardized testing for voucher students were caught flat-footed.

But like in “Pet Cemetery,” nothing really ever stays buried in Tallahassee.

“Nothing’s dead in Week 3, but I would say it’s created significant challenges for the bill,” Weatherford told reporters. Or as Senate President Don Gaetz put it, “hope springs eternal.”

On another front, Gov. Rick Scott has asked lawmakers to slow down with a proposal to allow two new destination casinos in South Florida as his office attempts to negotiate a new gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.

The House also is less excited about authorizing the billion-dollar gambling palaces in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. But the gambling industry is a major contributor to the political ads, and you can bet lawmakers will find more ways to keep this conversation going.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via The Florida Current

On: Milan Thompson has been hired as the district secretary for the Jacksonville Rep. Mia Jones.

Off: Alicia Stallworth is no longer a legislative assistant to Orlando Rep. Bruce Antone.

NURSING-HOME LAWSUIT REFORM READY FOR HOUSE VOTE Full blog post here

A proposal to increase restrictions on lawsuits over injuries incurred by nursing home residents passed House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who sponsored HB 569, put the finishing touches on the bill during negotiations with groups including the Florida Health Care Association, the Florida Justice Association and AARP, before it goes to the full House.

Part of the bill shields “passive” investors from lawsuits over resident care, which supporters say would help promote investments to the nursing-home industry.

The bill also requires evidentiary hearings before litigants can pursue punitive-damage claims against nursing homes.

HB 569 targets nursing homes that do not pay judgments, including those who hold off paying to prevent losing their licenses.

The bill also places constraints on nursing homes about releasing medical records to residents or their representatives.

TAX EXEMPTION FOR ALL-STAR GAMES HITS HOME RUN WITH HOUSE COMMITTEE Full blog post here

An extension of admissions-tax exemptions to cover professional sports all-star games was a home run at the House Economic Affairs Committee, passing Friday unopposed.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, sponsor of HB 231, said the changes would meet the increasing demands of professional sports leagues.

Brodeur did not go as far as to say lifting the tax would help draw fans to Florida, but he did say the events do help propel the economy.

If passed, the exemption would extend to future MLS all-star games in Florida, and it makes clear the tax would also be excused for events connected with NBA all-star games.

Florida already exempts admissions to all-star games hosted by the Major League Baseball, the NBA, the National Hockey League, championship games of the National Football League and the Pro Bowl, in addition to any semifinal tournament or contest in a national collegiate championship.

Also excepted are baseball’s Home Run Derby, the NBA Rookie Challenge, Celebrity Game, 3-Point Shooting Contest and Slam Dunk Challenge.

For events surrounding the NBA all-star game, the bill gives them a “generic” designation.

MONDAY STARTS LEGISLATIVE WEEK WITH BUDGETS, HIGH PROFILE ISSUES Full blog post here

Now that both chambers released proposed budgets for 2014-15, legislators can begin in earnest the process of hammering out a final budget deal that will ultimately be in the neighborhood of $75 billion. House and Senate appropriations committees have set aside several hours this week for debate and possible changes.

House committees will once again look at banning Red-Light Cameras statewide, allowing craft beers sold in half-gallon “growlers” and address the long-running debate over new trauma centers. Another committee considers having the state of Florida take over regulation of limousines, effectively allowing on-demand luxury car services like Uber to expand into the Tampa and Miami markets.

Florida’s private marketplace for flood insurance makes its way through another committee stop, as well requiring legislative approval for new historical monuments in the state park system.

The Senate takes up the issue of “Charlotte’s Web,” the medical marijuana extract used to relieve seizures in children, in addition to updating the application and approval process for professional sports franchises seeking state tax dollars for stadium projects.

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ADAM PUTNAM: CRAFT BEER MAY JOIN OJ AS ‘FRESH FROM FLORIDA’ via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

It’s not just for breakfast anymore: Florida’s newest craft beers soon could be joining orange juice in sporting the state’s Fresh From Florida seal.

Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam this week said craft brewers have approached his office seeking to use the label as a marketing tool. It’s already on some Florida wines, he said.

The problem lies with an informal advisory issued before Putnam’s time in office that said beer couldn’t be called “fresh from Florida” unless 51 percent of ingredients were grown in the state. Most beer ingredients, especially hops, aren’t grown here.

Only a handful of craft brewers are officially Fresh From Florida, including Orlando Brewing, the first Florida beer company to be certified, according to its website.

John Cheek, president of Orlando Brewing, said it’s tough to source locally grown ingredients for beer. Some of his products also have the “organic” logo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At the same time, being able to stamp beer as Florida fresh “became a point of recognition,” Cheek said. “People see that and they like it.”

He offered a solution to the ingredient conundrum. Since beer is 95 to 97 percent water, using water from the state’s aquifers should be enough to qualify beer as a Florida product, Cheek suggested.

FLORIDA CHAMBER’S BOTTOM LINE FEATURES REP. PASSIDOMO Full blog post here

State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo believes Florida’s “gotcha” legal system has become a burden to both the public and small business.

That’s why the Naples Republican, who sits on both the Civil Justice and the Judiciary Committees, sponsored the Fair Settlement act, which seeks reform in legal settlements.

Passidomo visited the Florida Chamber of Commerce in Tallahassee to discuss her ideas on common sense legal reforms to benefit both consumers and small businesses by developing fair resolution process in legal cases, in the latest edition of The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line.

Passidomo’s bill (HB 187) requires, in part, a specific term for insurers to pay out a claim. The insurer, after receiving notice of loss, would have 45 days to offer up to the amount of coverage under the policy before the claimant can file a third-party bad faith litigation. The measure seeks to hold trial lawyers and insurance companies to the same set of standards.

As Rep. Passidomo explains, insurance companies are unable to settle a claim expeditiously because Florida lacks a system for third party cases.

Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line is available online.

KEEP AN EYE OUT

Members of the Florida Credit Union Association (FCUA), an affiliate of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates, will be conducting its two-day 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference and Credit Union Days at the Capitol on Monday and Tuesday. Among the top legislative priorities the FCUA has outlined it will be advocating for during the 2014 Legislative Session are proposals that would increase data security, provide public depository choice and improve the overall services to members and to Florida communities that credit unions are allowed to provide. Members of the FCUA will be conducting lawmaker visits during the afternoon of Tuesday, March 25.

UBER GOES OVER MIAMI-DADE’S HEAD AND TAKES FIGHT TO TALLAHASSEE via Kyle Munzenrieder of the Miami New Times

On-demand car service Uber fought and lost a battle in Miami-Dade to ease restrictions that forbid it from operating in the county, so now the company has taken its fight directly to Tallahassee. Uber has enlisted a pair of Republican legislators to file bills that would override the local regulations that impede its operation in Miami.

The problem is that Miami-Dade has several regulations that prevent other chauffeured car services from competing with traditional taxis.

So now the company has announced on its blog that Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jamie Grant, both Republicans, have introduced legislation that would essentially override all of those local restrictions with new state laws.

Current Florida law specifically regulates the power to “license and regulate taxis, jitneys, limousines for hire, rental cars, and other passenger vehicles for hire” to local governments. The bills would carve out a specific exception for Uber.

The Legislature intends to provide a uniform statewide level of regulation of emerging transportation technology to provide stability and predictability to businesses seeking to implement such technology, to provide convenience and safety to the traveling public, and to enhance personal mobility. Accordingly, the regulation of chauffeured limousines, chauffeured limousine services, and drivers of chauffeured limousines is hereby preempted to the state. Further regulation thereof by a county, a municipality, or any other political subdivision of the state is void.

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BOTH PARTIES CONCEDING VICTORIES via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Election Day is nearly eight months away, but already the two major political parties are conceding victory in nearly two-thirds of all of Florida House seats up for grabs in 2014.

Seventy-nine of the 120 Florida House races do not have both Democratic and Republican candidates.

Democrats have yet to file a challenger in 49 seats, while Republicans are conceding 30 districts.

It’s even worse in the 40-seat Florida Senate. Of the 20 seats up for re-election in 2014, just four have candidates from both parties.

The lack of challengers does not surprise political experts. University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett said term limits, redistricting and an inherent incumbent advantage play a role in dissuading challengers across the state.

“They’ve created a strategic incentive for parties to not contest a lot of seats,” Jewett said.

Even if a district is potentially competitive, the parties are waiting for an incumbent to be prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, leaving an open seat to contest.

COLLEEN BURTON AND JOHN SHANNON GET SET TO RUN FOR OPEN SEAT IN PASCO COUNTY via Jeff Henderson of Sunshine State News

With Seth McKeel headed out of Tallahassee due to term limits, two Polk County Republicans are set to duel in what should be one of the most competitive legislative primaries in Florida this year.

For most of last year, Colleen Burton had the field to herself. Burton’s well-known in Polk through her work with Polk Vision and her bid against Lori Edwards, the Democrat serving as county elections supervisor, back in 2012.

… But Burton got an opponent last month in trial attorney John Hugh Shannon who started off with a bang. Shannon hauled in more than $35,250 in less than three weeks in February and spent around $610. It’s an impressive start and Shannon is pretty well-known in Polk County. He runs billboards and commercials for his firm — some of which stress his conservatism — across the area. Shannon has also run commercials on public service and being a single dad.

… Shannon’s folksy demeanor, service in the Marines and strong start to the money race make him a serious challenger for Burton no matter which Republican leaders are behind her. To her credit, Burton recognizes the threat Shannon represents. In February, she raised more than $15,000 as she tries to get a leg up in the money chase.

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APPOINTED: Jonathan “Ned” Hancock, Francisco Pines, and Michael Garavaglia to the Florida Citrus Commission.

APPOINTED: Kim Hernandez Vance to the Hillsborough County Court.

APPOINTED: George Roberts to the Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

APPOINTED: Judge Edward H. Merrigan, Jr. to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court

REAPPOINTED: Michael Babb to the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Sebastian Aleksander, The Aleksander Group: Imagine Learning

Keith Arnold, Fowler White Boggs: Florida True Health, Inc.

Brian Ballard, Jan Gorrie, Ballard Partners: University of Miami

Jessica Baker, Sachs Sax Caplan: Florida Association of Academic Nonpublic Schools (FAANS)

Christopher Bailey: National Council on Compensation Insurance

Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Justin Day, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Tampa Historic Streetcar, Inc.

Amy Bisceglia, Tsamoutales Strategies: Space Florida

Paul Bradshaw, David Browning, Christopher Dudley, Jerry McDaniel, James McFaddin, Paul Mitchell, Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Florida True Health, Inc.

Michael Cusick: Coalition of Florida Camps

Glen Gilzean: Step Up for Students

Fausto Gomez, Manny Reyes: OUR MicroLending; Town of Lake Park

Jennifer Guy: Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence

James Harris: Town of Oakland

Jennifer Hartfield: Florida Solar Energy Industries Association

Robert Hawken, Leath Consulting: Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company

Nick Iarossi, Chris Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: BMM International

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: Stetson University

Emily Nance, Foyt Ralston, Bryant Miller Olive: Pittney Bowes, Inc.

Foyt Ralston, Bryant Miller Olive: JEA

David Ramba, Ramba Consulting: UberTechnologies, Inc.

John Reid, Reid Innovation: Innovative Health Care Properties II; Patriotic Partners of North Florida

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CONTEXT FLORIDA: ADVANCES IN EDUCATION, ORANGE RISING, STEP UP FOR STUDENTS AND TEEN MARRIAGES

On Context Florida: Florida may be making progress in education, starting with Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan in the late 1990s, but few people realize it, says Peter Schorsch. One excellent example of “think globally, act locally,” writes Daniel Tilson, is the Orange County coalition of more than 20 organizations backed by thousands of residents called Orange Rising. The real reason voucher expansion died in the Florida Senate, according to Bob Sikes, were the revelations about the operations of Step Up for Students— the administrative agent for the de facto voucher program Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship. Steve Kurlander believes the push to ban marriage in Florida for youths under age 16 by a Miami lawmakers is unnecessary.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Sen. Kelli Stargel. Celebrating today is my friend, Glen Gilzean.

NO PERFECT BRACKETS LEFT via Doug Feinberg of The Associated Press

A [run] of upsets ended any chance of someone having a perfect NCAA tournament bracket in Warren Buffett’s $1 billion challenge. … [T]he final three people’s brackets in the Quicken Loans contest … had ninth-seeded George Washington beating Memphis. The Tigers won 71-66. … It only took 25 games for everyone to be eliminated. … Only 16 people remained perfect after 10th-seeded Stanford topped New Mexico. Then Tennessee routed UMass, leaving only six people … Gonzaga’s victory over Oklahoma State cut that down to the final three. … [T]he top 20 scores will still each get $100,000. …

At CBSSports.com, only 0.03 percent of entrants were still perfect after Mercer upset Duke. The final remaining unblemished entries were also ruined by the Memphis win. … After 28 games, all 11 million [ESPN] entries had at least one mistake.

TWEET, TWEET: @willweatherford: I am a proud father of 3 girls and would be a proud father of 4. However, turns out I will be a proud father of 3 girls and a BOY! #ITSABOY

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.