A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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OBAMA FORCED TO LOCK IN DEEP SPENDING CUTS via the Washington Post
President Obama is set to sign a government funding measure that leaves in place the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration — a policy that undermines many of the goals he laid out during the 2012 campaign.
Obama thinks the cuts are, in his words, ‘dumb,’ and he says they will slow the economy and harm priorities by cutting spending on education, research and development, and many other programs. Yet Obama now finds himself enacting a broad domestic policy that he doesn’t support and that he believes will harm the country.
CONGRESS MOVES FOCUS TO IMMIGRATION AND GUNS via the Wall Street Journal
After the Senate passed its budget this weekend, Congress is expected to pivot to issues such as immigration and guns before attempting a broader deal on taxes, spending and the national debt later this year.
Capitol Hill fell quiet as lawmakers headed home for a two-week spring recess, the longest pause in the Capitol Hill budget wars in months. Before leaving town, the Senate early Saturday morning and the House last week passed nonbinding budget blueprints that laid out the parties’ competing fiscal priorities.
President Obama is expected to release his own fiscal 2014 budget in early April–months late and almost an afterthought now that Senate passed a Democratic budget in sync with White House priorities.
FLORIDA FLEXES ITS POLITICAL MUSCLES via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
After 168 years of seeing their politicians play only minor roles on the national stage, Floridians suddenly have legitimate presidential contenders, an influential national party leader and key voices shaping national policy in both major parties.
“This is the heyday for Florida,” said Ford O’Connell a Virginia-based GOP political strategist.
Florida has long drawn attention as the nation’s most critical presidential swing state. Now, O’Connell said, it is producing the political leaders reflecting Florida’s status as one of the four largest states — finally.
“Basically, for the next four years Florida is the center of the political universe,” O’Connell said.
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GUV NOT SHOWING CARDS ON INTERNET CAFES via Aaron Sharockman of the Tampa Bay Times
Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Monday afternoon, Scott said he is waiting to see what the Legislature does before taking a position. Reading between the lines, it seems Scott wants to make sure the Senate passes a full ban before being forced to take a stand.
LG OFFICE CLOSED — FOR NOW via the Associated Press
The administration of Gov. Scott is shutting down the lieutenant governor’s office for now.
Emails show that orders have already gone out to pack up the office and secure state-owned computers.
A spokeswoman for Scott said the decision to shut the office was made to save money over the next few months until a new lieutenant governor is appointed.
Scott has already said he will not begin the process to name a replacement until after the annual legislative session ends in May.
SCOTT CONTINUES WELFARE DRUG TESTING APPEAL via the News Service of Florida
Gov. Scott’s administration has asked the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether the state can require drug tests for people seeking public-assistance benefits. A three-judge panel of the court last month sided with a federal district judge, who issued an injunction against a 2011 drug-testing law.
In a filing last week, the Scott administration asked for what is known as an “en banc” hearing before the full appeals court and continued to argue that such drug testing does not violate the constitutional rights of people seeking aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. “The issue here is of great public importance,” the state’s attorney wrote in the filing.
“TANF is a major, nationwide program, and all of the states in this circuit are debating the public policy of drug testing TANF applicants. Additionally, even states outside this circuit will look to this court’s decision for guidance on the constitutionality of such conditions.”
Opponents have long contended that the drug-testing requirement violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches. “The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy,” said the three-judge panel’s ruling, which upheld a preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven.
SCOTT TAKES TO RADIO TO DEFEND TEACHER RAISE PROPOSAL…
Scott on Monday defended his proposal to give across-the-board teacher raises against critics who say only the best teachers should get raises, by arguing the proposal is essentially a reward for good teaching.
Scott touted several rankings that have shown improvement in Florida schools, as a way of saying the teachers working in Florida now all deserve a merit raise.
“This is tied to success,” Scott said Monday in an interview with Fox Radio 92.5 in Fort Myers. “We’ve made a lot of progress the last two years.” He cited recent rankings show strength in reading among fourth graders and another that showed Florida’s teachers “are the most effective teachers in the country.”
Scott also noted that since tenure has been eliminated, the teachers who weren’t performing can now be dismissed. “So this is tied to success,” the governor said. He also said he continues to support the ongoing merit pay raise system that is in the rulemaking process now.
…TOUTS ‘POSITIVE BUSINESS ATTITUDE’ IN NEW AD via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
A new Web ad called “It’s working” by his Let’s Get to Work political committee touts the governor’s jobs agenda as a catalyst for Florida’s rebounding economy, even though most of the policies in his jobs plan have yet to be implemented.
… The ad features remarks Scott gave at the plant last week where he took credit for the economic recovery “since our policies took effect.” The three “policies” mentioned in the ad are “lower taxes,” “Less Regulation,” and “Positive Business Attitude.” Taxes haven’t dropped by more than a trickle under Scott’s watch so far, while Scott’s office has gone after regulation — with more than 1,300 rules targeted for repeal. Not sure how to measure “positive business attitude” other than by how CEOs and groups like the Tax Foundation evaluate Florida’s business climate — which was good before Scott took office, and about the same now.
The ad also takes a not-so-subtle shot at the four-year tenure of Gov. Crist, when Florida was shedding jobs in the midst of a global recession.
TWEET: @asharock: Melissa Sellers gets old shop to help out new one MT @bobbyjindal:.@FLGovScott is getting Floridians back to work. Watch this video…
ANOTHER SIGN OF ’14 RUN: CHARLIE CRIST LEAVING ST. JOE CO. BOARD OF DIRECTORS
In a SEC filing posted last week, St. Joe Co. stated that former Governor Charlie Crist advised the company he will not seek re-election to its board of directors. The filing did not elaborate further, however a spokesperson for St. Joe said Crist could not serve on the board if he were a candidate for governor.
Crist will serve out the rest of his term as a director, which expires in May.
IT’S THE SILLY SEASON WHEN REPORTERS ARE WRITING ABOUT BILL NELSON FOR GOVERNOR
Because reporters aren’t allowed to write a story about how Charlie Crist has NOT yet made a decision to run for Governor, expect to see similar pieces to what William March of the Tampa Tribune ginned up this past weekend.
Titled, “Nelson versus Scott in 2014? Maybe”, the story reads “Democrats aren’t entirely happy with their field of candidates.” March scrapes up one Democrat — other than Nelson spox Dan McLaughlin — to testify to the, um, appeal of a Nelson-for-Governor campaign. And even the wood March’s source offers is soft.
“He would clearly be the strongest candidate” Democrats could field, said Miami lawyer Neal Sonnett, a major Democratic donor and fundraiser. “I think he swamps Rick Scott. … At this early stage, there isn’t anybody emerging as a superstrong candidate other than perhaps Charlie Crist, but he could have problems because of the party switching.”
Except Crist won’t have problems because of the party switching. At least not according to the most recent survey from Quinnipiac Polling. 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 rest of the quotes in March’s story, from uber fundraiser Richard Swann and former Tampa mayor Sandy Freedman, suggest that Nelson’s appeal as a gubernatorial candidate would be limited.
So while McLaughlin may have convinced March that the phone is ringing off the hook with calls for Nelson to enter the race, the rest of us know better.
NELSON HAS WORST WEBSITE IN SENATE
BuzzFeed identifies the seven most God-awful websites in the US Senate — and Nelson, um, tops the list. “Hey Senators: 2002 is calling, and it wants its web designers back.”
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1. Nick Iarossi d. 16. Carlos Cruz; 9. Frank Mayernick d. 8. Jennifer Green; 5. Tracey Mayernick d. 12. Scott Ross; 6. Steve Metz d. 11. Mike Hightower; 3. Robert Coker d. 14. Teye Reeves; 10. Sean Pittman d. 7. Jeff Hartley; 2. Chris Dudley d. 15. Slater Bayliss
16. Marc Reichelderfer d. 1. Brian Ballard; 8. Matt Bryan d. 9. Gaston Cantens; 12. Richard Coates d. 5. Jim Daughton; 4. Katherine Webb d. 13. Mercer Fearington; 11. Gary Guzzo d. 6. Fred Karlinsky; 3. David Ramba d. 14. Chris Moya; 7. Rhett O’Doski d. 10. Towson Fraser; 15. Keyna Cory d. 2. Jon Johnson
1. Charley Dudley d. Guy Spearman; 8. Clark Smith d. 9. Amy Christian; 5. Mark Delegal d. 12. Marc Dunbar; 4. Claudia Davant d. 13. Hayden Dempsey; 6. Tim Meenan d. 11. David Browning; 3. Joe York d. 14. Chris Flack; 7. Will McKinley d. Brecht Heuchan; 15. Monica Rodriguez d. 2. Bill Rubin
16. Donna Simmons d. 1. Ron Book; 9. Marion Hammer d. 8. Pete Dunbar; 5. Gus Corbella d. 12. Lori Killinger; 13. Dave Ericks d. 4 Rich Heffley; 11. Jon Costello d. 6. Travis Blanton; 3. Ron LaFace d. 14. Patrick Bell; 10. Allison Carvajal d. 7. Jim Magill; 15. Adam Babington d. 2. Al Cardenas
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STARGEL ANNOUNCES SENATE SUPPORT FOR CONTINUED RESEARCH ON DOZIER SCHOOL FOR BOYS via contributor Karen Cyphers
Stargel announced the Senate recommendation of an additional $200,000 of funding for research at the former Dozier School for Boys, once the largest juvenile reform institution in the United States, which was permanently closed under evidence of abuse and torture.
A team of archaeologists and biologists from the University of South Florida has been using ground-penetrating radar, test excavations, and other techniques for a thorough inspection of the property to locate and identify gravesites, in part to chronicle who died there and to give relatives greater closure.
“This funding is crucial to helping USF analyze the cemetery at the former school. This the right thing to do, so that we may provide some form of closure for the family members who tragically lost loved ones at this site,” said Senator Stargel.
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PAM BONDI ENDORSES SCOTT PLAKON FOR HD 29
“Scott has been a strong ally for many of the priorities of our office. While our office was leading the 26 state challenge to ObamaCare, Scott led the fight here in Florida with his sponsorship of Health Care Freedom legislation. At the same time we were working with other federal and state law enforcement entities pursuing charges against illegal gambling operations that were targeting our poor and elderly in strip malls across Florida, Scott led the effort to help give law enforcement the tools they need to better address the problem,” saidBondi. “His conservative leadership has made a real difference for Floridians. He has served with integrity, honor and passion. I am proud to stand with my friend as he seeks to represent the citizens of District 29.”
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida PIRG Education Fund will release a new report, “Following the Money 2013: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” evaluating each state on how well it provides spending information online and assigning them with “A” to “F” letter grades. The report will reveal Florida’s letter grade along with recommendations for improvements. 7 a.m.
>>>Best of all, “the report includes a colorful map and cover art.”
FLA GUARD TOPS 17K POST 9/11 DEPLOYMENT MARK
The deployment of more than 100 Soldiers from the Melbourne-based 715th Military Police Company to Afghanistan on Saturday pushed the number of deployments for the Florida National Guard since September 2001 over the 17,000 mark. The milestone comes as the Florida Cabinet was advised last week that 993 uniformed Guard personnel would get one-day-per-pay-period furloughs starting the end of April due to the national fiscal sequestration. With Florida on the verge of both the wildfire and hurricane seasons, there are now about 1,165 soldiers and airmen from among the state’s 12,000-strong Guard now mobilized in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and in Washington, D.C. in support of homeland defense operations.
The release from the Florida National Guard on the latest deployment noted the defense budget cuts are impacting its “ability to train and equip its soldiers and airmen for missions at home and abroad.”
FLORIDA LOTTERY HITS LANDMARK $25 BILLION FOR EDUCATION via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Florida Lottery announced Monday that it reached a record $25 billion in transfers to Florida’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, having contributed more than $1 billion annually toward public education over the past 10 consecutive fiscal years.
Over the past 25 years, the Lotto has funded more than 600,000 Bright Future Scholarships and 780 statewide school projects. During the same time it has awarded more than $37 billion in prize money, has made more than 1,200 millionaires. This boils down to about 30 percent of all lottery dollars being spent on education.
On that note: the jackpot has grown to $13 million. So ante up if you want to be millionaire #1,201 on Wednesday.
PRISON BIDDING PROCESS DRAWS PROTEST via The News Service of Florida
A private prison company is challenging a bid process for contracts to operate three prisons in the Panhandle and south-central Florida, according to documents filed this month in the state Division of Administrative Hearings. CCA of Tennessee LLC, a subsidiary of Corrections Corporation of America, is challenging a contracting process that started last year to run Bay Correctional Facility in Bay County, Graceville Correctional Facility in Jackson County and Moore Haven Correctional Facility in Glades County — all of which are currently operated by the company.
CCA takes issue, at least in part, with adjusted per-diem rates that the state Department of Management Services issued in January as part of the process. Company attorneys wrote that the terms of the process, known as an invitation to negotiate, are “clearly erroneous, contrary to competition, arbitrary, or capricious.” Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk has scheduled a hearing to start May 1.
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4TH FLOOR FILES: The latest installment of the 4th Floor Files features Chris Moya. His clients include Charter Schools USA, Palm Beach County, and State Farm. Here’s the file on Chris.
MERCURY, FLORIDIAN PARTNERS LAUNCHING JOINT VENTURE…
GOP strategist Kieran Mahoney and former Obama campaign strategist Ashley Walker will head the merged firm’s Florida operation. Republican National Committee political director Rick Wiley will also join the firm.
…WILL HEAD POTENTIAL MIAMI DOLPHINS REFERNDUM CAMPAIGN via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald
The Dolphins have reached out to Mercury’s Michael McKeon, who knows Dolphins owner Stephen Ross from New York, Walker and Eric Jotkoff, Obama’s former Florida campaign spokesoman, to shape the football team’s political strategy. The Dolphins are hoping the county will hold a May special election to approve a potential financing deal to renovate Sun Life Stadium.
NEW TO THE TWITTERS: @LetThemPlayFlorida – “Access for Student Athletes Coalition seeks to reform the FHSAA by giving more access to high athletic programs for qualifying students through legislation.”
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Florida League of Cities’ C. Scott Dudley.
SAVE THE DATE — OR NOT: The University of Florida will bring Ron Paul to campus on April 15. Paul will be talking to UF students about his ideology and political career. The program starts at 8 p.m. at the O’Connell Center and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
WHO NEEDS INTRADE? Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom has introduced a bill to allow people to bet on presidential and other federal elections, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. He said the bill could be expanded to allow betting on the Academy Awards and other non-sporting events.