Sunburn for 3/27 – 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.***

SARAH PALIN ENDORSES LIZBETH BENACQUISTO FOR CD 19 Full blog post here

A top name in conservative politics is endorsing Lizbeth Benacquisto in the race for Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced she is supporting the Senate Majority Leader to succeed disgraced U.S. Rep. Trey Radel. Radel resigned in January over an arrest for cocaine possession in Washington D.C.

Benacquisto is locked in a heated battle for the strongly Republican district with former automobile-wheel manufacturer CEO Curt Clawson and former State Rep. Paige Kreegel.

Palin also railed against some of the advertising tactics used in the CD 19 race, many of them questioning Benacquisto’s conservative credentials.

“I admire and respect the good folks supporting other candidates in this race, but we’ll have to disagree on this one,” Palin said. “Lizbeth is running against a wealthy self-funded candidate with lots of splashy campaign ads claiming to be a conservative. Since when do conservatives stand for crony capitalism and government bailouts?”

“Look beyond the fancy anonymous campaign ads,” she adds.

NEW LIZBETH BENACQUISTO RADIO SPOT ATTACKS GOP OPPONENTS ON “SANCTITY OF LIFE” Full blog post here

Hitting the airwaves this week in Florida’s 19th Congressional District is a new radio ad attacking GOP candidates Curt Clawson and Paige Kreegel for their seemingly “pro-life” positions.

The ad, sponsored by Benacquisto, claims her two conservative opponents say they are pro-life, but evidence exists that “tell a much different story.”

Kreegel, a physician, was once sued and accused of “encouraging the termination of an unwanted pregnancy,” according to court documents (found below).

Clawson, as CEO of Hayes-Lemmerz International, is listed as a board member of the Thailand-based Population and Development International, led by Dr. Mechai Viravaidya.

To support the claims of the 60-second spot, the Benacquisto released data showing PDI is also part of Population and Community Development Association, which is closely partnered with the PDA in Thailand, which operates clinics performing abortions through a loophole in Thailand’s anti-abortion laws, as “a way of population control.”

Clawson and Kreegel “don’t value the sanctity of life,” the ad concludes, “and they don’t share our values.”

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RICK SCOTT NARROWS CHARLIE CRIST’S LEAD TO 4 POINTS IN NEW ST. LEO UNIVERSITY POLL Full blog post here

Former Gov. Charlie Crist still leads incumbent Gov. Rick Scott 43 to 39 percent in the race for Florida’s governorship, according to the latest polling out of Saint Leo University.

These newest numbers show the gap closing considerably since the end of 2013.

In a December poll, Crist’s dominance was at almost 12 points, with a lead of 46points, compared to only 34 points for Scott. That means since the last poll, there was an eight-point shift in favor of the incumbent, although Democrat Crist remains ahead.

Scott’s favorability rating is also beginning to creep up as 48 percent have a favorable view of the governor and 47 percent unfavorable. Among Republicans, Scott’s favorable numbers are 79 percent to 18 percent unfavorable, up 22 points since the December poll.

IN NEW EMAIL, MIKE FERNANDEZ CRITICIZES SCOTT’S TV AD via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Fernandez is a man with no shortage of opinions.

In another email sent to Gov. Scott’s campaign advisers, he’s unimpressed by the quality of Scott’s new TV ad. (After all, he helped pay for them, as a million-dollar donor to Scott’s campaign). In the email, obtained by the Times/Herald, Fernandez takes aim at the content and style of the ad (Curt Anderson of On Message, Scott’s media adviser, called Fernandez a “renegade donor” in a Politico interview Tuesday).

Fernandez, who quit as Scott’s campaign finance co-chairman last week, trashed the new 30-second ad that shows Scott speaking from a softer side angle about how his mother struggled to put food on the table and his father’s car was repossessed. Fernandez sent the March 15 email to campaign manager Melissa Sellers, campaign chairman Sen. John Thrasher, state GOP chairman Lenny Curry, party executive director Juston Johnson and Hispanic political consultant Ana Carbonell.

“The Governor’s ad was sterile (reinforces how people see him). Imagine if he said the same words but the setting was different. Sitting on a park bench, no tie (for God’s sake it is Florida), light blue shirt, not white, his family around him and at closing Ann steps in and hand him a grandson. WHAT A DIFFERENCE THAT WOULD HAVE MADE! We can raise $100 m and misspend it and the $$$ is in material.

“Ignore me, but you will continue getting my comments because I want him to win.   I know, I don’t know anything about politics nor political advertising but I know about sales…. You don’t trust me because I am not willing to become a supporting cast member to the “Yes Team”  but trust this, my net worth exceeds $3B, and I made it because I am not stupid and I can sell!”

FABIOLA SANTIAGO COLUMN: HISPANICS’ MESSAGE TO SCOTT: DON’T TAKE KINDNESS FOR WEAKNESS

My favorite part of Fernandez’s email to Gov. Scott’s top advisors: “I will say this again, I am not a Yes Man and don’t mistake my smile and courteous nature as a weakness.”

There isn’t a politically-savvy Hispanic voter reading the email that foretold Fernandez’s abrupt resignation from Scott’s reelection campaign and not thinking: “Así es.”

Right on.

They want our money, our endorsement, and our vote — but we need to stay in our designated place as the supporting choir, not in the starring role of decision-makers.

In some quarters, and in this day and age, that kind of power is still reserved for the “mainstream” — aka, non-Hispanic whites, even if they come from elsewhere in the country to La Florida to run a political campaign and are dumb enough to mimic Mexican accents on the way to Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Or dumb enough to call on undocumented immigrants to “self-deport” in a state where one in five voters is of Hispanic descent. And definitely dumb enough to then bring that guy, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to help you fund-raise, as Scott did Monday night at a $25,000-per-couple dinner at the Coral Gables estate of Fernandez, the healthcare executive who resigned, post email.

GOP INSIDERS INCENSED, FASCINATED BY TIRADES OF GOV. SCOTT’S FUNDRAISER via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott has stockpiled millions for a focused TV ad campaign and is backed by a highly disciplined Republican Party, but all it took to throw them off stride was one rich, angry donor with a send button.

… Nearly a week after the controversy, Scott hasn’t addressed it, and passed up two chances to clear the air Wednesday. In Scott’s defense, some Republicans say Fernandez hurt his own credibility, and Scott’s, by undermining the campaign in incendiary emails to GOP insiders.

“You settle these things behind closed doors. You don’t go outside and publicly humiliate the governor. Mike broke the code,” said lobbyist Brian Ballard, a Scott supporter and member of finance teams of statewide and presidential candidates.

Ballard said Fernandez lost sight of his true role: He’s expected to raise money, period, and has no power to dictate strategy.

MY TAKE: THE NUMBER ONE THING TO REMEMBER ABOUT THIS WHOLE IMBROGLIO

 the quote you should not forget is the one at the bottom of this story by the Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo about Scott’s campaign hiring a football team’s worth of communication staffers.

“It’s going to be bigger than Mitt Romney’s campaign in Florida,” a Republican said of Scott’s staffing plan. “No one will ever have seen a campaign like this in Florida. The Democrats and Charlie Crist won’t know what hit them.”

Crist won’t know what hit him, huh?

Oh, the hubris of these people.

Keep that in mind as this scandal plays out … that these are all unforced errors.

One other note: Remember, Fernandez’ criticism of the Scott campaign was that it was botching its communications and messaging. So how has Scottworld responded to Fernandez’s criticism? By botching communications and messaging.

MEANWHILE … The Charlie Crist campaign will host a 9:15 a.m. conference call to unveil a new ad.

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APPOINTED: Marva Johnson to the State Board of Education.

APPOINTED: Bret Jones and Peter Wahl to the Lake-Sumter State College District Board of Trustees.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will honor Florida veterans at a veterans honor medal ceremony. Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home, 21281 Grayton Terrace, Port Charlotte. 2:30 p.m.

LOCKHEED MARTIN TO ADD 200 JOBS, $80 MILLION TO ORLANDO AREA Full blog post here

Lockheed Martin announced a substantial expansion in Orlando, which could add nearly 200 jobs, with a local economic impact of as much as $80 million.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Gov. Scott praised the development plans for the Mission Systems and Training facility of the Florida’s largest industrial employer. Lockheed Martin currently employs nearly 7,000 in the Orlando area and a workforce of nearly 11,000 across the state.

Mission Systems and Training provide surface, air and undersea applications for more than 460 U.S. military and international programs. The new positions will focus on training and logistics advancements for the F-35, F-16 and F-15 aircraft programs.

Florida is home to more than 2,000 aerospace and aviation companies, which employ over 87,000 workers across the state. Ranked No. 2 among U.S. states in the aviation, aerospace, and space industries, Florida remains a significant air transportation hub in North America.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – STATE’S ROBUST RECOVERY OUTPACES NATION, AIDS WORKERS via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the Sun Sentinel

Florida’s economy in 2014 is now leading the nation in job growth and overall recovery despite once being a straggler behind other states, a prominent University of Central Florida economist said in his first quarter economic forecast released Tuesday.

He said Florida is now the front-runner thanks to a declining unemployment rate, payroll increases and overall economic activity.

Payroll in the state has jumped about 2.6 percent in 2014 and increased over 2 percent in 2013 while the nation’s growth has remained sluggish at about 1 percent, he said.

The state also is benefiting from a rise in sales tax revenues, which are up 7 percent so far in 2014 and jumped 6.5 percent a year ago thanks to skyrocketing tourism and a boost in consumer confidence.

Florida was one of the first to feel the recession’s effect with job losses starting in April 2007, several months before other states. When the national recovery began in June 2009, Florida lagged behind the pace of the U.S. economic recovery for several years.

In South Florida, employment is expected to grow by 2.3 percent each year through 2017. Unemployment is forecast to moderate to an average of 5.7 percent, Snaith said.

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ABOUT THOSE PLANTS, ERR, MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WHO TESTIFIED ON TRAMA DRAMA Full blog post here

Memo to whomever planted Vidal Victor Lazo in front of the legislative committee studying this issue: You might want to find people willing to testify who have not been fired from a fire department or are out on bond or having strangled someone.

AMENDED SENATE BILL MOVES UP SESSION ONLY FOR 2016

In 2016, the Legislature would meet on the second Tuesday in January, according to a scaled back version of a bill (SB 72) passing a Senate committee.

Initially, the bill originally sought to move the start of the 60-day session from March for every even-numbered year.

The GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee, in a 5-3 vote that fell along party lines, passed an amended version that limited the change to only 2016.

The amended Senate bill is different from HB 9, the House plan calling for an early start in all even-numbered years.

BILL BANS MINORS FROM USING TANNING BEDS

Concerns about skin cancer fueled a bill banning minors from using tanning beds at tanning salons, which passed a Senate committee this week.

In a 6-2 vote, the Senate Health Policy Committee approved SB 572, sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, whose husband is a dermatologist.

Currently, Florida law allows minors 14 or older to visit tanning facilities with parental consent, and kids under 14 must have a parent with them.

The bill prohibits visits by minors, except when prescribed by a doctor to treat medical conditions. Committee Chair Aaron Bean and Sen. Jeff Brandes opposed the bill.

A House version (HB 499), filed by Rep. Elaine Schwartz, has not been seen by a committee, which makes passing unlikely during the 2014 legislative session.

DRUG PRESCRIBING POWER FOR NURSE PRACTITIONERS PASSES SENATE COMMITTEE

A controversial bill allowing advanced-registered nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances narrowly passed a Senate committee this week, but with some major differences between the Senate and House versions that extend the responsibilities of the highly trained nurses.

In a 5-4 vote, the Senate Health Policy Committee approved the measure sponsored by Sen. Denise Grimsley.

The House version gives sweeping new authority to nurse practitioners, removing the requirement that they work under the supervision of a physician. The Senate bill is more restrictive, keeping the physician-supervision requirement in place.

Advanced nurse practitioners already prescribe various drugs, but not controlled substances. Part of the Senate gives nurse practitioners that power.

LAWMAKERS PLAY STARRING ROLE IN FILM INDUSTRY TAX INCENTIVE PLAN via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Actors, producers and film crew members descended on Tallahassee Wednesday to support the proposed expansion of the entertainment industry incentive program, which provides tax credits to film and television projects based in Florida.

Their collective lobbying helped persuade a Senate panel to approve a plan adding another $300 million in tax credits over the next six years — a first step toward the bill becoming law.

But the advocates had their eyes on a much larger prize: a long-shot House proposal that would provide the entertainment industry with nearly four times as much support.

“Our existing incentive programs have kept us competitive with Georgia and Louisiana,” Miami-Dade Film and Entertainment Commissioner Sandy Lighterman said. “We have things that they don’t have. But we need the additional tax credits, because otherwise, we are off the map.’

‘UBER AMENDMENT’ WITHDRAWN–BUT STILL STIRS DISCUSSION via James Rosica of PoliticalFixflorida.com

It was withdrawn and never voted on, but a 119-word amendment to a Senate transportation bill caused nearly an hour’s worth of angst-ridden conversation on Wednesday.

That’s because the wording was friendly to app-based hired-car services like Uber and Lyft, which are trying to break into the Florida urban market.

Those start-ups say local authorities, captured by the taxi and limo lobby, are hamstringing their entry with outdated regulations. The established limo and taxi services say they should play by the same rules as everyone else.

Uber now operates in Jacksonville but not in Miami, Tampa or Orlando, where it would like to.

Lobbyist Ron Book, who represents south Florida interests, even brought up actor Ashton Kutcher, who has invested in Uber, and criticized Kutcher’s comments about the company’s frustrations in Florida. Book doesn’t want the state to wrest away local control.

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FLORIDIANS BACKS GIVING IN-STATE TUITION TO VETERANS via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

A University of North Florida (UNF) poll shows Florida backs efforts to give veterans in-state tuition for colleges and universities across the Sunshine State. As part of the “Florida GI Bill,” giving veterans in-state tuition was a chief legislative priority for both Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.

The poll finds 55 percent of those surveyed strongly support the proposal while 14 percent say they somewhat support it. Only 16 percent say they strongly oppose giving in-state tuition to veterans while 6 percent somewhat oppose the idea.

The poll of 565 Floridians was taken from March 6-16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.12 percent.

THURSDAY LEGISLATIVE AGENDA INCLUDES ABORTIONS, SERVICE ANIMALS, BEER TASTINGS AND THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE Full blog post here

The House will hold a late afternoon session on Thursday, after a number of committee hearings to consider issues including immunity from criminal penalties for carrying concealed weapon during a mandatory evacuation, increased penalties for computer crimes, rules regarding service animals and other penalties using wireless devices that cause an accident while driving.

Also on the agenda is a bill requiring public schools provide instruction to students about terrorist attacks occurring on September 11, 2001; another bill allows farmer’s markets to accept EBT cards.

Another bill regulates the termination of pregnancies in the third trimester and memorials urging Congress to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

In addition, the House Regulatory Affairs Committee meets to consider authorizing containers of malt beverages to be sold or offered for sale in any size and malt beverage tastings under certain circumstances.

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FUNDRAISER FOR ERIC EISNAUGLE beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Capital Room of the Governors Club.

IN HD 38, DANNY BURGESS RECEIVES ENDORSEMENT OF KURT BROWNING

Burgess is running as a Republican for Florida House District 38, currently held by term-limited House Speaker Will Weatherford.

“Danny grew up in East Pasco like I did and is a product of the Pasco County School System,” Browning said in a statement.

“He has an energetic and humble demeanor about him that doesn’t come around too often. His commitment and service to family, community and country is truly remarkable and refreshing to see.”

HD 47 HOPEFUL MO PEARSON ENDORSED BY WINTER PARK MAYOR KEN BRADLEY

Republican Maurice “Mo” Pearson announced that Mayor Ken Bradley of Winter Park has endorsed his bid for House District 47.

“Mo is a small business owner and a bright young leader in central Florida,” said Bradley. “I’m certain that he will serve the constituents of District 47 well.”

For his part, Pearson said, “It’s an honor to have the caliber of a person that Mayor Bradley is to publicly support my campaign. Our team is excited about this endorsement and I am personally thrilled!”

Continued Pearson, “Mayor Bradley is committed to making a positive difference in our community, and, I too, am committed to working hard to ensure a brighter future for both Florida and the Central Florida Region.”

Pearson faces incumbent Democrat Rep. Linda Stewart.

In addition to serving on the board of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Pearson founded 3E Consultants, an ecological services firm.

IN HD 65, CHRIS SPROWLS TO HOLD FINAL PETITION WALK SATURDAY

Florida House District 65 hopeful Chris Sprowls is calling on friends and supporters to join him for the last petition walk in the election cycle to qualify for the November ballot.

The petition walk is on Saturday, March 29 with a meeting of participants starting 9:30 a.m. at 30535 US 19 North in the Seabreeze Plaza, located at the Publix Parking Lot at Curlew Rd. and US Hwy. 19.

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4TH FLOOR FILES FLASHBACK talks to Floridian Partners’ Scott Ross about free legal advice, Nick Iarossi, & the Distinguished Gentleman. Here’s the file on Scott.

BRACE YOURSELF – TALLYMADNESS IS COMING!

SaintPetersblog is excited to announce the return of TallyMadness – an online voting competition to determine who is the “best” lobbyist in Florida.

Stand Your Ground. Controversial efforts to “reform” the education system. Proposals to expand gambling. These are but three of the dozens of earth-shattering important issues debated during the 2014 Legislation Session.

Who cares!?!

The Legislative Session is also about the the tangential and the trivial, but it’s the tangential and trivial which drives the state capital.

Just like college basketball fans who fill out their brackets as part of “March Madness”, political aficionados in the capital and beyond can vote on a series of bracketed match-ups pitting Florida’s top lobbyists against each other.

Right now, we are still accepting nominations for who should make the big dance. From there, a select, anonymous committee will then seed the lobbyists, 1 through 64.  Voters will select the winner of each match-up, with first round voting beginning March 31.

If you would like to nominate a lobbyist or would like to serve on the select committee, please e-mail me at SaintPeter4@gmail.com.

Voters can also follow @TallyMadness on Twitter, where sneak-peaks of current match-up will be provided, along with other interesting news and tidbits.

Those who visit TallyMadness.com are asked to e-mail any suggestions they have to improve the site — and later-round voting — to saintpeter4@gmail.com.

CREDIT UNION DAYS AT THE CAPITOL CONCLUDE

The Florida Credit Union Association, an affiliate of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates, concluded its two-day 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference and Credit Union Days at the Capitol. 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.

“During the 2014 Legislative Session, the FCUA will be advocating for measures to ensure credit unions can provide the best and most secure services possible to their members,” said Patrick La Pine, president and CEO of the FCUA. “As in years past, it is my great honor to be joined by some of our most active members and supporters as we work to continue a dialogue with Florida lawmakers in support of our legislative priorities. Among such priorities is one that our membership was very vocal on during the 2013 Legislative Session – which is to advocate for legislation to bring Florida in line with 33 other states that currently allow credit unions to accept public deposits and spur competition among eligible public depositories.”

The two-day conference kicked off with an opening session preceded by Mr. La Pine, who welcomed members and supporters to the conference and lead the way to a training session on how to meet and communicate effectively with lawmakers and what the Association’s legislative priorities and current message to lawmakers is. Members and supporters visited with lawmakers in the afternoon of the first day of the conference immediately following the lunch hour and then attended a reception hosted by the Association at the Governors Club.

Day two of the conference was sent underway with a breakfast featuring Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner, who discussed challenges facing Florida and his projections for the Florida Senate looking into next year.

The FCUA also awarded Senator Rene Garcia with the Association’s “Florida Lawmaker of the Year Award” during the conference for his continued support for Florida’s credit unions and the services they provide to their members.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS 

Gary Appleson: Caribbean Conservation Corporation

Barney Bishop, Barney Bishop Consulting: Innocence Project of Florida, Inc.

Chris Carmody, Chris Dawson, Fred Leonhardt, Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Florida Venture Forum, Inc.

Chris Dawson, GrayRobinson: Florida Smart Justice Alliance

Andreina Figueroa: Duke Energy

John French: Altria Client Services Inc.; Associated Industries

Christian Goode: Resorts World Miami, LLC

Mike Haridopolos, Sarah Sanders,  Tsamoutales Strategies: Space Florida

Esther Nuhfer: NeuroScience Centers of Florida Foundation, Inc.

Pam Pfeiffer: University of South Florida

‘PRUITT AMENDMENT’ WOULD STOP PUBLIC OFFICIALS FROM SERVING AS LOBBYISTS via Isadora Rangel of PoliticaFixFlorida.com

The state Senate sent a message on Wednesday that elected officials such as St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Ken Pruitt should not work as lobbyists while serving in public office.

The Senate passed an ethics bill, along with what some have called the “Pruitt amendment,” with a 38-0 vote.

The amendment would prohibit constitutional officers — such as property appraisers, supervisors of elections, sheriffs and state attorneys — from lobbying the Legislature and executive branches for pay.

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CONTEXT FLORIDA: WAGE THEFT, ENTERPRISE FLORIDA, JOE SCARBOROUGH AND CORRUPT CHARTER SCHOOLS

On Context Florida: The Florida Retail Federation is pushing hard this session for the Legislature to adopt a new wage-theft law, HB 957, which Daniel Tilson says would pour gas on the burning building that is the state’s wage-theft problem. Enterprise Florida, which receives more than 97 percent of funding from taxpayers, needs to be investigated for wasteful spending, says Mark Ferrulo. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Joe Scarborough’s first campaign for Congress, Rick Outzen says Scarborough and his team did something that we rarely see in our lifetimes. They changed the course of politics not only in Northwest Florida, but also in the entire state. Local school boards are frustrated when Tallahassee interferes with efforts to regulate corrupt or underperforming charter schools, writes Marc Yacht, especially since the money could better be used to support traditional public schools that are struggling.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the inimitable Bob Levy.

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.