A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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RUBIO BREAKS WITH RAND PAUL ON FOREIGN POLICY via Manu Raju of POLITICO
“In a soaring speech on the University of Louisville campus [with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell sitting behind him, Sen. Marco] Rubio made the case for American military might around the world, vowing that the U.S cannot ‘retreat’ from international conflicts … He didn’t mention Paul by name, other than when he corrected a questioner who thought … [Rubio] recently called for the elimination of the Department of Education. ‘I actually think that was your other senator’s speech,’ Rubio said as he flashed a grin
… Rubio’s remarks come just as Paul has been trying to clamp down on federal dollars spent on foreign aid and as the Kentucky freshman has been pushing for a ‘less aggressive’ American role in the world … “‘We can’t solve every humanitarian crisis on the planet,” … Rubio told a concert hall filled with young adults and middle-aged Kentucky voters. ‘But we also cannot retreat from the world. … The alternative to U.S. [engagement] on the global stage is chaos.”
SCOTUS: TOO SOON TO RULE ON GAY MARRIAGE?
As the Supreme Court on Tuesday weighed the very meaning of marriage, several justices seemed to have developed a case of buyer’s remorse about the case before them,” the New York Times reports. “Some wondered aloud if the court had moved too fast to address whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry.”
The Washington Post notes the justices “wondered openly about whether it was time for the court to render a judgment.”
Tom Goldstein sees two possible scenarios with the upshot being “a modest step forward for gay rights advocates, but not a dramatic one. The Court would stay its hand for some time for society to develop its views further. But combined with a potentially significant ruling in the DOMA case being argued tomorrow, the Term will likely nonetheless end up as very significant to gay rights.”
SCOTUS EXCHANGE OF THE DAY (MUST-READ)
JUSTICE SCALIA: You — you’ve led me right into a question I was going to ask. The California Supreme Court decides what the law is. That’s what we decide, right? We don’t prescribe law for the future. We — we decide what the law is. I’m curious, when - when did — when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? Sometimes — some time after Baker, where we said it didn’t even raise a substantial Federal question? When — when — when did the law become this?
MR. OLSON: When — may I answer this in the form of a rhetorical question? When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages? When did it become unconstitutional to assign children to separate schools.
JUSTICE SCALIA: It’s an easy question, I think, for that one. At — at the time that the Equal Protection Clause was adopted. That’s absolutely true. But don’t give me a question to my question. (Laughter.)
SILVER: NAT’L REFERENDUM ON GAY MARRIAGE WOULD HAVE FAILED LAST YEAR
Nate Silver forecasts that a national referendum to approve same-sex marriage “would have narrowly failed last year, 48% to 52%, despite national polls showing more voters approving same-sex marriage than opposing it. For right now, it is probably best to treat the question of whether a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage as having an ambiguous answer. Polls are on the verge of saying that they do, but the ballot results are more equivocal.”
“By 2016, however, voters in 32 states would be willing to vote in support of same-sex marriage, according to the model. And by 2020, voters in 44 states would do so, assuming that same-sex marriage continues to gain support at roughly its previous rate.”
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ANOTHER STORY ABOUT NOT COUNTING OUT ALEX SINK via William March of the Tampa Tribune
Sink said she’s working through a decision process and will decide “this summer.” She wouldn’t be any more specific about the timing.
And she said recent news stories dismissing her as a possible candidate were wrong.
“The message is that I’d say, given what I’ve been through in the last several months, now is not the time to make a life-changing decision one way or the other,” Sink said.
“Where my head is, it’s not time for me to close the door to the possibility. Different people have interpreted what I’ve said in different ways, but right now it’s time for me to be focusing on taking care my kids and myself and dealing with the terrible loss of Bill.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS — From Bill Nelson spox Dan McLaughlin: (Bill Nelson) going to be in Tallahassee Wednesday at the Press Center at 10 a.m. He’ll be discussing a request for an investigation into a state program that’s supposed to be helping distressed homeowners. … (F)ollowing the news conference, he’s heading to the now-shuttered dozier school for boys in marianna. there, usf scientists are investigating deaths at the reform school after years of allegations of abuse towards the boys who lived there.
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JIM GREER SENTENCING TODAY via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida
Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, who pled guilty on the eve of a potentially politically salacious trial that could have aired the laundry of the state GOP and former Gov. Charlie Crist, will find out his prison fate today.
Greer’s pre-trial guilty plea in February allowed him to avert the possibility of up to 75 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and theft when he again appears before Circuit Judge Donald Myers at 1:30 p.m. in Orlando.
Instead, Greer, 50, faces the prospect of a maximum sentence of 35 years on four counts of theft and a reduced money laundering charge. The recommended sentence, per state guidelines, is more likely to put Greer in prison for closer to 3½ years.
FEDERAL JUDGE ZAPS CHALLENGE TO PROGRESS’ NUKE PLANT
A federal panel on Tuesday rejected a challenge by two environmental groups to the license applications for two nuclear power reactors in Levy County, clearing one of the last remaining large obstacles holding up construction.
The three-member Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Agency adequately identified the direct and indirect wetland and groundwater impacts as presented an environmental impact statement that was part of Progress Energy Florida’s application for the plants.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke merged with Progress Energy in July 2012. Progress Energy will formally start to take on the Duke Energy name starting April 29.
A representative for the two groups that challenged the application, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Ecology Party of Florida, declared the board’s ruling to be based on “unfulfilled promises” by the state to monitor the freshwater wetlands from which the two new reactors draw millions of gallons.
PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Governor Scott Letter and Statement on FAU Jesus Incident” … regarding the “Jesus stomping” incident.
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Representatives Eddy Gonzalez and Erik Fresen and State Senator Oscar Braynon will hold a press conference to make a major announcement on the efforts to modernize Sun Life Stadium. 12 p.m., Fourth Floor of the Capitol.
BILL TO HELP DISNEY FIGHTFIGHTERS STALLS AMID OBJECTIONS FROM STEVE PRECOURT via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel
House Majority Leader Steve Precourt has expressed concerns about the legislation (HB 1365), said Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, the Miami Republican who chairs the House Local & Federal Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill.
“Precourt has some reservations,” Gonzalez said.
That’s one reason why Gonzalez said he has not yet allowed the bill to get a hearing in his committee, effectively ensuring it cannot advance.
Precourt, who is a member of Speaker Weatherford’s inner circle, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The legislation in question would give Reedy Creek Improvement District firefighters a measure of influence in future contract negotiations with the Disney-controlled government. It would require both the firefighters union and Reedy Creek management to abide by the recommendations of an independent mediator whenever negotiations reach an impasse.
FIRED TROOPER: FHP LOOKS THE OTHER WAY WHEN LAWMAKERS SPEED via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union
A former Florida Highway Patrol officer says the agency has an unwritten “leniency policy for legislators” that allows them to pay reduced fines for speeding tickets.
The allegation is laid out in a Public Employee Relations Commission appeal filed by former FHP trooper Charles Swindle after his firing on March 15, which he says was the result of a violation by state Rep. Charles McBurney.
“The entire administrative staff of the FHP including the Colonel, Majors, Corporals, Sergeants, and Troopers are aware of the existence of and enforcement of Quid Pro Quo Leniency Policy for Legislators,” the appeal reads.
It’s a claim FHP firmly denies.
“There is no unwritten rule,” said Captain Nancy Rasmussen, an FHP spokeswoman. “Officers do have the discretion as far as not writing a non-moving violation to anyone. There is nothing different for those in public office.”
FOUNDATION FOR FLORIDA’S FUTURE ATTACK ‘PARENT TRIGGER’ MYTHS via The Gradebook
Representatives from Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and California-based Parent Revolution held court in Tallahassee to tell reporters why attacks on the parent trigger bill moving through the Florida House (but not yet the Senate) are misguided.
The bill would allow parents at failing public schools to petition for different reform models in their schools, including a conversion to charter status. It also would prevent students from having teachers deemed “ineffective” in consecutive years in the same subject area.
A sample argument: “Misconception – Parents are not the experts on how to run a school — let teachers and principals do their jobs; “Fact – Parents ARE the experts when it comes to the needs of their children. There are literally hundreds of studies showing the more parents are involved in their child’s education, the more they succeed in the classroom. We are not putting parents in positions of authority inside a school (they can’t choose curriculum, fire teachers, or control the budget); we are giving them a voice in shaping the future of their school.”
See the group’s handout, Debunking Parent Empowerment Myths, for more of their argument.
HOUSE TO SEEK TUITION INCREASE
Splitting from the Senate and Gov. Scott, the House will propose a 6 percent tuition increase for students in state universities and colleges, according to a story in The Ledger.
House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel said the House wants to prevent Florida’s universities from “falling further and further behind their peers throughout the country.” He added, “I just think we need to keep pace.” Senate Education Appropriations Chairman Bill Galvano told the Lakeland newspaper that the Senate will not include a tuition increase in its budget proposal. Scott also is opposed to the idea.
INSURANCE INDUSTRY WANTS TO PUT BRAKES ON NEGRON’S VEHICLE FEE CUT via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida
The insurance industry is pushing back on a Senate proposal that would drop a tax credit enjoyed by out-of-state companies as a way to cover the cost of reducing an unpopular 2009 hike on vehicle-registration fees.
Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, said he and other industry lobbyists intend to address the proposal (SB 7132) by Sen. Joe Negron when it goes before the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
“With the repeal of this credit (insurance company) taxes will go up,” Miller said. “This is a tax on these companies, and they’re going to pass it along. Consumers are going to absorb it.”
Negron, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he expected the reaction from some in the insurance and business community when he announced the measure last week, but he remains confident lawmakers won’t be swayed by industry lobbyists.
“I welcome the debate on whether we should subsidize the labor cost of the insurance industry or return money to our constituents,” Negron said.
“I don’t think it’s good public policy for taxpayers to be underwriting part of the insurance industry labor costs and then that being a way to reduce premiums,” Negron added. “The cost of premiums is a separate issue. The Office of Insurance Regulation should determine what the appropriate cost is.”
NFIB UP WITH AD OPPOSING MEDICAID EXPANSION via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
The NFIB ad plays on fears — expressed by Speaker Weatherford — that the feds won’t be able to make good on their promise to pay because of soaring deficits. If that happens, the ad warns, it will “bust the budget” in Florida.
NFIB said the ads will air on Florida broadcast and cable TV and radio, as well as on the Internet beginning today. “The expansion of Medicaid will cost Florida taxpayers at least $3.5 billion over 10 years. These expenses are a cause for concern when it comes to job creation and the viability of our economy,” said NFIB/Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle. “Florida needs reform, not more broken promises from Washington.”
>>>Watch the ad here.
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LARCENIA BULLARD MEMORIAL
The Senate will hold a memorial service for the late Sen. Larcenia Bullard, who died earlier this month. 6:30 p.m., Senate Chamber
LEGISLATIVE PREVIEWS via The News Service of Florida
Senate in Session: The Senate will be in session Wednesday afternoon for two hours. Among the bills on the third reading calendar are the measure banning funeral protests (SB 118) and the measure repealing the requirement that foreign drivers have an international driving permit (SB 1766). The Senate also has a special order calendar that includes a compromise bill on the scope of practice for optometrists (SB 278).
Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations: The budget committee for criminal and civil justice issues takes up bills related to penalties for animal cruelty (SB 504) and enhanced penalties for trespassing in a school zone by gang members (SB 788), among other bills. The panel also continues work on the budget for the Department of Corrections, the Department of Legal Affairs, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the courts and other agencies. 9:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building
Senate Ed Approps: An education bill (SB 1630) that requires that the technological capacity of schools and school districts be tested for adequacy, and that only after that is done can common core standardized tests be given, is before the Senate Education Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. 9:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building
Mortgage Settlement Legislation in Trans, Econ Dev. Approps: The Senate committee that deals with transportation, economic development and highway safety takes up proposed draft legislation on what to do with money from a national settlement with mortgage companies. The panel also takes up agency bills for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (SB 1458) and the Department of Economic Opportunity (SB 1024). It also hears a bill (SB 222), sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, that spells out certain types of misconduct that would disqualify workers from receiving unemployment, and creates some other additional circumstances under which those seeking unemployment could be disqualified. 9:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building
Ed Incentive Review: Senate Finance and Tax continues its review of economic development tax incentives, which lawmakers have had in their sites this year, following reports of some deals that may not have been the best for the taxpayers. The committee also considers a bill (SB 560) that sets up a taxing structure for natural gas for vehicles, and exempts the fuel from tax for five years, among several other measures. 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building
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4TH FLOOR FILES talks to Floridian Partners’ Scott Ross about free legal advice, Nick Iarossi, & the Distinguished Gentleman. Here’s the file on Scott.
FLORIDA CHAMBER HOSTING 2013 INTERNATIONAL DAYS NEXT WEEK via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Florida Chamber of Commerce is ramping up for the 2013 International Days, a three-day summit held each year in Tallahassee, which will feature the US Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tom Donohue, Governor Rick Scott, Ambassador of Brazil to the US Mauro Vieira, and other top international trade experts and lawmakers.
International Days is held April 1-3 at the Turnbull Conference Center at FSU, beginning on Monday evening with a Viva Florida celebration featuring Secretary of State Ken Detzner. You can see the full agenda at 2013 International Days.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: Association Capital Resources
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INFOGRAPHIC examines the state of America’s visual IQ by revealing the percentage of Americans that were able to correctly identify politicians, countries, and even popular logos. Here.
RAYS IN WORLD SERIES? Sports Illustrated predicts the Washington Nationals will beat the Tampa Rays in the 2013 World Series. In SI’s “Baseball Preview” issue, on newsstands tomorrow, senior writer Tom Verducci says pitcher Stephen Strasburg (featured on one of six SI regional covers) and his Nats look like the 1986 Mets, also managed by Nats manager Davey Johnson: “Like the ’86 Mets, the 2013 Nationals are the best team on paper at the start of the season. And like that championship team, Washington has young power pitching, a deep bullpen with multiple closers, a blend of power and speed, and an unmistakable swagger.” SI predicts Bryce Harper (who was on the Feb. 25 cover) wins NL MVP, and Strasburg wins Cy Young.