Sunburn for 3/3 – 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

After months of preparations, Florida lawmakers will gather Tuesday in the Capitol to start the annual 60-day session. Gov. Rick Scott will help kick off the session with his State of the State address. Look for him to talk about his favorite subjects — jobs and tax cuts. Later that day, the Senate is expected to quickly pass bills that would toughen laws dealing with sexual predators.

5 QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

1. Just how much campaign cash will be raised on Monday, the last day lawmakers can raise money before a 60-day moratorium kicks in while the Legislature is in session. You know, for appearances and all that.

2. What kind of reception will Sen. Garrett Richter’s gaming bill receive? After months of hearings and discussions, the Senate Gaming Committee will take up on Monday three bills that would revamp the state’s gambling laws. Senators are looking, in part, at allowing two high-end resort casinos in South Florida.

3. So what is the state of the State? Certainly, Scott will paint a rosy picture during his address on Tuesday. Senators, House members, Cabinet members and other dignitaries will gather in the House chamber to listen to Scott’s “State of the State” address at 11 a.m.

4. What can House or Senate Democrats — or Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nan Rich — do, if anything, to monkey with Scott and the Legislature’s juggernaut?

5. There’s just eight days left in the combative race for Congressional District 13. Just last week, one candidate was reported to have killed someone as a teenager, while the other said immigrant workers are needed because they clean hotel rooms and mow lawns. What could possibly happen next in this nationally watched race?

PROGRAMMING NOTE

 The road show continues for me as SaintPetersBlog/Sunburn will broadcasting from Tallahassee during the best (and least suspenseful) opening ceremonies this side of Sochi.

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MIAMI IN HUNT FOR 2016 DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald

Miami announced over the weekend it would pursue the Democratic National Convention in 2016, an event expected to require double the organizing costs of what the region expected to raise to put on the Super Bowl.

Organizers are pushing downtown’s American Airlines Arena for a gathering widely expected to put Hillary Clinton atop the Democratic ticket. Initial estimates put the cost at $50 million, about what Tampa paid to host the 2012 Republican convention and far more than the $20 million cost floated during 2013’s pursuit of the 50th Super Bowl.

Though Richard Nixon and George McGovern were both nominated at the Miami Beach Convention Center in 1972, the region has since been out of the convention game. Miami pursued the 2000 Democratic convention, but tourism officials have pointed to costs in recent years when explaining why the region wasn’t in the hunt for the events that generally draw about 50,000 people for a week of speeches, parties and media events.

“There is truly no better place in the United States to host an event of this nature than Miami-Dade County,” reads a letter sent out Friday on county Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez’s letterhead and signed by Miami Mayor Tomás P. Regalado, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and county tourism chief William D. Talbert III. “Our airport is one of the biggest and most modern in the country and our hotel inventory is among the most exquisite in the world.”

Though the mayors wrote they are “serious about their pursuit of this convention,’’ organizers say costs still could scuttle the bid. The Democratic Party has yet to send out the specifications for what it requires of host cities, and those details will determine how much money Miami-Dade must raise for the event from a mix of private and public sources.

ICYMI: JEB THE NEAR-UNANIMOUS CHOICE OF FORMER ROMNEY DONORS via The Fix

No one can argue that Mitt Romney knows how to raise money. He collected more than $1.1 billion in the 2012 campaign, relying on contacts he built during his time as Massachusetts governor, head of the Salt Lake City Olympics, years working in private equity, and as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. And now, with Romney insisting that he will not run again in 2016, literally hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of Republican money is up for grabs — and donors say that they are already being courted by several potential presidential candidates.

The frontrunner in this race is Jeb Bush: “Every single Romney donor we spoke with this week listed the former Florida governor as their top choice.”

>>>POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman to John King on CNN’s “Inside Politics” re: Jeb: “[P]eople who are close to him do not believe ultimately that he will run. They think he’s going to go through a process of exploration. He’s going to be very close, and then ultimately decide this is not for him. He was honest when he said in 2012: This really was when I should have run. And that has not changed.”

MEANWHILE, THERE’S MARCO to David Gregory on “Meet the Press,” re: running in 2016: “[T]hat’s something I’ll consider later in this year, early next year. As you know, in 2016, my term in the Senate expires so I’ll have a decision to make either way. I certainly think our country’s at an important crossroads, on an international front and also on a domestic front. And I’ll have to think about whether from that role of the presidency, I would be able to influence [it] in a more positive way.”

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ASSOCIATED INDUSTRIES PARTY TONIGHT SIGNALS BEGINNING OF LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Session starts on Tuesday, which means three things for Monday: fundraising frenzy before the 60-day curtain falls; last minute roommate arrangements; and the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) pre-session welcome back reception for legislators, staff and politicos, drawing easily 2,000 attendees each year.

Tallahassee reaches full capacity during March and April, bringing some welcome energy to local businesses. The session generates an estimated $2 million per week in economic impact for the city – a figure that could prospectively increase in following years if reforms to Florida’s lobbyist gift ban are passed as proposed.

Considering the impact of the 2005 gift ban law on AIF’s party planning (see here), no doubt they and their guests would welcome any such measure.

The affair is meant to be a festive last-night-before-the-work-begins kind of deal, and it is unlikely that wonky policy talk will predominate.

AWAKE THE STATE PLANS RALLIES via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

While Gov. Scott and state lawmakers open the 2014 Legislature on Tuesday, rallies are planned for more than a dozen cities across the state, with Democratic-leaning groups blasting Republican leaders for the priorities set in Tallahassee.

“Average Floridians are fed up with Tallahassee politicians balancing the budget on the backs of hard-working families,” said Mark Ferrulo of Progress Florida, a St. Petersburg-based activist organization. “We will continue to fight Rick Scott and the tea party until we see these anti-middle class policies changed.”

The Awake the State movement has been around a few years. In 2011, organizers held two demonstrations, before and after Scott’s inaugural session, that was marked by changes to the state’s public pension fund, tougher abortion laws, and a reduction in the days available for early voting, reversed last year by lawmakers.

BRIGHT, SHINY LEGISLATIVE PREVIEWS

10 ISSUES TO WATCH via Flagler Live here, including the budget, child protection, gaming, guns, health-care fights, retirement revamp, school choice, tax cuts, tuition, and water worries.

AARON DESLATTE COLUMN Read here

Let’s take the suspense out of what will happen in Florida’s two-month lawmaking session that starts Tuesday, because it really isn’t so mysterious.

Florida’s political economy suggests that lawmakers and Gov. Scott will use the election-year legislative session to provide enough marginal benefits to expect continued campaign victories in the fall.

That means the Republican governor and Florida Legislature will dole out a $1.3 billion budget surplus in ways that cater to two important but different constituencies: those who write the checks and those who cast the votes.

…long-term problems that have not yet reached crisis stage are always easier to ignore, defer or deal with superficially.

Consider a major, sobering study produced by the nonpartisan LeRoy Collins Institute and written by economists James Dewey and David Denslow at the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Among its findings is that Florida’s labor force is essentially in long-term decline, both in relative size and skills.

… the difficult, structural problems the Sunshine State faces ensure that the next bust will always be lurking around the corner.

A DOZEN GUN-RELATED BILLS FACE FLORIDA LAWMAKERS IN 2014 SESSION Full blog post here

Legislation pertaining to guns — both real and imaginary — is on its way to the Legislature.

Bills on toaster pastries and insurance policies are just two of a dozen gun-related measures facing legislators this term, with many of them not expected to go anywhere.

VOTER PRIORITIES DIFFER FROM LEGISLATURE’S via Lloyd Dunkelberger for The Ledger

(A) new poll shows some of the priorities of 2014 Legislature are at odds with Florida voters.

… Some 67 percent of Florida voters support Medicaid expansion, with 28 percent in opposition, the poll showed.

At the same time, though, a majority of Florida voters, 57 percent, want the Affordable Care Act to be repealed or changed in major ways, as opposed to 39 percent of the voters who support minor changes or leaving the ACA as is.

… The poll showed a sizable bloc of voters — 42 percent — think the surplus funds should first be used to boost spending for public schools, state colleges and universities. Another group — 20 percent — want to use it help Florida’s ailing natural springs, the Everglades and other water bodies.

Less than 10 percent said the first priority for the surplus should be for tax and fee cuts like reducing the motor vehicle fees that were raised in 2009 (7 percent) or cutting taxes on cell phones and cable television (less than 2 percent) or authorizing sales tax holidays (less than 1 percent).

TWEET, TWEET: @MattGaetz: On my way to Tallahassee for the next 60 days. Keeping all my clocks set to CST as a reminder of who and what really matters 🙂

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AIF ISSUES ITS SESSION PRIORITIES via Bill Cotterell of the Florida Current

The state’s major business lobbying organization issued its legislative agenda, supporting Gov. Scott’s plan for an election-year cut of $500 million in taxes and fees and calling for protection of Florida’s pari-mutuel gambling spots in the push for casino gambling in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

Associated Industries of Florida sent its 17-page list of priorities to all members of the House and Senate, five days before the start of the 2014 session. AIF’s 31 lobbyists will be working on a wide range of tax issues, as well as issues involving water, health care, energy, education, judicial and workforce development.

The organization also sided with the Florida Retail Federation, which has called for collection of the sales tax on “remote” sales made over the Internet. Books ordered from Amazon and other online sales are already taxable, but the state has no standard mechanism for enforcing the sales tax if a business does not have a physical location in Florida.

The AIF recommendation added that “this is not a new tax; instead, this is simply enforcement of existing law.”

AIF endorsed Scott’s proposal to increase exemptions from the corporate income tax from $50,000 to $75,000 a year. Scott’s economic plan calls for phasing out the tax entirely. The governor’s call for rolling back 2009 increases in fees and surcharges for automobile registration also got the business lobby’s backing.

A special Senate committee has been holding hearings since last session on casino gambling. Advocates envision two “destination resorts” in Southeast Florida, but the plan has significant impact on existing horse, dog and jai-alai gambling as well as the state’s Seminole Indian casino compact.

But the organization cautioned “the Legislature to consider their effect on the state’s existing pari-mutuel industry before approving any proposals” for casinos.

FLORIDA’S WATER WOES ARE SEEN AS URGENT — EXCEPT IN THE FLORIDA HOUSE via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

A remarkable alignment of Florida political interests has occurred this year — perhaps because it’s an election year, perhaps because the urgency of the problem has drawn a lot of attention.

Gov. Scott, several powerful state senators, a coalition of environmental groups and a consortium of business and industry groups all say the Legislature needs to do something this year about fixing Florida’s water.

The pollution is too pervasive, the flow too endangered, and the perils too great to the state’s future to ignore it any longer, they all agreed.

Water quality and quantity have the potential to limit residential and business growth, and we need to attack this problem head-on with forward-thinking solutions,” Tom Feeney, president of the probusiness Associated Industries of Florida, said in February.

A rally for clean water drew 200 people to Tallahassee last month, all clamoring for quick action. One speaker, former Department of Community Affairs secretary Tom Pelham, told the crowd, “The time to act is now. Delay will only make the situation worse and the solutions more costly.”

The House is the one place where there’s no such sense of urgency.

“I don’t foresee any major changes to water policy this year,” said Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli.

The reason, said the man who will be speaker next year, is simple: “It’s going to take more than a year to solve this problem.”

Crisafulli, who hails from a prominent citrus family and is former president of the Brevard County Farm Bureau, pointed out that Florida’s water problem is actually a whole suite of woes involving both water quality and water quantity.

“Nobody has really come up with one silver bullet answer,” he said in an interview a day before the clean water rally.

BILL FILED TO HELP FLORIDA TV PRODUCTION Full blog post here

A Florida Senate motion filed last week seeks to strengthen the state’s television and film-production industry.

Sen. Aaron Bean filed SB 1438, known as the “Qualified Television Loan Fund,” that sets up a 10-year $20 million trust within the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity for the development of private, made-for-TV content produced in Florida.

The fund would provide loans for production companies creating content for major networks, cable channels or Internet streaming.

If passed, the DEO would hire a fund administrator to allocate the funds based on a number of criteria including” creditworthiness of the project, the producer’s track record, (and) the possibility that the project will encourage, enhance, or create economic benefits.”

EDITORIAL: HOMELESS AID A WORTHY USE FOR SURPLUS via the News-Press

We’re encouraged to see an influential state senator suggest a portion of this year’s budget surplus be used to help the homeless in Florida. While it’s usually fashionable to give some of the money back to taxpayers, Sen. Jack Latvala’s plan seems to be a better use for that money.

Latvala and state Rep. Kathleen Peters have each filed bills to expand programs for the homeless. That would include support, training and technical assistance.

We urge lawmakers to support the bills during this year’s legislative session. The bills could not have come at a better time. Latvala said the state is home to the third-highest number of homeless in the nation. That’s reason enough for the bills to pass.

ONCE DIVIDED, MIAMI-DADE STATE LAWMAKERS RALLY TOGETHER FOR FUNDING via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Late last month, state lawmakers from across Miami-Dade County hunkered down and drew up a list of their collective priorities.

The priorities are as diverse as the delegation itself: Protect funding for Jackson Memorial Hospital; increase incentives to lure the film industry to Florida; step up the penalties for hit-and-run drivers; and extend in-state tuition college rates to undocumented students.

Miami-Dade lawmakers will also work together to secure state dollars for local projects, from the Skyrise Miami observation tower to the senior centers known as comedores.

Miami-Dade lawmakers have already expressed conflicting opinions on subsidies for sports stadiums, destination casinos and a half-penny sales tax to support construction at Miami Dade College and Florida International University.

The group will focus its collective energy on the proposed gaming overhaul, said Rep. Jim Waldman.

For Miami-Dade lawmakers, the path to success starts with the budget.

That entails fighting to repeal part of Florida’s 2011 Medicaid reform law, which seeks to spread federal Medicaid dollars more equitably around the state. The provision is expected to cost Jackson Memorial Hospital more than $140 million this year.

They will also request new money to support Miami Marine Stadium, the Miami River Commission and a greenway trail that would connect Biscayne and Everglades national parks.

Miami-Dade lawmakers are also seeking to expand the tax incentives offered to the film industry. A proposal by Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. (HB 983) would boost the annual allocation of film industry tax credits from $42 million to $200 million.

REP. JIM BOYD ASCENDS RANKS QUICKLY via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Few legislators have ascended to the upper ranks of leadership as fast as Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd.

The former Palmetto city councilman has catapulted to the House’s upper echelon through a willingness to take on some of the thorniest — and complex — issues in the Florida Legislature over the last three years.

Boyd led a push to reform the state’s auto insurance laws and oversaw the latest election reforms that included restoring some early voting days eliminated by the Legislature in 2011.

Boyd was named chairman of the State Affairs Committee, which oversees the state’s public pension system. Pension reform has been one of House Speaker Will Weatherford’s highest priorities over the last two years.

In only his second term, Boyd is just one of two state representative who are considered sophomores to hold a full committee chairmanship.

He is also working on behalf of one of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s priorities, pushing legislation to crack down on bogus charities.

The bill would would bar organizations that broke laws in other states from soliciting money in Florida; prohibit felons from raising money for charities; increase reporting requirements for larger charities, particularly those that spend less than a quarter of the money they raise on charitable activities and require information from companies that solicit donations for charities over the phone.

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GOV. SCOTT CLOAKS TRAVEL DETAILS, CITING SECURITY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

By using his personal jet for public business, Gov. Scott can shield his itinerary from websites that track flights, and when his plane lands, he uses a public records exemption to tighten the cloak of secrecy.

Wherever Scott goes, he’s shadowed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents. In citing a records exemption that protects FDLE “surveillance techniques” from publication, he withholds the members of his traveling party, restaurants and homes he visits, and people at meetings — all in the name of security.

To a much greater degree than the past three governors, Scott, former chief executive of the nation’s largest private hospital chain, conceals information from the public about his travel.

Scott promised to sell both state planes if elected, and he did. But because Scott flies in his own Cessna Citation jet, his office says that records of use and maintenance are not public, and Scott does not post flight logs on FlightAware.com, a tracking website.

On the day Scott took office, Jan. 4, 2011, he issued an executive order re-establishing the Office of Open Government to “facilitate Floridians’ right to know and to have access to information with which they can hold government accountable.”

Every day, Scott’s office releases an advance schedule of meetings and events. It gets posted on the governor’s official website, flgov.com. And it’s rarely complete.

Large blocks of time are described as “staff time,” including, for example, a meeting Scott held Feb. 20 with elected mayors of four of the state’s biggest cities to discuss taxes, water, homelessness and other issues. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was among them.

FLORIDA JOB PROJECTIONS LOOKING STRONG COMPARED TO NATIONAL AVERAGES

The Bureau of Labor Statistics intermittently projects which occupations will see the greatest jobs growth over time. According to their most recent such analysis, about one-third of all new jobs to be created between now and 2022 will be in the fields of health care, health care support, construction, and personal care. Using these data and applying them to all of America’s 350-plus metropolitan areas, The Atlantic analyzed and reported in greater detail the “what and where” of America’s changing workforce.

And in this, Florida looks like it’s heading in a particularly strong direction. Looking at overall projected job growth, Florida areas — particularly those along the coasts — look strong, matching or exceeding job growth in the nation as a whole. But then, looking at projected changes in higher-wage creative class employment, Florida looks even better. Coastal areas and the I-4 corridor exceed the national average of 12.5 percent projected growth, reaching as high as 16.4 percent in multiple Florida counties. Service-sector, and by an even greater margin blue-collar working class jobs, are also predicted to grow dramatically in Florida, in most areas by far above the national average.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING — FLORIDA’S HOUSING COSTS DROP RELATIVE TO HOUSEHOLD INCOME

Florida has experienced the second largest drop in the nation in the percent of residents paying greater than half of their income toward housing costs. Between 2009 and 2012, severely cost-burdened working households fell in 30 states. Arkansas led the nation with a 3.8 percent drop in cost-burdened households. Florida’s drop was the second most notable, at 3.4 percent. In 2009, just over one-third of Floridian households spent more than half of their paycheck on housing costs. In 2012, this ratio fell to 29.8 percent.

These figures, published in a report by the National Housing Conference, nevertheless depict Florida’s overall ratio of cost-burdened residents as among the highest in the nation. At 38 percent, Miami ties with Los Angeles in leading the nation in its percentage of  residents with severe housing cost burdens. Orlando has the fifth highest rate at 32 percent. Yet both Miami and Orlando experienced among the highest drops in these ratios over a three year period, too, at 3.5 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.

***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 12, 2014, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members and Governor Scott, to discuss  growing areas of the state’s $8 billion dollar space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***

APPOINTED: Chip Simmons to the Pensacola State College District Board of Trustees; Dr. S.K. Rao Musunuru to the Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees; Elena Spottswood to the Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees; Amy Lockhart to the Seminole State College of Florida District Board of Trustees; John Crossman and Raymer Maguire to the Valencia College District Board of Trustees.

KEY REVENUE NUMBERS COMING IN MID-MARCH

State economists will meet March 12 to revise general-revenue estimates, an important step as lawmakers get ready to draw up a budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to a schedule posted online Friday. The economists, formally known as the Revenue Estimating Conference, meet periodically throughout the year to update estimates of general-revenue taxes. Those taxes, including such things as sales taxes, are a critical source of money for the state’s schools, health programs and prisons. Lawmakers will use the revised estimates as they negotiate and approve a budget before the May 2 end of the legislative session. The new budget will take effect with the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

OH, THAT’S RICH — STATE OFFICIALS CREDIT TROUBLED CONNECT FOR DROP IN CLAIMS (REALLY) via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

State officials who prematurely celebrated a new unemployment benefits website are claiming now that the defects that kept thousands of Floridians from getting benefits since October are mostly fixed.

Officials with Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Economic Opportunity who oversee the CONNECT project say the number of jobless claims stuck in the system for more than a week dropped from more than 58,000 to fewer than 5,000 last month.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said CONNECT project manager Tom McCullion this week. “We’re just in a phenomenal position today serving our claimants.”

Yet most of the improvement has nothing to do with DEO, said Alí R. Bustamante, a professor at Florida International University’s center for labor research.

Starting Jan. 1, 73,000 Floridians lost their federal long-term unemployment benefits when Congress didn’t renew the program. That, combined with a reduction of state benefits, wiped away 17 weeks of unemployment eligibility practically overnight, hitting Florida especially hard because it leads the nation in long-term unemployment.

“That accounts for the drop,” Bustamante said. “There was a lot of confusion last month, and a lot of people didn’t know what the limit for unemployment compensation was. They know now, so they aren’t filing claims. So, from the system’s standpoint, it really helped that these claims just went away.”

DEO officials, however, appear eager to take full credit.

MIAMI AND ORLANDO SLATED TO BE AMONG 10 BEST AMERICAN CITIES OF THE FUTURE, NEW STUDY SAYS

Two Florida cities are slated to be in the 10 “best” American cities in the future, according to an analysis by CreditDonkey, a financial education website. Looking at data for 420 cities, CreditDonkey compared data on five criteria: (1) percentage of housing built in 1990 or later, (2) population change since 2010, (3) construction jobs as percentage of population, (4) space travel companies and proposed spaceports, and (5) available DeLorean cars, like those from “Back to the Future”. Bizarre criteria, at least the last one, but all purportedly related to a city’s growth potential.

Placing at No. 6, Miami was noted by the report to have two major space transport companies in the area, giving the region greater potential to “become the gateway to the future.” Three DeLoreans from Miami were available for sale on Ebay in the last year. Then, coming it at No. 4, Orlando was commended for its vast quantity of new housing, its quick population growth, and its proximity to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. Miami and Orlando were the only two cities on the East Coast highlighted by this report.

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GOOD READ – CD 13 CANDIDATES’ MESSAGES BOTTLED UP via Larry Thornberry of the American Spectator

Voters in the 13th Congressional District, who would like to learn what the candidates wishing to represent them in the U.S. House are all about, will get little help from the avalanche of television ads on the race. The febrile ads mostly call the opponent of their candidate a knave and an incompetent.

The candidates aren’t totally to blame for the nastiness and inaccuracies of the charges being bandied about, though they aren’t knocking themselves out to clarify things. Most of the gaudy number of ads – more than $8 million has already been spent in the Tampa-St. Petersburg television market to influence this March 11, off-year, special election — have not been purchased by Republican David Jolly or Democrat Alex Sink, but by outside groups supporting one or the other.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Democrat groups charge Jolly with wanting to snatch Social Security checks out of the arthritic fingers of the district’s many senior citizens. This seems to be required of Democratic candidates, regardless of their Republican opponent’s record on the issue.

Sink scores hits on Jolly for his work in Washington as a lobbyist, suggesting this vocation ranks in moral authority somewhere below aluminum siding salesmen, tax collectors, and cat burglars. She hams it up about lobbyists even though she has worked with lobbyists in her professional life and her campaign contribution list is speckled with the names of lobbyists.

The anti-Sink ads accuse her of being a fiscally irresponsible, big-spending liberal who was careless with the state’s money when she was Florida’s CFO. This is probably a bit of a stretch. Sink is indeed a liberal, and a supporter of Barack Obama. But she has decades of experience  as a banker before entering politics. She knows more about and has more respect for how wealth is created than your average blue-sky Democrat.

Another obvious question that local pressies ignored was, in the sixth year of the Obama recovery, where the economy continues to improve without getting any better, what “high-growth environment” was Sink talking about?

TWEET, TWEET: @learyreports: From 1989 to death, Bill Young spent total of $6.4M on elections. In just months, outside groups have exceeded that in race to replace him.

MEANWHILE … GOP STAR JASON CHAFFETZ ENDORSES LIZBETH BENACQUISTO …

Jason Chaffetz endorsed Lizbeth Benacquisto in CD 19 during a call into the Drew Steele Show on 92.5 WFXS-FM.
Congressman Chaffetz chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.
During the radio call in, Chaffetz said Benacquisto is the candidate he supports in the race because “she can make the conservative case.”
Benacquisto welcomed the endorsement. “Congressman Chaffetz and I are genuine conservatives and I share his vision of fiscal discipline, limited government, accountability, and a strong national defense,” said Benacquisto.

… AND CURT CLAWSON RUNS AS OUTSIDER BUT PLAYS INSIDER GAME WITH CONTRIBUTIONS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Earlier this month (the Times) reported that Curt Clawson had made a single political contribution in his life — to Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

His campaign said the single contribution was evidence he is “truly is a political outsider and a breath of fresh air that is needed in Washington.”

But it wasn’t true.

In late December, Clawson gave $5,200 to Sen. Mitch McConnell and an additional $4,800 to the Republican Party of Kentucky, FEC records show. The money caught the attention of a conservative commentator on Facebook, who scoffingly referred to McConnell as an “Establishment GOP RINO.” The McConnell fundraiser was held in Naples.

Clawson, his campaign said, has made donations to the Collier County GOP; Sen. Rand Paul; Terri Lynn Land, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Michigan, where Clawson used to live; Rep. Justin Amash; and local Chambers of Commerce. He even contributed in local races, such as Bonita City Council.

***Madison Social – Tallahassee’s Hottest Spot – is your location for lunch, happy hour, and dinner. Catering for your meetings are also available. For lunch service, complementary valet is available so you can leave the office and return within one hour. To see our menu, please visit here.***

HAPPENING TODAY – BILL YOUNG II TO ANNOUNCE CAMPAIGN FOR FLORIDA HOUSE DISTRICT 68 SEAT Full blog post here

Bill Young II will seek a place in the Florida Legislature this November, following the example of his father, the legendary former U.S. Rep. C. W. “Bill” Young.

Young will announce today that he is running for the House District 68 seat now held by Democrat state Rep. Dwight Dudley.

First, Young must face Joshua Black in the August GOP primary for the seat serving much of eastern Pinellas County, an area from Feather Sound south to downtown St. Petersburg.

Bill Young II — named an “Under 30 Up and Comer” in the Tampa Bay Business Journal – has kept the family tradition of community service and activism. In 2008, Young also worked with the Department of Justice at the National Forensic Science Technology Center with developing the National Missing and Unidentified Persons database. He had also served as a legislative intern for both U.S. Reps. Ralph Regula and Sonny Callahan.

Young lives in Pinellas Park with his wife Ashley and their two children. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of South Florida and is on the board of Remember Honor Support, a St. Petersburg-based non-profit that assists military members, first responders and their families.

ERIC EISNAUGLE RAMPS UP FUNDRAISING FOR LEADERSHIP BID via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Eisnaugle has raised about $52,000 this month from a variety of donors – including a Medicaid contractor, a medical malpractice insurer and a major theme-park company — through a political committee known as the Committee for Justice and Economic Freedom. Unlike a traditional campaign account, that committee can accept unlimited contributions from donors, and Eisnaugle can use the money to support other Republican House candidates around the state who have “pledged” to support his speakership bid.

So far in February, Eisnaugle has accepted $10,000 from The Doctors Co., the nation’s largest medical malpractice insurer; $5,000 from Molina Healthcare, a health insurer that seeks Medicaid contracts in Florida and other states; $5,000 from the American Resort Development Association, the time-share industry lobbying group; and $1,500 from SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., among many others.

… Eisnaugle’s committee has so far given $1,000 to two Republican challengers: Former Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood, who is running against Democratic Rep. Mike Clelland of Lake Mary in a Seminole County House seat; and Maurice Pearson, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Linda Stewart of Orlando in an Orange County seat.

Since the summer, Eisnaugle has also given $500 each to about a half dozen other GOPchallengers around Florida. They are: Fred Costello, who is running for an open Volusia County seat; Brad Drake, running in an open seat in the Panhandle; Bryan Avila, a candidate in an open seat in Miami; Chris Latvala, running in an open seat in Pinellas County; Chris Sprowls, who is challenging a Democratic incumbent in a Pinellas seat; and Daniel Diaz Leyva, challenging a Democratic incumbent in a Miami seat.

POLITICAL CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISERS LOSE THE FRILLS via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

To riff on the old commercial, this is not your father’s fundraiser. Indeed, this is the new generation of campaign money events.

Jeff Brandes held a “Brews with Brandes” fundraiser at downtown’s Green Bench Brewing Co., where he’s an investor. “Come and enjoy a relaxed evening,” the invitation said.

Brandes, wearing a sports coat but no tie, worked the room grasping a glass of Belgian-style ale. On the other side of a glass wall, a brewery worker was shooting hoops next to the tanks.

A brew pub event “works for this community,” said Brandes, facing re-election this year.

… Legislators besides Brandes have learned it’s not the place but the vibe that makes a successful party.

“People don’t eat at fundraisers,” said Joe Negron, the Senate’s budget committee chair. “You get a lot of fancy food and people don’t eat it.”

Sen. Bill Galvano, for instance, instead threw a “campaign cookout” last week at his local botanical gardens, with the Bradenton Republican offering backyard barbecue to guests.

At his last event, Negron got Chick-fil-A and set up ping pong tables for an impromptu tournament.

“It was a big hit,” Negron said. “We raised about $40,000 that night.”

Event-driven fundraising, in fact, is all the rage.

TODAY’S FUNDRAISING LINE-UP

11:30-12:30 p.m. – Rep. Larry Metz, Rep. Charles McBurney at Governors Club – Capital Room

11:30-12:30 p.m. – Rep. Fred Costello, Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, Rep. Scott Plakon at Governors Club – Library Room

11:30-1:00 p.m. – Rep. Dwayne Taylor, Rep. Kevin Rader, Rep. Larry Lee, Rep. Darryl Rouson at Andrews 228

1:00-2:00 p.m. – Rep. Richard Stark at Andrews 228

3:30-5:00 p.m. – Rep. Alan Williams at Andrews 228

4:00-6:00 p.m. – Rep. James Grant at Beer Industry of Florida, 110 South Monroe Street, Suite B

4:00-7:00 p.m. – House Democrats Pre-Session Round-Up at Governors Club – 3rd Floor Dinning Room

5:00-6:00 p.m. – Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen at Clyde’s & Costello’s

5:00 -6:00 p.m. – Rep. Pat Rooney at Governors Club – Capital Room

5:00- 6:30 p.m. – Rep. Mike LaRosa at Governors Clun – Board Room

5:00-7:00 p.m. – FL Senate Democrats at Drop-Drink-Dash at Governor’s Club – Library

6:00 p.m. – Rep. Ben Albritton, Rep. Frank Artiles, Rep. Michael Bileca, Rep. Matt Caldwell, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, Rep. Erik Fresen, Rep. Jeanette Nunez, Rep. Jose Oliva, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.,           Rep. Holly Raschein, Rep. Ray Rodriguez, & Rep. Eddy Gonzalez for Hialeah Commission at 510 North Adams Street (Governance House)

7:00 p.m. – Sen. Jack Latvala-Last Round-Up with Rep. Kathleen Peters, Rep. Ed Hooper for Pinellas Commission, Chris Latvala – HD 67 at Dorothy B. Oven Park, 3205 Thomasville Road

TWEETS ARE FLYING IN HD 30: @CortesBob: #TeamCortes volunteers out door knocking. Out to reclaim; @Scott_Sturgill: Collecting petitions with Uncle Sam today.

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association LobbyistThey Cover Florida Like the Sun.***

4TH FLOOR FILES: Today’s installment features Kelly Cohen of Southern Strategy Group. Her clients include I-4 Development Partners and R P Funding, Inc. Here’s the file on Kelly.

LAUNCHING TODAY: TEAMJB.COM – A new look for elite lobbying firm Johnson and Blanton.

Ranked in the Top 10 among all firms by Florida Trend and Sunshine State News, the lobby shop headed by Jon Johnson and Travis Blanton is unveiling a new look and updated website. The revamp reflects Johnson and Blanton’s unique combination of institutional knowledge and experience and a belief that “relationship is everything.”

The new site features the requisite info about the firm and its team members, but also includes a blog and a calendar that Blanton says the firm will use to deliver unique content about the lobbying process.

My favorite part of the new site? The tagline: “I don’t want a lobbyist who reports the weather, I want a lobbyist who changes the weather.”

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Billy Adams: Southern Equipment Dealers Association

Kim Agee: Health First Plans

Bill Rubin, Melissa Akeson, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Wal-Mart

Ashley Apthorp, John Heekin, Patricia Nelson, Casey Perkins: Office of the Governor

Keith Arnold, Brett Bacot, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Linda Shelly, Mac Stipanovich, Fowler White Boggs: Collier Health Services Inc. of Immokalee

Jessica Baker, Robert Boyd, Sachs Sax Caplan: Association of American Publishers Higher Education Division

Robert Bedford, Emergent Design and Development Inc.: Citrus County School Board

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Smith Bryan & Myers: AVE Aviation and Commerce Park; Stellar Partners

Jack Cory, Keyna Cory, Erin Daly, Public Affairs Consultants: City of Jacksonville Beach

Marc Dunbar, Jones Walker: Pinellas Education Foundation

Martha Edenfield, Ashley Gault, Dean Mead: Pinellas Education Foundation

Anna Edwards, PooleMcKinley: Code.org

Christina Galamb, Jonathan Paone: New York Life Insurance Company

Alina Gonzalez, Joe Rasco: Miami-Dade County

Nicole Graganella, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb: Capitol Preferred Insurance Company, Inc.

Lisa Gurske: Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors

Paul Hawkes: Dade Medical College; University of Southernmost Florida

Gary Lieffers: The Able Trust

Nancy Linnan, Carlton Fields:The Villages

Paul Lowell, Foley & Lardner: National Hemophilia Foundation

Nicholas Millar: AMIKids

Fatima Perez, Southern Strategy Group: Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, Inc.

Summer Pfeiffer: Children’s Home Society of Florida

Peter Quasius: Audubon of the Western Everglades

Michael Rogers: Florida Home Partnership

Scott Ross, Floridian Partners: Lytx, Inc.

Lawrence Sellers, Holland & Knight: National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation; Optinuity Alliance Resources Corporation

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Florida Retail Federation

Larry Williams, Gunsteer Yoakley & Stewart: Citrus County Hospital Board

TWEET, TWEET: @hymnforrachel: Florida Session starts in 4 days. Will be the fastest and longest 60 days of my life.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s top lobbying firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again.  To learn more visit www.corcoranfirm.com.***

AUTO-RESPONSE OF THE DAY via Matt Dixon: “I no longer work for the Times-Union. I begin my new position as EW Scrips Company’s new Tallahassee bureau chief March 3. In the meantime, please send emails to matthew.dixon55@gmail.com.”

CONTEXT FLORIDA

On Context Florida: Most Floridians take a pass on paying attention to the 60-day legislative session, Daniel Tilson writes, and that’s probably the way lawmakers like it. Michael Richardson lists a few winners and losers in privatized Social Security, which could happen if the GOP takes over the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016. Catherine Robinson finds the idea that middle school-age children are thinking about sex somewhat conflicting. With a world of “hustle and bustle,” says Peter A. Clark, it’s easy to lose sight of one thing we all have in common—the Earth.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

FOLLOW THE CAPITOL PRESS CORPS ON TWITTER: @adeslatte @BSFarrington @CallTallahassee @fineout @GrayRohrer @HatterLynn @Jenna_Buzzacco @JessicaPubRadio @JimTurner23 @JKennedyReport @jlrosicaTBO @kmcgrory @LloydDunk @IsadoraRangel2 @MargieMenzel @MaryEllenKlas @mdixon55 @mikevansickler @newsservicefla @Regan_McCarthy @SaschaCordner @SteveBousquet @TBTia @TheDaraKam @TroyKinsey @zacandersonnews

TAMPA BAY TIMES FINANCIALS STRAINED via Richard Mullins of the Tampa Tribune

(T)he St. Petersburg-based paper’s financial records, loan documents and real estate transactions paint a picture of a shrinking company under increasing financial strain.

Revenue at the Times and its sister publications is half what it was five years ago, and the paper has been selling assets around the region. More recently, the newspaper took out a $28 million loan, backed by its headquarters and other property — due in December 2016.

 “That’s a pretty short term,” said Edward Atorino, a media analyst with Benchmark Co. “The bank must think this is not a business where they have a lot of long-term faith that it will survive, so they need to get their money back fairly soon. The people who own that newspaper business — they’ll need to make enough money to pay that all back, or the lender will just take the company.”

Far from just a financial matter, how this plays out for the Times could significantly affect the local media landscape. The Tampa Bay area remains one of the few U.S. markets with two competitive daily newspapers — The Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times. Times officials declined to answer questions about the newspaper’s finances, but a review of their financial records shows a company in declining financial health.

TWITTER EXEMPLIFIES, NOT DEFIES, POLITICAL POLARIZATION, STUDY SAYS

Americans lament a lack of civil political dialogue between groups of people with different beliefs. We see it as… bad… that Americans are becoming more polarized. Case in point: even our comedy is divisive. In a Tallahassee performance last week, Louis Black said he would be railing in usual fashion against “both” parties. But really, the railing was against members of just one party, with customary profanity. It was a pep rally of divisiveness. Followed by him asking, I paraphrase, “why can’t we all get along?” The irony was not acknowledged.

So what then does Twitter do for bipartisan dialogue? Is it the “town hall” of political discussion that some have pegged it to be?

Nah.

In a study published last week by the Pew Research Internet Project, people on Twitter explore political issues with the same partisan myopia we see everywhere else.

“If a topic is political, it is common to see two separate, polarized crowds take shape. They form two distinct discussion groups that mostly do not interact with each other,” the report finds. “In polarized discussions, each group links to a different set of influential people or organizations that can be found at the center of each conversation cluster.”

In this, Pew finds, polarized discussions may regard the same topic but ignore one another, point to different web resources, and use different hashtags.

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CAN’T WAIT TO READ: “I’m That Guy: Collected Columns of a Southern Journalist” by Context Florida contributor Rick Outzen.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from this weekend to Rep. Manny Diaz. Also celebrating are Steve Kurlander, Ralph Lair, Sagar Sane, and Sally West.

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.