Sunburn for 3/6 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF MY READERS: WASHINGTON POST NAMES SAINTPETERSBLOG ONE OF BEST BLOGS IN COUNTRY

From the Washington Post‘s The Fix: ”After weeks of combing through, literally, thousands of nominations we are ready to unveil the Fix’s 2013 list of the best state-based political blogs!” 

Making The Fix’s list is SaintPetersBlog, along with my colleagues at the Political Hurricane. The Sayfie Review also made the list, even though it’s not a blog, but an aggregator.

This year’s list is much different from last year’s when other noteworthy blog, including BizPacReview and The Spencerian, made the list.  It looks as if this year Chris Cillizza and Co. limited the “best” title to just three sites per state, so making this list is particularly exciting.

Thank you to all of those who helped make it happen.

***Today’s Sunburn is sponsored in part by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms. You need their team on your side during this Legislative session for media, grassroots and netroots support. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team and how they can help you.***

ANN ROMNEY IS RIGHT by Kirsten Borman via The Washington Post‘s The Fix

After it penned a piece on Monday titled “Ann Romney is wrong” that disputed Romney’s idea that the media bore a major share of the blame for her husband’s defeat last November, Kirsten Borman, a Republican consultant with Florida ties, took issue with the piece via Twitter. The Fix invited Kirsten to write a fuller response and she took us up on it. Click here to read it in its unedited form.

BUSH QUIETLY LAYS GROUNDWORK FOR CAMPAIGN via BuzzFeed

If Jeb Bush decides to convert his media tour into a presidential bid in a couple years, he won’t have to look far for a campaign staff: The well-funded education foundation he runs out his office in a Miami hotel is stacked with former political operatives, a large communications team, and a rapidly growing staff whose work stretches into 40 states.”

It is common practice for undeclared presidential candidates to build a campaign infrastructure under the guise of a political action committee, but Bush appears to be laying the groundwork for a potential campaign through his foundation.

GAMING OUT JEB’S FLIP via Talking Points Memo

Who is Jeb Bush trying to out-conservative with his big immigration reform flip flop? We look at 5 contenders. The first is named Marco.

… Just two months ago, Rubio was publicly against not only a path to citizenship but the very notion of comprehensive immigration reform while Bush was sniping at unnamed “shortsighted” politicians (hint, hint) who favored a weak “piecemeal” approach to reform. Now Rubio is working his heart out trying to sell conservatives on comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship and Bush has pulled his previous support for the policy.

JEB’S ABOUT TO PULL A CHARLES BARKLEY

In 1991, NBA star Charles Barkley famously claimed he was misquoted in his own autobiography.

“There are going to be a couple of things (wrong),” Barkley said at the time.

Well, don’t be surprised if former Florida governor Jeb Bush is forced to pull a Barkey and claim that ‘there are a couple of things wrong’ in his new book, Immigration Wars, after his appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe during which Bush apparently flopped on the policy flip he espouses in his book.

Bush said on Tuesday that he would support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants “if you can craft that in law where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn’t an incentive for people to come illegally” — a position that puts him at odds with his new book.

As Igor Volsky of Think Progress notes Bush agues that denying a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrations is “absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences.” Those who enter the country illegally, Bush contends, should “start the process to earn permanent legal residency” after pleading guilty to breaking the law and paying “applicable fines or perform community service.” But they should not have access to “the cherished fruits of citizenship.”

TWEET, TWEET: @DWStweets: .@JebBush 

a flip-flop-flip on immigration? Wow. I fashioned you more of a baseball player than a gymnast. My bad. #notsurprisedatall

BOB GRAHAM CONFIRMS THAT HIS DAUGHTER IS CONSIDERING CONGRESSIONAL RUN

Graham confirmed Tuesday my reporting from February that his daughter Gwen is thinking about running for Congress against Republican Congressman Steve Southerland, but said she had not yet made up her mind whether to get in the race for the district centered on Tallahassee.

“I believe in good people in politics, and I know that she’d be an outstanding member of Congress,” Graham told reporters after Gov. Rick Scott’s State of the State address. “And she’s getting prepared to make a decision on that.”

The elder Graham said Gwen Graham is still considering how she would organize her campaign if she decided to make a bid. “My advice would be to be very thoughtful,” Bob Graham said. “It’s a very demanding undertaking to be a candidate, and even more so to be an officeholder.” Democrats tried unsuccessfully to unseat Southerland, first elected in 2010, in the 2nd Congressional District last year, but he beat former state Sen. Al Lawson by 5.5 points.

HARRELL DECISION ON CONGRESSIONAL BID ON HOLD DURING LEGISLATIVE SESSION via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Harrell hasn’t decided whether she’ll run in 2014 for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat held by freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy.

And now that the Florida legislature has begun its 60-day session, Harrell says she “most likely” won’t decide until the session ends in early May.

“I’m very involved in session right now, concentrating totally on session,” Harrell said today.

Republicans are eager to field a candidate against Murphy, who’s considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats because his district voted 51.5 percent for Mitt Romney last November and Republicans usually have a bigger turnout advantage in non-presidential years.

HUGO CHAVEZ IS DEAD!

Reactions from Florida politicians here.

***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee today 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, as well as the lieutenant governor, to discuss  growing areas of the state’s $8 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***

STATE OF THE STATE

HASHTAG OF THE DAY: #ItsWorking

“IT’S WORKING,” GOV. SCOTT DECLARES  

Governor Rick Scott delivered an upbeat State of the State address to the Legislature Tuesday, declaring that his policies are working and Florida’s economy is strong enough to give a generous pay raise to teachers. In a speech that opened the 2013 legislative session, Scott sounded eager to run for re-election on his record, despite polls showing he’s among the most unpopular governors in the country.

TEACHERS PROMINENT IN STATE OF STATE via The Gradebook

Teachers were given a place of prominence in Scott’s State of the State address. Scott touted Florida’s public school system, saying that the “tremendous progress” made by students was “in large part” because of teachers.

“Teachers change lives,” Scott said.

He said teachers were the single most important school-based factor in student learning, and he said lawmakers should invest in teachers by giving them his proposed $2,500 across-the-board pay raise. (That sentiment received a smattering of applause.) He touted increases in state education funding. (Funding that he cut when he was first in office.)

And Scott said the state’s accountability system is working, mentioning fourth grade reading scores that were ranked second in the world.

During the speech, Scott recognized a Tampa teacher and the superintendent of Orange County Schools. He also asked everyone to stand in recognition of that one special teacher who made a difference in their lives.

WEATHERFORD SAYS ‘HECK NO’ TO MEDICAID EXPANSION IN OPENING DAY SPEECH via the Orlando Sentinel

Weatherford kicked off the 60-day lawmaking session Tuesday with a reform agenda that includes ethics and elections changes designed to appeal to the populace along with conservative-aimed changes to public pensions.

And he made it clear the House was leaving little room for equivocation on whether to go along with the federal health-care reform and expand Medicaid to some 1 million uninsured Floridians. On Monday, a House committee voted along party lines against fling a bill to go along with the expansion, which would be primarily financed by the federal government.

Despite describing how has a child, his family could not afford insurance, he said the expansion was a case of the federal government “trying to buy off states one by one.”

“I believe it crosses the line of the proper role of government,” the Wesley Chapel Republican said in a 17-minute speech. “I believe it forces Florida to expand a broken system we’ve been battling the federal government to fix.”

***Sachs Media Group is Florida’s dominant integrated communications company and one of America’s leading independent communications companies. In 2011, the firm was named the “PR Agency of the Year” nationally in the prestigious Bulldog Awards. With exceptional experience and results in public affairs, branding, social/digital and crisis communications, the firm combines unparalleled relationships, news judgment, messaging and storytelling ability with cutting-edge strategies to engage audiences with content they seek and share. Sachs Media Group, formerly Ron Sachs Communications, is home to the team best known for smart, strong and strategic counsel across the diverse and ever-changing media landscape.***

FIRST DAY OF SESSION

GAETZ BACKS MERIT PAY FOR TEACHER SALARY INCREASES OVER SCOTT’S $2,500 via the News Service of Florida

Gaetz said teachers deserve a pay raise, but prefers any increase to be based upon merit rather than Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $2,500 across the board hike.

“We need to find a middle ground with the governor,” Gaetz said after the Senate session on Tuesday.

“I think that the governor understands that many of us who are acolytes of (former governor) Jeb Bush believe that there has to be some distinction drawn between she who does the best and he who does the worst. In our schools we don’t give all students Cs.” 

HOUSE OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVES VOTING REFORM BILL

The House passed an elections overhaul bill by an overwhelming margin Tuesday, tacitly admitting that lawmakers went too far in 2011 with a bill that had reduced early voting days and is now blamed for some of the snafus that plagued the 2012 elections.

House members voted 118-1 to approve the measure (HB 7013), which includes some of the least controversial changes to the state’s elections law. It would allow supervisors of elections to hold up to 14 days of early voting — virtually all of them currently offer eight days, but no more — and would increase the number of sites eligible to serve as early-voting locations.

The bill would also limit the first version of ballot summaries on constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature to 75 words, the same cap faced by citizen initiatives.

The bipartisan support for the measure was a striking change from the process in 2011 that led to the adoption of HB 1355, a bill that reduced early-voting days and made a raft of other controversial changes to elections law, some of which would remain in place even if the new measure passes.

PROTESTERS HAVE THEIR SAY via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union

Opposition to, among other things, 2011 legislation that allowed county sheriffs to run their own juvenile detention centers prompted a group of protesters Tuesday to flood the Capitol’s fourth-floor.

Members from the Dream Defenders waived signs, sang songs and sent chants echoing throughout the fourth and fifth floors of the Capitol. The group describes itself as a “students, alumni, black, brown, and white, young and old.”

Among the group’s top priorities is the repeal of SB 2112, which allowed county sheriffs to run their own juvenile detention centers outside of state review or approval.

It was opposed by groups like the NAACP, which said the bill is allows kids to be “warehoused in adult facilities.” The bill is also the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Dream Defenders carried signs that read “School not Cells,” and continued their protest until about 11:30 a.m.

The group’s chants dotted the first day of the legislative session. They could be heard when House Speaker Will Weatherford gave his opening remarks, and Senators had to walk through the crowd on their way to the House chamber for Gov. Rick Scott’s State of the State address.

SENATE GIVES TRIBUTE TO KEN PLANTE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Former senator and long-time lobbyist Ken Plante, who is hospitalized and suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, was given a lengthy tribute in the Florida Senate on its opening day. The Senate officially named the Senate President’s conference room after Plante.

Plante was elected to the Senate as a Republican from Winter Park and served from 1967 to 1978. He served in an era when there were few Republicans and many were considered moderates and later became a lobbyist, working to establish a lobbyist association and increasing the code of conduct among that profession.

“Ken Plante was one of the outstanding senators of his time and of this whole generation,” said Sen. Gwen Margolis. “I wish him well. I’m delighted we’ve made the decision to name the conference room. I miss you Ken.”

“It’s very difficult for a good senator to make a transition to be a good lobbyist,” said Sen. Jack Latvala but noted that Plante had made the best transition “with a high degree of integrity and a commitment to the good of the process.”

WELCOMING TWEETS

@DanJDawson Trying to figure out what hashtag to use for Session?

@djmia00: Young sirens wail in a skewed sense of glory and the lions in their cages roar in memory of fight.

@FLSenateGOP Happy First Day of #FLSession everyone!

@JeffreyBrandes: The first day of session is akin to the legislative version of the Ben-hur chariot race…Yah

@HipHopLobbyist: 1st Day of Session. Team #NoSleep for the next 60 days. 

@RealMichaelW: Session Begins…… NOW #BurnTheShips

***The PA Team of Jack and Keyna Cory and Erin Daly are looking forward to the 2013 Regular Legislative Session.  They “Cover Florida Like the Sun” and will be representing Fortune 500 companies, national and state associations,  Florida businesses and non-profits before the Florida Legislature again this year.  The PA Team will also continue their strategic marketing work for their clients with state and local governments.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: CFO Jeff Atwater will join Cancer Treatment Fairness Act bill sponsors Rep. Debbie Mayfield and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, partner organizations and patient advocates to show support of the proposed legislation that will help countless Floridians experiencing difficulty in paying for their cancer treatment with the fair access they need to life-saving medications. 10:15 a.m., House side of the Fourth Floor Rotunda 

MORE ASSIGNING: Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam will announce legislation that will prevent children from becoming victims of identity theft. Commissioner Putnam will be joined by Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen, who are the two sponsors of the legislation, along with child advocate Jack Levine, of 4Generations Institute. 1:30 p.m., Fourth Floor Rotunda

BARNEY BISHOP OP-ED: TACKLING CORRECTIONS’ DEFICIT PROBLEM, ONE SMART IDEA AT A TIME Full post here

DOC releases prisoners at 12:10 am each morning with nothing but $50 cash and a bus ticket to the closest city. Yet somehow we expect them to be successful on the outside and maintain law-abiding lives. Is this realistic? Clearly not – yet all of us, as taxpayers, continue to pay for this never-ending cycle in the mistaken belief that doing otherwise would sacrifice public safety. Hogwash!

Since 1985, non-profit providers have been treating, educating and finding jobs for inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences. According to DOC’s own statistics, the overall recidivism rate for non-profits is 18%, significantly lower than the 30% percent rate of DOC-operated programs. The difference is because non-profit providers have more intensive treatment protocols while department-operated programs spend much less on the one thing that has proven to be effective: treatment.

DOC pays the non-profits less than it pays itself, so in order to stay afloat the non-profits are strongly incentivized to help inmates find jobs so they can then get reimbursed for room and board. DOC-operated programs have no such incentive, leading to higher costs and lower results.

For the 2013 legislative session, the Smart Justice Alliance has proposed a dramatically innovative concept that involves no new tax dollars, a way to help reduce DOC’s deficit to the tune of $15 million, and an evidence-based model that will result in fewer crime victims and lower recidivism. The only real question is why anyone – the Governor, the Legislature or the Department of Corrections – would oppose this smart, sensible and cost-saving idea.

FLORIDA CHAMBER’S COALITION FOR LEGAL REFORM HIGHLIGHTS LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Coalition for Legal Reform laid out their legislative priorities this week, which included redoubling their focus on legal reform by advocating for the adoption of the Daubert Standard, adoption of new accuracy in damages provisions, passage of the Fair Settlement Act and stronger medical liability laws.

Florida Chamber Executive Vice President David Hart said “the time for action is now.  Florida’s families, business owners and consumers deserve fairness and justice in their legal system; and, the Florida Chamber’s Coalition for Legal Reform is energized and ready to champion these common sense legal reforms on behalf of all Floridians this session.  Florida shouldn’t be ranked in the bottom 10 in our legal climate. It’s time we make needed changes and move up.”

The Chamber’s Coalition for Legal Reform is focusing their efforts this week on passage of House Bill 827 by Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) which, if passed, will strengthen Florida’s medical liability laws.  The bill is up TODAY in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.  The coalition will also have a presence during the Florida Chamber’s annual Capitol Day’s with an expert panel discussion focusing on legal reform Thursday at the Hotel Duval.

Hart also said the coalition was “…excited to usher in the 2013 Legislative Session and are eager to continue the very important discussion with our state’s policymakers about the current state of Florida’s legal climate – which currently ranks 41st worst in the nation – and how it can be turned around with straightforward legal reforms that will enhance Florida’s competitiveness.  By simply making our laws and our courts fair and predictable, we will be taking a significant step toward eliminating the $2.8 billion lawsuit abuse tax that Florida’s families and small businesses are footing the bill for, while also growing Florida’s economy by 2 percent.”

MHO & MHA MOUNTS OFFENSIVE TO STOP AMENDMENT TO STRIP BILL OF PROVISION REQUIRING CITIZENS TO ADEQUATELY PROTECT FLORIDA’S MOBILE/MANUFACTURED HOME OWNERS

A staff amendment to House Bill 573, being proposed in today’s House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, would strip the proposed legislation from language to require Citizens to adequately assess the value of manufactured and mobile homes and reinstate coverage for mobile home-related structures. The bill, as originally filed by Representative Ed Hooper and Senator Aaron Bean, presented a critical fix to ensure adequate property insurance for the estimated 165,000 mobile and manufactured home owners insured by Citizens, according to a release sent out in early February by manufactured/mobile home industry advocates. The bill, as originally filed, would serve to “better to protect the people who can least afford to go uninsured and who cannot find insurance in the voluntary market,” industry leaders have stated. The amendment up for consideration today, would essentially take these provisions out of the bill and place the Florida’s vulnerable home owners at continued risk.

VERY LATE PRESS RELEASE: “Safety Net Hospitals Applaud Governor Rick Scott for Supporting Medicaid Expansion” via Hill + Knowlton Strategies. C’mon, H+K, you’r responding on March 5 to a decision Scott made a week ago?

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by the Florida Medical Association: Affordable, safe, patient-centered health care in Florida starts with a physician-led team, with all health care professionals playing valuable and appropriate roles. Learn more here.***

FOUR HOUSE INCUMBENTS FILE FOR 2014; DWIGHT BULLARD FOR 2016

Four incumbent House members have filed documents recently to seek re-election in 2014, while Senator Dwight Bullard is preparing to run again in 2016, according to the state Division of Elections website.

The House members are Rep. Keith Perry in District 21; Rep. Debbie Mayfield in District 54; Rep. Cynthia Stafford in District 109; and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in District 116.

Meanwhile, Bullard has filed documents as a first step toward seeking re-election in 2016 in Senate District 39.

Also, non-incumbents filing recently for 2014 races were North Fort Myers Republican Terry Bowen Cramer in House District 79 and Coral Springs Democrat Steven Perman in House District 96. Cramer would run against incumbent Rep. Matt Caldwell, while Rep. Jim Waldman will be term-limited in 2014 in District 96.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm.  Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

4TH FLOOR FILES talks to Corcoran & Johnston’s Amanda Stewart about Denise Grimsley, Troy Kinsey, and being pregnant during Session. Here’s the file on Amanda.

FIRST IN SUNBURN PERSONNEL NOTE: Look for smartest-guy-in-the-room Tony Carvajal to be named today as the new EVP by the Florida Chamber Foundation.

PAROLE COMMISSIONERS GET CONFIRMATION VOTES

Parole Commissioners Bernard R. Cohen, Sr., and Melinda Coonrod won unanimous confirmation votes from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. Cohen, who is the commission’s vice chairman, and formerly was a longtime Department of Corrections employee, was appointed in January of 2012. Coonrod, a former prosecutor, was appointed to the panel in June.

THREE BRIDGES ADVISORS SIGNS TWO NEW CLIENTS

Three Bridges Advisors Inc. has signed two new clients – Xcel Energy and eBay Inc., according to Senate lobbying disclosures. The firm’s Niles Godes will be lobbying on behalf of Xcel Energy on tax incentives for energy production. Xcel Energy also hired Jake Perry + Partners last month to lobby on consumer renewable credit. Arent Fox, Capitol Counsel, Fleet Street Group and Hogan Lovells were among the firms that lobbied for Xcel Energy in 2012, when it spent $2.2 million on lobbying.

Godes will also be lobbying for eBay on issues related to sales tax on internet auctions. C2 Group, Eris Group, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti and The Gibson Group were some of the firms that lobbied for eBay in 2012. The company spent $2.4 million on lobbying last year.

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. With more than 45 years of combined legislative and regulatory knowledge and experience, Corcoran & Johnston’s ability to navigate through the processes and politics of government and deliver for their clients is unmatched.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the politico who is everywhere, Stephen Gately.

SMART, FUNNY VIDEO: Leslie Knope and the City of Pawnee’s Department of Parks and Recreation (as seen on NBC) have teamed up with Citizinvestor (Co-founded by politicos Tony DeSisto and Jordan Raynor) to explain how citizens can get the projects and services they want at a time when government has no way to pay for them. Don’t miss this must-watch video.

STUDY SHOWS LAWMAKERS OVERESTIMATE CONSERVATISM OF VOTERS: A fascinating new study finds that politicians significantly overestimate the conservatism of their constituents on several key issues, including universal health care and same-sex marriage, the Huffington Post reports. For example, a survey of voters found they supported gay marriage and universal health care by 10 percentage points more than their own politicians had estimated in a separate survey. For conservative politicians, the spread was near 20 percentage points. The authors conclude: “Most politicians appear to believe they are representing constituents who are considerably different than their actual constituents.” 

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.