Sunburn for 3/8 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

Q-POLL: HILLARY LEADS ALL OTHER 2016 PREZ CANDIDATES, INCLUDING MARCO

A new Quinnipiac poll finds Hillary Clinton tops the presidential 2016 field in hypothetical matchups with Chris Christie, 45% to 37%, Paul Ryan 50 to 38%, and Marco Rubio 50 to 34%.

By contrast, Christie would beat Joe Biden 43 to 40%. Biden, however, beats Rubio 45 to 38% and Ryan 45 to 42%.

RUBIO TO HOLD FUNDRAISER IN SARASOTA ON 3/15 via Political Watch

Rubio will be in Sarasota for a fund-raising reception and dinner for his political action committee, which Rubio uses to support conservative political candidates.

For $500 a person or $1,000 a couple, you can attend a reception at the penthouse home of Jesse and Katie Biter, For $5,000 a person or $10,000 a couple, you get a private dinner with the senator at Louie’s Modern, a restaurant in downtown Sarasota.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: Gov. Scott will present a school recognition check to schools in the Hillsborough County school district. 10:00 a.m., Plant High School, Tampa.

BLOG POST OF THE DAY: “FLORIDA IS WORKING” by Erick Erickson of RedState

Conservatives are disappointed of late with Governor Rick Scott’s decision about Medicaid, but we should not let it overshadow the fact that he is otherwise doing an excellent job as Governor.

… Gov. Scott has cut state debt by $2 billion, created a $24 billion trade surplus, and set about revitalizing a battered housing market in the state.

Along the way, Gov. Scott did things Charlie Crist would never do. He signed legislation to prohibit state money paying for abortions, legislation to protect concealed carry permit holders, and legislation to cut property taxes. He also set about reforming Florida’s pension program and started a fight with the ACLU over drug testing welfare recipients.

His governance of Florida is solid. He’s made a mistake on one issue. But I’m proud to support Rick Scott and his re-election effort.

RICK SCOTT’S ABOUT FACE via Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing

So how big a reversal is his position on Medicaid? University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett compares it to George. H.W. Bush’s support for raising taxes in 1990, less than two years after he announced at the Republican Convention in New Orleans, “Read my lips. No. New. Taxes.”

The blowback has been explosive among Florida Republicans, not only within his Tea Party base, but also among his colleagues in the Florida Cabinet, especially Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Coupled with other decisions of Scott’s, such as raising transportation funding by 11 percent and giving blanket raises to Florida’s schoolteachers, his change of heart has some Republicans saying it’s the greatest example of pandering since, well, Charlie Crist.

MEDICAID COSTS NOT SO MUCH AS SCOTT THOUGHT by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

State economists are finalizing a cost for Florida taxpayers from the federal health-care law and it isn’t as small as advocates had hoped — or as big as one-time critics like Gov. Scott had claimed.

The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, along with economists from Scott’s administration, on Thursday signed off on a new total state cost for the health-care reform that would reach $5.2 billion over ten years. That figure includes many provisions of the law which are mandatory, and assumptions about how many people already eligible for Medicaid will sign up for services.

The $5.2 billion figure also assumes the federal government picks up 100 percent of the optional  Medicaid expansion for the next three years — which would cover people between the federal poverty line and those earning up to 138 percent above the line. The  federal share for the optional expansion gradually reduces to 90 percent over 10 years.

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EVERGLADES RESTORATION BILL PASSES FIRST COMMITTEE

The State Affairs committee passed a committee bill sponsored by Representative Matt Caldwell that supporters argue will have a substantial positive impact on Everglades restoration. 

The legislation will align Florida statutes with a restoration plan formulated by an agreement between the State and federal officials. Updating state law to mirror the strategies of the agreed upon plan will ensure the important work of restoring the Everglades ecosystem continues to yield successful results. 

“The good news, as stakeholders agree, is that our restoration plans have been working—now we need to finish the job. This bill and the plan developed by our state and federal officials will get that job done,” said Rep. Caldwell.

HOUSE TRANSPO COMM OKS TXTNG BAN via The News Service of Florida

A long road remains ahead in the Legislature, but what had seemed a fixed barricade to a ban on texting while driving – the House – was moved a short distance on Thursday.

Members of the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee unanimously backed the texting while driving ban, joining the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee which unanimously backed the legislation on Wednesday.

“This is a no brainer type of bill, it’s legislation that should be enacted,” said Rep. Doug Holder the sponsor of the House legislation (HB 13). “We’re losing lives every day.” Holder called the vote the first action to advance the issue in the House, where concerns have held sway over imposing new rules to infringe on personal liberties, since 2008.

The bills would make texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers would have to be pulled over for something else before they could get a secondary ticket for texting. The bill has exceptions, such as allowing the use of “talk-to-text” technology, and allowing texting while a vehicle is stopped, such as at a red light.

>>>“AAA recognizes that there are many driver distractions, but texting-while-driving is the most egregious and something that can be specifically addressed through legislation.  We applaud the Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee and the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee for supporting this lifesaving legislation” said Kevin Bakewell, Senior Vice President and Chief Public Affairs Officer for AAA-The Auto Club Group.

>>>“We applaud both Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Doug Holder in the unanimous votes of the no texting while driving legislation in committees this week.” said Marshall Criser of AT&T Florida, “We will continue to work with the bill sponsors to ensure this legislation passes. It’s a simple message. No text is worth it, It Can Wait.”

HOUSE WILL BACK OFF $10K CONTRIBUTION LIMITS

The House will back off of plans to increase proposed individual campaign contribution limits to $10,000, Speaker Will Weatherford told a newspaper Thursday. Weatherford told the Orlando Sentinel in an interview that House leaders will dramatically reduce the amount as they try to work out a compromise campaign finance bill. Currently the limit on individual campaign contributions is $500 and members of the Senate have balked at increasing it as high as $10,000 as the House has proposed in a measure (HB 569) that also seeks to abolish the political accounts called Committees of Continuous Existence.

Weatherford told the Sentinel that the bill would be amended as early as next week to create different tiers of contribution limits for different offices. A bill (SB 1382) in the Senate would allow $3,000 contributions for statewide candidates, like gubernatorial aspirants, but keep legislative contributions at $500. “We never thought that $10,000 number was where we were going to land,” Weatherford said.

‘PARENT TRIGGER’ SHOOTS THROUGH FIRST COMMITTEE by Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel

The “parent trigger” bill passed out of a House subcommittee on a party-line vote.

The panel’s meeting drew a crowd, with school district representatives (including ones from Orange, Polk, Hillsborough, Broward and Miami-Dade), teachers union officials and the Florida PTA speaking out against the bill.

But a few parents, a Tampa pastor and some advocacy groups (including Jeb Bush’s education foundation) spoke in favor.

“This bill is basically where we left off last year, and we’re going forward,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, the bill’s sponsor.

PROPOSAL TO ALLOW OPTOS TO PRESCRIBE ORAL MEDS PROGRESSES

Both Senate and House bills to allow Florida optometrists to prescribe oral medications to patients have seen changes to specific provisions relating to patient safety, but continue on their way through the process. Both Senate and House sponsors have voiced their commitment to achieve a safety framework to meet the requests, and appease concerns, voiced by other members and impacted parties. 

“The momentum this legislation has earned is indicative of how well this proposal resonates with members of the legislature and the general public,” said Ken Lawson, FOA’s legislative chair. “This bill is about Florida’s patients who deserve the opportunity to get the most appropriate treatment for a condition, which their local optometrist is more than qualified to prescribe. Removing this unwarranted restriction on licensed optometrists will help alleviate a shortage in supply of providers in Florida, in the most cost-efficient and safe manner.”

“We made some changes to the language of the bill to address the main concerns that were being brought to me by my colleagues and impacted parties, and I believe the bill now, as amended, provides a framework of additional, specific provisions that go to ensure patient safety,” said Representative Caldwell. “Allowing Florida optometrists to prescribe oral medications for treatment of the eye, which are the same medications they already prescribe in topical or gel forms, will help guarantee Florida’s patients will get proper access to the care they need and deserve. I am thankful to my colleagues in the House for their support of this good bill, and I look forward to a healthy discussion with the full chamber, as the bill now heads to the floor.”

The proposed legislation now includes a definition of the term “surgery,” and expressly prohibits optometrists from performing any action that could be considered a surgical procedure according to the definition. The bill would only allow licensed optometrists to prescribe oral medications to treat the eye and its appendages, and strictly prohibits optometrists from prescribing schedule I and II controlled substances.

“The legislation supported by the FOA only seeks to provide greater access to primary eye care for Floridians, and in particular, to those Floridians in medically-underserved areas, who do not have access to an ophthalmologist,” said Lawson.

REGULATED INDUSTRIES CMTE. UNANIMOUSLY PASSES WINE CANISTER ACT

The Florida Wine Canister Act (SB 658) unanimously passed the Regulated Industries Committee by a bipartisan vote. Filed by Senator Wilton Simpson, this legislation would simply remove antiquated red tape that arbitrarily limits wine container sizes in Florida.

“The committee members agreed that by updating these statutes, which were written just after the prohibition era, the Legislature would effectively allow Florida’s hospitality industry to proceed with custom tailored wine by the glass programs through innovative new methods and with technology manufactured within my district,” said Simpson. “I am very pleased that all of the committee members recognized that these canisters benefit consumers, our tourism industry and the environment and I look forward to having the bill heard in the Commerce Committee.” 

***Come celebrate with Florida’s premier think tank, The James Madison Institute, on Wed., March 13, at JMI’s 25th Anniversary Gala to be held at The University Center Club at Florida State University. Watch the video invitation from event guest speaker, Speaker of the Florida House Will Weatherford. Follow updates on Twitter: #JMI25***

FLORIDA TAXWATCH CALLS FOR CLAIMS BILL REFORM

Florida’s claim bill process — by which individuals can petition the legislature for payment of tort claims against government — is too arbitrary, too political and lacks equity and transparency, according to a report released Thursday by Florida TaxWatch

The report shows that while there has not been a proliferation of claim bills filed or passed, awards have increased significantly.  Last year, 11 claim bills were passed by the legislature, containing awards totaling $39.8 million.  This included the first two awards exceeding $10 million in Florida’s history–$15.0 million and $10.75 million.  A record $140 million was requested in 2011, and there are 25 claim bills filed for the 2013 legislative session, requesting more than $50 million in damages. Leading up to the current Session, the Florida House of Representatives created a Select Committee on Claim Bills to develop recommendations for reform.   

“As more high-cost settlements are approved, there is likely to be a growing call for ever-increasing awards,” said Dominic Calabro, President and CEO.  “The size of these awards must be controlled in order to avoid each new award setting a precedent that leads to further escalation of the size of claims against the state and local governments and their taxpayers.”

HEALTH CARE WORKERS RALLY TO EXPAND MEDICAID COVERAGE via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

About 400 health care workers crowded the Florida Capitol on Thursday, singing, chanting — with even a few in costume — to urge legislative leaders to endorse the Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act.

… The rally was organized by the Service Employees International Union, a potent contributor to Democrats both in Florida and on the national level. On Medicaid expansion, however, SEIU’s biggest ally in Florida at the moment is Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has endorsed the initiative as a ”common sense” thing to do.

… None of Florida’s Republican leaders came out to meet with workers at Thursday’s rally.

LONGEST PRESS RELEASE HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies Applauds Lawmakers for Approving a New Mutual Insurer Incentive Provision in Senate Bill 7018” via Lyndsey Cruley.

***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.***

PERSONNEL NOTE #1: TIM NUNGESSER LAUNCHING OWN GOV’T AFFAIRS FIRM

Nungesser recently left his position as the Legislative Affairs Director at DBPR to open his own governmental affairs and consulting firm in Tallahassee. TRN Strategies will mainly focus on lobbying the Governor, legislature, and state regulatory agencies on behalf of businesses and organizations as well as consulting on various political campaigns.

PERSONNEL NOTE #2: FRANCO RIPPLE JOINING CBS RADIO

Franco Ripple, former campaign manager for Rep. Dwight Dudley, is joining CBS Radio as the new Public Affairs Coordinator for CBS Tampa Bay. He’ll serve as producer and host of a weekly news and public affairs talk show on six CBS stations across Central Florida. Franco’s previously spent a decade in politics and government, starting as a White House Intern in the Bush Administration. More recently, he’s worked as New Media Director for Fair Districts Florida, on President Obama’s 2008 campaign, as an aide to Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs and as a White House advance staffer for Vice President Joe Biden.

He’s on Twitter at @FrancoRipple.

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4TH FLOOR FILES talks to Claudia Davant about her new office, the valets at the Governors Club, and the late, great Jim King.

ALVIN BROWN FILES FOR RE-ELECTION

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, who became a darling of Florida Democrats when he won the seat in an area where Republicans have been strong, is running for re-election. The Florida Times-Union reported that he’s kicking off that effort two years before he’ll go on the ballot again. Brown, though, became the second candidate to enter the 2015 Jacksonville mayoral race. Tiffany Wingo, a member of the Independent Party of Florida, filed in January.

APPOINTED: Alan Forst to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

REAPPOINTED: Maria Edmonds and Raymond Neri to the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. 

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Think Tank Campaign Launches Campaign to Convene Article V Convention” — from the Liberty Research Foundation.

RIP: FRED KARL via the News Service of Florida

Former legislator and Supreme Court Justice Fred Karl died Thursday, according to a statement from Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Karl, who was injured during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, served in the House from 1956 to 1964 and in the Senate from 1968 to 1971, representing Volusia County. A Democrat, Karl became the last elected justice to the Florida Supreme Court in 1977, and served for a year before resigning and returning to the private practice of law. Later in life, he lived in Tampa and served in the early 2000s as interim city attorney.

“Fred Karl exemplified what it means to be a public servant, and he led a life driven by his desire to make Florida a better place,” Bondi said in a statement. “Throughout his life, he approached his duties and responsibility with fairness, compassion, and reason. Fred not only leaves a strong legacy in Tampa, but also throughout our great state.”

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.