Sunburn for 4/1 — 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. 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.

FIRST IN SUNBURN: Look for State Representative Darryl Rouson to tap current Hillsborough County Democratic Party chair Christoper Mitchell to serve as political director for House Victory — the party’s campaign arm.

This is a major major hire. First of all, it signals Rouson is wasting no time taking control of the campaign apparatus he is in charge of during the 2014 election cycle. Mitchell’s hire may even prompt the Democrats to field a candidate, albeit a long-shot, in the forthcoming special election for House District 2. 

Second, Mitchell’s hire should be recognized as an almost titanic shift away from business-as-usual within the Florida Democratic Party. For better or worse, Mitchell is not part of the Steve Schale or Christian Ulvert political trees which have grown through the party for the last decade. 

Look for an announcement as early as today.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Several high profile issues emerge for votes in the Senate, in particular, this week, though most of the focus likely will be on Appropriations Committees mid-week that will for the first time this year take up actual budget bills. The General Appropriations Act will be in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning and the House budget committee will take up its version Wednesday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, the Senate rolls out another proposal for extending health care coverage to more people, in a plan by Sen. Aaron Bean that will be in a committee on Tuesday. Senate committees also take up the bill that gives parents more say in what happens to a failing school, and the Senate versions of legislation ending Internet cafes, and making changes to the campaign finance system. The Senate’s elections bill, seeking to shorten ballot summaries, and allowing more early voting days, also is in committee. Some of those measures could make it to the floor following committee votes this week. 

The News Service of Florida has a comprehensive preview here.

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MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH ON IMMIGRATION?

Labor and business groups have agreed on the details of a new guest-worker program, likely removing a major hurdle to an immigration deal in the Senate, Roll Call reports.

The framework for a guest-worker program has long vexed an immigration overhaul, as labor feared a flood of low-wage workers undercutting American workers, while the Chamber of Commerce has led the push for a steady supply of workers.

>>>Politico: “The agreement marks a major breakthrough and significantly improves the odds of passing a larger immigration bill because it brings two powerful Washington interests on board on an issue that contributed to the defeat of past reform efforts.”

RUBIO: REPORTS OF IMMIGRATION DEAL ‘PREMATURE’

Rubio issued an Easter morning statement saying he is “encouraged” by progress in talks on immigration reform, but added: “Reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.”

The headline of his statement, timed for release just before the Sunday talk shows: “Rubio: No final agreement on immigration legislation yet.”

NELSON UNDER PRESSURE ON GAY MARRIAGE via William March of the Tampa Tribune

Nelson is getting pressure from the liberal side of his party as the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, and one of the few in the Senate, who opposes gay marriage.

… Nelson’s stance has become conspicuous recently as congressional Democrats have moved rapidly toward favoring what supporters call “marriage equality.”

In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act passed overwhelmingly, 85-14, in the Senate, with Democrats, including former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, in favor, and 342-67 in the House. The act was signed by President Bill Clinton.

But as of Tuesday, the Huffington Post website identified only 10 Senate Democrats, including Nelson, who still oppose overturning the marriage act and noted the number was decreasing. One of those 10, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, has since announced she’s in favor.

… In a statement via email from a media spokesman Friday, Nelson said, “I’ve always stood up for civil rights and I support civil unions, but I believe the institution of marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Florida Democrats muted criticism of Nelson, the state’s senior elected Democrat and the only one holding statewide office. But some expressed disappointment.

“We’ve been urging people to call him. We know he has been on the right side of other civil rights issues and we hope he’ll get on the right side of this one,” said Susan Smith of Odessa, president of the state party’s Progressive Caucus, citing Nelson’s actions on voting rights in Florida.

CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING FOR 2014 HIT HIGH GEAR LAST WEEK via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

For Tallahassee-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale, all the early fundraising appeals were a little too much.

On his Twitter account, Schale wrote: “Seriously candidates and committees sending $$$$ emails, I know the Q is closing, but it’s Holy Week and 19mos to EDay. Please stop.”

SO MANY EMAILS I DIDN’T OPEN (mostly because yesterday was the quarterly fundraising deadline) including: “Sunday is big for my daughter Lois’s campaign” — from Dorothy Frankel; “Patrick (Murphy’s) birthday is today” — from Shelby Scarpa

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BUDGET BRINGS CLARITY TO SCOTT-VERSUS-LEG BATTLE OVER TEACHER PAY via Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

For weeks, lawmakers had signaled that they agreed with Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to increase teacher pay, but wouldn’t go along with his plan for an across-the-board raise of $2,500 after waging a brutal battle to push through performance pay just two years ago.

In their own spending proposals for the year that begins July 1, leaders on both sides of the Capitol drew a specific contrast with fellow Republican Scott — and with each other.

The House plan would give districts $676 million in funds through the state’s main funding formula to use on priorities — money that lawmakers clearly want to go largely to salary increases. The budget also “strongly encourages” districts to base at least half of those raises on performance.

House Speaker Will Weatherford said the budget isn’t more specific because it faces the same obstacle that Scott’s across-the-board proposal would run into.

“Whether you put in $2,500 for each teacher, whether you put in merit pay, at the end of the day, it has to be collectively bargained,” he told reporters Friday morning.

Weatherford said the House decided not to tie the funding exclusively to teacher pay raises in an effort to provide flexibility to districts.

Like Scott, the Senate would specify that districts use $480 million for teacher raises. But the upper chamber would require the model districts use for the raises to be “based on student achievement” and submitted to the State Board of Education for approval.

***TV host Lori Halbert is back in Tallahassee this week taping her second season final episodes of ‘Live with Lori, Political Food for Thought’. The one-of-a-kind Florida-based program, seen on FOX affiliate Sun Sports Network, is a cross between a political news show and a traditional cooking show, providing viewers an insider’s look at their elected lawmakers in a casual setting. Guests include Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant Richard, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry, Democrat Leader Pro Tempore Senator Maria Sachs, and State Representative Darryl Rouson.***

5 QUESTIONS FOR PAM BONDI here, including:

Q: Is your hat in the ring for lieutenant governor?

BONDI: Well, I’m passionate about being attorney general. I was a prosecutor for almost 20 years when I lost my mind and decided to run for attorney general. I love practicing law. I feel like I can continue my work as a prosecutor and even more as attorney general. My only plans are to run for re-election, because I think if you’re in this office not looking at the next, you can get so much done. This office deserves stability. This office – hopefully, if I’m blessed to be re-elected, then we’ll have eight years of stability in this office. 

And there’s so much more we want to do. I could talk all day about it.

DALE BRILL: A REFORMED STATE INCENTIVE GURU by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Dr. Dale Brill calls himself a “reformed bureaucrat and government interventionist.” Translation: He thinks his old job was part of the problem with government wading into the private market and shaking things up.

As former Gov. Charlie Crist’s main economic-development director, it was his job to go out and close multimillion-dollar incentive deals with companies that agreed to add jobs. Back before the recession, Florida lawmakers were throwing hundreds of millions of tax dollars at companies every year.

The now infamously doomed Digital Domain special-effects company project was code-named “Project Bumblebee” and pushed by Crist and key lawmakers through a back door in the budget that left taxpayers on the hook for some $20 million in incentives. It also changed Brill’s life.

“That was the realization that I’m just not cut out for doing this anymore,” Brill said in an interview.

REPORT: EXPANDING MEDICAID WOULD CREATE 120K JOBS IN FLORIDA

A report out Friday says using $51 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid would boost Florida’s economy by 121,945 permanent jobs.

The Florida Hospital Association, which supports Medicaid expansion, released the report by the University of Florida Food and Resource Economics Department, which found that the impact of adding more than 1 million Floridians to the Medicaid rolls also would mean $5.41 billion in tax revenues for state and local governments over the next 10 years. The impact would be highest in metropolitan areas, with Miami-Dade County gaining 23,655 jobs, Broward 12,665 jobs, Palm Beach 8,455, Orange 8,019 and Hillsborough 7,377.

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BILLS STARTING TO DIE AS SESSION MOVES ALONG via Travis Pillow of the Tallahassee Democrat

It’s the (fifth) week of the 2013 legislative session, and bills are dying.

It’s a refrain heard commonly around the Capitol, particularly in the waning weeks of the session. An early wave of casualties in the legislative process could come this week, however, as some subcommittees in the Florida House are set to meet for the last time.

… More than 1,000 bills were filed in the Florida House last year, and nearly six out of 10 never passed on the House floor. Nearly 150 more foundered in the Senate. Many bills that did not make it were never heard by a committee.

… In a memo sent out to House members last week, Weatherford said this would be the last week for most subcommittees to hold hearings. Full committees, as well as the subcommittees involved in writing the budget, will continue to take up bills.

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS IN SENATE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES 

The Senate Children and Families Committee tries a third time to take a vote on Sen. Eleanor Sobel’s bill (SB 196) that would allow for a statewide domestic partnership registry that would grant certain rights to domestic partners. The bill has been stuck in the committee for weeks – it was delayed last week with a close vote expected and a key senator absent. The panel also takes up legislation expanding grandparents’ rights in situations such as when a parent has died, gone missing or is in a vegetative state. If the other parent denies access, grandparents could go to court to try to get approval to see their grandchildren under the bill (SB 384). Bills dealing with human trafficking (SB 552); residential sober houses for recovering addicts (SB 738); nutritional requirements of child care facilities (SB 1650); and a measure making eligibility presumptive for applicants for KidCare who are moving from another government program and whose families already have certain assistance (SB 548), among others.3:15 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building

PROFILE OF JOE NEGRON here, including:

Q: What surprised you the most about Tallahassee? 

A: Probably the variation in effectiveness of individual members. In theory, we’re all elected to the same term of office. We’re all serving in the Legislature. Yet there’s a wide variation in the ability of individual legislators to get things done around here. A lot of it depends on how you go about it. Some people will win a short-term victory by taking a real hard line with someone and showing them up. One of the things I pride myself in is that I treat people fairly. I’m respectful of other legislators whether I agree with them or not. They were sent here by their voters. They have the same standing to make their case. I think people in the building would say that even when I don’t agree with them that I’m respectful and charitable and I take pride in that.

PROPOSED TWEAKS TO FLORIDA’S LOBBYIST GIFT BAN DON’T GO FAR ENOUGH via contributor Karen Cyphers

Representative democracy requires the communication of constituent interests to elected officials, and requiring legislators to pay their own way at all community events – even when no other guests are required to do so – creates the antithetical incentive to avoid attending; not good, right? This is what some argue has happened in Florida over the past seven years, and has led the author of the state’s 2005 gift ban to propose tweaks to the law he fought to pass.

The Senate proposal currently under consideration would allow legislators to accept meals and non-alcoholic beverages from lobbyists and principals when participating in events held by membership organizations, or if attending widely attended events.  These events would have to be accessible to the media; the cost could not be greater than $25 per person; and the legislator would have to file reports with the Senate about attending the events.

This proposal wouldn’t go very far toward permitting private lunches or even cups of coffee between advocates and legislators. And may not go very far, regardless –greater attention is on campaign finance and ethics reforms. We’ll see on Monday whether the Senate Ethics and Election Committee has an appetite for these changes.

SENATE E&E TO HEAR SESSION START DATE BILL via the News Service of Florida

Lawmakers could be done with their work in 2014 before baseball players finish up spring training, under a measure set for its first Senate hearing on Monday.

The proposal (SB 1356), by Sen. Anitere Flores would move the starting date of the 2014 legislative session to Jan. 22, meaning the 60-day gathering would have to be done by March 23 — though, with that being a Sunday, lawmakers might opt to wrap up their business two days earlier. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will hear the bill on Monday, but the legislation still has two more stops in the chamber and no House counterpart. The Florida Constitution allows the Legislature to move its start date on even-numbered years, as lawmakers did in 2012 because of the once-a-decade redistricting process.

UH-OH, JAMIE GRANT, NOW THE TIMES IS SNIFFIN’ AROUND via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

Jamie Grant was two years out of law school and a freshman member of the state House when he made a bold claim.

His startup company could design a mobile application that would link medical, insurance and legal records for family and first responders. Sales would net $26 million by 2014, Grant said.

He just needed $2.5 million in seed money.

The pitch worked. The Hardee County Industrial Development Authority approved the deal in September 2011 and, by the next month, Grant got his first check.

Now, 18 months later, it’s not clear what happened to the money. It’s all spent, but state auditors say there’s no product, few jobs and no economic growth. Grant would not discuss specific aspects of the deal with the Times/Herald.

” ‘What happened to the money?’ That’s the main question,” said Ted Sauerbeck, Florida’s deputy auditor general. “At this point, we don’t know.”

MY TAKE: This is one of the worst cases ever of the Times “re-reporting” another media outlet’s story. Full blog post here.

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APPOINTED: Frederick “Rick” Barber and Mitchel A. Hutchcraft, and the reappointment of Kevin P. Powers to the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District.

4TH FLOOR FILES features Patrick Slevin. Not a lobbyist, Patrick Slevin, as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Tallahassee office of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, influences the Fourth Floor of the Capitol. Here’s the file on Patrick.

KEN PRUITT SIGNED ON TO LOBBY FOR A KEY PLAYER IN SUGAR INDUSTRY via Jonathan Matisse of  TCPalm

Pruitt, a longtime advocate for Treasure Coast waterways in the Legislature, is now lobbying for an industry many environmentalists call the state’s biggest water polluter.

The St. Lucie County property appraiser and former Florida Senate president has signed on to lobby for one of the sugar industry’s key players, Florida Crystals Corp.

Pruitt’s firm, The P5 Group LLC, had two Florida Crystals contracts worth $10,000 to $19,999 each from October to December 2012, according to state lobbying disclosures. One contract was for lobbying the Legislature, the other for lobbying the executive branch. He officially picked up Florida Crystals in December.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Bobby Brantley, Shutts & Bowen: American Suntanning Association

Electra Bustle, Southern Strategy Group: NaphCare, Inc.

Larry Cretul, Cynthia Lorenzo, Capitol Insight: Metro Orlando Defense Task Force

Matthew Crowley: Florida Medical Association

Richard Hickok: Michaels Development Company; Shands Teaching Hospitals & Clinics

Jeff Kottkamp: SmartWater CSI

Al Lawson: AFSCME Florida Council 79

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick: American Traffic Solutions, Inc. 

Lindsey Perkins, Southern Strategy Group: CVS/Caremark; NaphCare, Inc.

Adam Sanders: Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale

Gary Sumner, Mang Law Firm: First American Title Insurance Company; Florida Surplus Lines Association

Alan Suskey, Capitol Insight: Florida Association of Insurance Agents

PERSONNEL NOTES via the Florida Current

David Flintom has left the office of Rep. Dwight Dudley. (To work on former Rep. Rick Kriseman’s mayoral campaign?)

James Miller left his job as spokesman for the Department of Economic Opportunity this week to be vice president of communications and marketing for the Greater Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce and the Leon County Economic Development Council. Miller started work at his new job Wednesday.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY (belatedly) to Tampa-based lobbyist Louis Betz, Jessica Gustafson (on Saturday) and devoted reader Neil Brickfield (today).

MUST-READ for Jeb Bush, Jeff Brandes, and other conservatives: The Coming Obama Crash by Art Laffer and Stephen Moore.

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.