Sunburn for 4/2 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT HITS 7 MILLION via USA Today

More than 7 million people have signed up for health-care coverage through federal and state exchanges created under [Obamacare] the White House announced Tuesday.

With the announcement that came hours after the March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage, the Obama administration has cleared the initial projection for enrollees set by the Congressional Budget Office.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We surpassed the 7 million mark with the over 200,000 people who enrolled yesterday in states run by the federal government alone … When we get numbers in from the rest of the states and people who are trying to sign up by the deadline and are finishing now even more people will be covered.”

The White House announced 7.04 million people signed up for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act by Monday’s deadline, despite the admittedly “crummy” October rollout of the health exchange site.

WAS IT BECAUSE OF OBAMACARE? via Ryan Teague Beckwith

By this time next year, nearly half the senators who voted for Obamacare could be gone. Due to a combination of re-election losses, retirements and deaths, 21 of the 60 Democrats who voted for the 2010 health care law are no longer in the Senate. If the fall elections go as poorly for Democrats as expected, another eight could be gone next year.

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THE BUSH SCHISM via John Dickerson of Slate

Jeb Bush is having a moment. For two months or so, as Chris Christie’s presidential fortunes have appeared abridged, people who have supported the New Jersey governor (or at least are predisposed to support him) have started mentioning the former two-term Florida governor as a possible 2016 candidate. Should the federal investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closures become a full-blown calamity, several have said perhaps Bush could be lured into the race.

The argument for a Bush run is that he has a governor’s executive skills, can forge a relationship with crucial Hispanic voters (particularly in a key swing state), and has a fundraising base founded, in part, on a reservoir of goodwill toward the Bush family. Republicans are sick of being out of the White House and want a winner. Perhaps, but Bush is also the perfect candidate if your goal is driving simultaneous wedges into as many fault lines in the Republican Party as possible.

BUSH TEAM AWAITS 2016 DECISION: ‘WE ARE KEEPING OUR POWDER DRY’ via Serafin Gómez of Fox News

A powerful network of Bush loyalists, from previous high-ranking campaign staffers to top donors, increasingly have been communicating and coalescing as they await a decision from the former Florida Republican governor on whether he will run for president in 2016.

“We are keeping our powder dry,” said Justin Sayfie, Bush’s former communications director and chief speechwriter.

Publicly, Bush consistently has said he is still weighing a potential bid for president but has yet to make up his mind.

“I will make a decision later in the year,” Bush told reporters after speaking in Davie a week ago.

Bush is expected to wait until after Florida’s November gubernatorial election to announce whether he will enter or not.

Many Bush insiders also believe there would not be a significant “schism” between the same pool of potential Florida supporters and donors if Bush ends up running against his political protégé, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who also is considered a 2016 prospect.

TWEET, TWEET: @gdebenedetti: New – Rubio on Jeb: “Not uncommon [for] people who are close and have worked together [to run] for the same office.”

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NEW BOOK SHOWS ALLEN WEST HASN’T CHANGED DIRECTION via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel

Allen West is back, with a new mission.

And the newest venture for the soldier-turned-congressman-turned-full-time conservative provocateur is vintage West. He’s out with a new book that doesn’t pull any punches and most certainly doesn’t soften the style that excites many Republicans — and infuriates Democrats.

West said in an interview he hopes his readers will come away with a better sense of who he is and why he loves his country, get an education on classical political thought and how it affects politics today, and understand the scorn he said is unfairly heaped on black conservatives who are told, often in unpleasant terms, that “you’re a disgrace, you’re not following along the path that you should be on.”

He said many people don’t know him well — something he hopes to change through the book — because the portrayal of him in the mainstream media has been more caricature than reality.

West’s explanation for the wildly divergent views: “There are people that appreciate a principled individual who’s going to stand on the truth and there are those who don’t want that. There are some people that they really don’t want anyone who provides opposition to their ideology.”

SARAH PALIN IN NAPLES THURSDAY TO RAISE MONEY FOR BENACQUISTO via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of the Naples Daily News

Palin will be in Southwest Florida this week helping raise cash for congressional candidate Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Palin is scheduled to attend a backyard barbecue in Naples on Thursday.

The invitation-only event costs $500 per person or $1,000 per couple.

See the invite here.

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THE JAKE RUSH STORY

THE BIZARRE DOUBLE LIFE OF CONSERVATIVE CONGRESSIONAL HOPEFUL JAKE RUSH Full blog post here

Running for the U.S. Congress can be the role of a lifetime for a budding politician, which would seem on the surface to fit right in with “conservative” Republican candidate Jacob A. Rush.

Rush, a 35-year-old attorney who just launched a campaign in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, knows a thing or two about role-playing.

The former Alachua County sheriff’s deputy announced on March 20 that he would join the GOP primary race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, the first-term Tea Party favorite from Gainesville.

On Rush’s campaign website is a well-produced, professional video, portraying the candidate as the ultimate “conservative straight shooter,” ready to fight for “we the people.”

What the slick video does not mention is that Rush – as “Chazz Darling,” “Staas van der Winst” and a host of other roles – was a long-time member of the Mind’s Eye Society, otherwise known as “Camarilla.”

Mind’s Eye, or MES, is a nationwide community of gothic-punk role-players who come together to take on personas of vampires and other supernatural beings (known as Kindred), dealing with night-to-night struggles “against their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other.”

The CD 3 hopeful remained for years as a mid-level participant, active as late as last year. Rush reached the level of “Regional Storyteller,” and was listed as a founding member of the Gainesville “Cam chapter,” according to the advanced and intricate wiki site devoted to followers of the Camarilla world.

VAMPIRE ROLE-PLAYING IS “RECREATIONAL,” SAYS FATHER OF CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE JAKE RUSH Full blog post here

Jake Rush’s family says being a role-playing “vampire,” complete with simulated bondage and a succubus, is only “recreational.”

The father of the Congressional GOP hopeful and former sheriff’s deputy responded Tuesday to a SaintPetersBlog report outlining his son’s bizarre double life as an active live-action role-playing “vampire.”

Rush did not respond to requests made to his law office in the Rush & Glassman firm, based in Gainesville. However, Robert Rush, lead partner in the firm, as well as Jake’s father, did speak with Walker over the phone.

The older Rush told the reporter he was familiar with his son’s role-playing activities, describing them as simply “recreational.” He also pointed to his son’s past as a lawyer and former Alachua County sheriff’s deputy.

“If that’s the best they can do to try to mitigate their failing candidate, that’s pretty sorry,” Robert added. “The other thing that I guess they didn’t put in there is that Jake and my law firm has been involved in supporting the arts and particularly the theater, particularly the Hippodrome theater here in Gainesville, probably for more than 20 years including buying their old costumes.”

“Jeez, one of the other things that he knows how to do really well is throw knives, so I’m sure there’s something sinister in that.”

HOW JAKE RUSH PLAYED

Business Insider, Florida House Candidate Defends His ‘Hobby Activities’, Sends Out This Picture Of Himself In A Costume – after SaintPetersBlog published a story detailing what it described as his “bizarre double life” as a live-action role player… Miami Herald, The campaign’s a stage and Jake Rush says he’s being attacked for merely acting – “As a straight shooter, yes, I play and have played video games, role playing games, board games, Yahtzee, Clue, and I have acted in dozens of theatre productions”… Miami Herald, Even by FL standards, Jake Rush campaign is 100 percent strange – Nothing like a little gamer-occult-rape-cocaine imagery to keep Florida in contention for the Capitol of Weird. So thank you, Jake Rush… Slate, Vampire-LARPing Candidate Accuses His Republican Opponent of Being Too Liberal – This was an unusually difficult April Fools’ Day for Jake Rush. In the morning, reporter Peter Schorsch published comprehensive evidence that Rush, who’d announced a primary challenge to Rep. Ted Yoho just one week earlier, was a bona fide LARPer… National Journal, Meet the Gothic-Punk Role-Player Running Against Ted Yoho, a Former Large-Animal Veterinarian – sometimes goes by alter egos: Chazz Darling, Darling van de Winst, Johan Gambrys, Zane Daily, The Kriesler, Archbishop Kettering, among other vampires and supernatural creatures… Vanity Fair, Meet Jake Rush, Florida Congressional Candidate and Vampire – SaintPetersBlog also identified a number of Rush’s behaviors that go beyond quirky hobbying. In a 2010 Yahoo! Groups posting that has since been deleted, Rush (as Chazz Darling) allegedly appeared to threaten another LARPer… Gainesville Sun, Yoho challenger Jake Rush downplays role-playing game involvement – Early reports on blogs such as St. Petersblog and Red State cited threatening and sexual messages Rush sent to other role players online, using the Internet handle Chazz Darling…New York Magazine,Florida Congressional Candidate Comes Out As Huge Role-playing Nerd – What Rush calls his “hobby activities” were revealed by a local blogger, Peter Schorsch, who played up the “gothic-punk” live-action role player community (LARPers) and its darker aspects, including “Satanic symbolism,” book burning, and vampires.

SMARTEST MOVE OF THE DAY: The Ted Yoho campaign said it has no comment on these revelations, per the National Journal.

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CONVICTED FORMER CITY MANAGER FEATURED IN NEW SCOTT WEB AD via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott’s re-election campaign released a new web ad featuring footage of the governor talking to the now-convicted former South Bay City manager Corey Alston and Alston’s brother Tory.

Corey Alston, 35 of Lauderhill, pleaded not guilty in March to charges of grand theft, corrupt misuse of a official position and misuse of public office or employment. Prosecutors accused him of coordinating a deal to be compensated $25,139 for 498 hours in unused sick time and he resigned in February. He  was later indicted on four additional counts of grand theft, one count of grand theft over $20,000 and one count of aggravated white-collar crime.

The ad features the governor walking along a street talking to the Alston brothers and others. The ad, titled “540,000,” touts what Scott says is the creation of 540,000 jobs in Florida since December 2010.

DEMS POUNCE: “Looks like Mike Fernandez was right when he slammed Rick Scott’s TV ads and campaign dysfunction. Apparently, the best Rick Scott can do is recycle four-year-old footage featuring a corrupt public official.” — Joshua Karp

HISPANIC REPUBLICANS GO TO BAT FOR SCOTT via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

Hispanic Republicans from Florida, led by U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, vouched for Gov. Scott.

Democrats tried to make political hay out of reports that Fernandez left the Scott campaign after reports that campaign aides were speaking in over-the-top Mexican accents.

The two congressmen along with three Florida state senators, 10 Florida state representatives and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Ros-Lehtinen, along with other Florida Republicans released the following statement on Tuesday:

“Florida’s Hispanic families understand well the difference between a bad economy with double-digit unemployment and the current economy, led by Governor Scott, adding 540,000 new private-sector jobs since 2010. As a vital part of Florida’s economy, Hispanics can appreciate the hard work Rick Scott has put into turning our economy around and leading the nation in job growth and economic recovery.

“We are firmly committed to re-electing Governor Scott because he will keep our state on track toward economic recovery. Hispanics see what all Floridians see: a governor who has worked tirelessly to create jobs, cut taxes and turn our economy around. We encourage Governor Scott to remain focused on fulfilling his vision for our state, creating economic opportunities for all Florida families.”

SCOTT, GOP SAY $17.1 MIL RAISED IN 1ST QUARTER via William March of the Tampa Tribune

The breakdown: $10.3 million for the Republican Party of Florida; $2.7 million for Scott for Florida, Scott’s official re-election campaign; and $4.1 million for Let’s Get To Work, his independent political committee.

Actual campaign reports detailing the precise amounts aren’t due until next week and haven’t been filed yet.

The biggest chunk of that money, the party’s $10.3 million, won’t all be used just for Scott’s re-election.

It includes some money raised by Scott, but also money raised by dozens of other Republican officeholders and party activists.

Nonetheless, the total seems intimidating.

By contrast, the state GOP raised $7.6 million, and the state Democratic Party $2.7 million, in the first quarter of 2010, the last mid-term election year.

Kevin Cate, spokesman for Charlie Crist, commented, “Rick Scott has always had and always will have more money than a campaign focused on people.”

WHO IS BEHIND THE ATTACKS FROM THE LEFT ON CHARLIE CRIST? via Aaron Sharockman of the Tampa Bay Times

A shadowy group calling itself Progressive Choice is attacking Charlie Crist as “a conservative Republican” who is “no friend of progressive Democrats.”

Mailers started showing up in Tampa Bay area homes, claiming Crist is pro-life, A+ rated by the NRA and that he signed a petition banning gay marriage.

Progressive Choice has a bare bones website that describes the group as “a diverse coalition of fair-minded, forward-thinking individuals and organizations advocating for leadership that stands firm on progressive principles and genuinely reflects the interests of all progressives across the nation.”

The group is not yet listed with the Federal Election Commission or the Florida Division of Elections, so we don’t know where its money is coming from. The mailer lists a Washington D.C. P.O. box and says the mailers were sent from Orlando.

Buzz isn’t sure who that is — but it might be this Jamie Fontaine — who runs an issue advocacy group in Baltimore and claims to have worked with Wendy Davis in Texas. (We called Fontaine’s office, were placed on hold, then told Fontaine wasn’t available. We left a message.)

Or this could have nothing to do with Republicans pounding Crist from the left, and that a group of concerned Democrats supporting Nan Rich could be doing the work. We’ll know more if Progressive Choice disclosed its donors, as required under Florida law.

>>>Crist will hold a media availability today at 2 p.m. in front of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will be joined by Senate President Gaetz, Speaker Will Weatherford and legislative leaders to sign Senate Bill 156 that “cuts $400 million in vehicle fees for Florida families,” according to a release. Cabinet Room, Florida Capitol. 10 a.m.

INCREASED PROTECTIONS AGAINST SEX OFFENDERS SIGNED INTO LAW

Gov. Scott signed Senate Bills 522, 524, 526 and 528, which substantially strengthen protections against sex offenders. Protecting Florida’s most vulnerable from sexual offenders is a joint priority during the 2014 Legislative Session for Senate President Gaetz and House Speaker Weatherford, who both attended the bill signing ceremony.

To date, three of the five Work Plan 2014 agenda items have passed the Senate and House. Gov. Scott signed the Florida GI Bill into law on Monday and is expected to sign a nearly $400 million recurring reduction in vehicle registration fees later this week.

GOVERNOR WANTS INSPECTION OF FEDERAL HOSPITALS via The Associated Press

Gov. Scott wants state authorities to inspect federal hospitals that serve veterans.

Scott sent a letter Tuesday to the secretary of the state’s main health care agency asking for the inspections.

The governor joins other elected officials pressing for answers about care at hospitals in the Veterans Affairs Sunshine Healthcare Network.

The Tampa Tribune reported last week that five cancer patients died and nine others suffered injury because of delays in diagnosis or treatment through the network that includes Florida, south Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Federal officials have refused to say in which hospitals the deaths occurred. The office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson last week said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would report the information to Congress in the next two months.

PIC DU JOUR: Gov. Scott greets the national champion FSU football team at the Governor’s Mansion here.

SCOTT APPLAUDS PASSAGE OF BILL ALLOWING IN-STATE TUITION FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS

Gov. Scott: “Tuition is too high; and our students are graduating with too much debt.  It is important to address the issue of college affordability to ensure higher education is attainable for Floridians so they can get the best job possible. On behalf of all of Florida’s families who dream of a brighter future for their kids, and all of our students who aspire to achieve success in the classroom and in the workforce, we will keep fighting to help every student in Florida afford a college education.”“Tuition is too high; and our students are graduating with too much debt.  It is important to address the issue of college affordability to ensure higher education is attainable for Floridians so they can get the best job possible. On behalf of all of Florida’s families who dream of a brighter future for their kids, and all of our students who aspire to achieve success in the classroom and in the workforce, we will keep fighting to help every student in Florida afford a college education.”

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IN-STATE TUITION BILL MOVES CLOSER TO A VOTE

In spite of some Republican opposition, state legislators keep moving forward with a bill that would allow qualified Florida students to pay in-state college tuition rates even if they are in the country illegally.

The latest vote came Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee where a version of the bill (SB 1400) was approved by a 7-2 vote. Two GOP legislators voted no.

The approval came after a contentious hearing where a Republican executive committee leader from Santa Rosa County complained the bill would hurt the campaign of Gov. Scott this fall. Four years ago, Gov. Scott was in favor of tougher immigration laws, but now he favors the Senate bill.

The Florida House has already passed the bill although there are some differences between the House and Senate bills.

REAX

Associated Industries’ Brewster Bevis: “AIF applauds the advancement of Senator Latvala’s bill that will, among other things, allow certain undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition. … Senate Bill 1400, which passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary today, is good for Florida’s businesses.  This education reform bill will allow Florida businesses to not only retain a strong workforce, but grow it.  We look forward to continuing to see this legislation advance through the process.”

LATVALA PLANS TO TAKE THE HOUSE POSITION ON IMMIGRANT TUITION via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Could a bill that would extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students be in trouble with Gov. Scott?

Sen. Latvala said he plans to “pass the House [version of the] bill.”

So far, Gov. Scott has expressed his support only for the Senate version.

The big difference between the two is the tuition differential. The Senate version forbids universities from raising tuition above the rate set by the Legislature. The House bill allows for a differential of up to 6 percent.

Gov. Scott has said he considers “holding the line” on tuition one of his top priorities for the session. The governor likes the Senate version of the tuition bill (SB 1400) because it “keeps college affordable for Florida’s students,” he wrote in a statement.

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BILL EASING RULES ON SUSPENDED DRIVER’S LICENSES PASSES KEY HOUSE CMTE.

A bill that would make it easier for people to get their suspended driver’s license reinstated passed a significant House committee unanimously Tuesday.

Rep. Dana Young, sponsor of HB 1181, applauded the 12-0 passage through the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

In addition to requiring drivers who owe back child support to provide documentation to prevent license suspension, the bill also creates a path to reinstatement for Floridians facing fines due to suspended and revoked driver licenses, especially for non-driving related offenses, such as certain drug offenses or passing a worthless check.

The purpose of the bill is to keep a driver’s license in the hands of individuals who need them most so they can continue to travel to work and maintain means of support.

“With the Subcommittee’s support of this important legislation today,” the Tampa Republican said in a statement issued after the vote, “the Florida House has taken another step toward addressing a significant barrier to finding and maintaining a job. For many Floridians, a suspended or revoked driver license creates challenges to staying employed and providing for their families.

“The reasonable reforms proposed in this bill will provide individuals looking to get back on their feet with a realistic and achievable path forward and ensure that our laws are fairly enforced.”

BUSINESS LOBBY’S PUSH FOR MORE LAWSUIT LIMITS RUNS INTO RESITANCE IN SENATE via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Some of Florida’s biggest businesses are leaning on state lawmakers to pass new limits on civil lawsuits, hoping to capitalize while a friendly governor is in office.

The business lobby is targeting two measures in particular. One would change the way medical damages are calculated for accident victims, likely leading to smaller pre-trial settlements and jury awards. Another would protect insurance companies from suits alleging they have acted in “bad faith” when dealing with claims.

The companies supporting one or both pieces of legislation include many of the state’s most-recognized brand names, including Walt Disney World, Publix, Walgreen’s, State Farm and Liberty Mutual.

And yet, amid intense opposition from trial lawyers who make their living on the other side of civil lawsuits, both bills have stalled in the Senate, traditionally the more moderate of the Republican-controlled Legislature’s two chambers.

“I don’t see a path to victory for some of that legislation,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Lee said a few hours before a hearing on one of the bills was abruptly canceled.

The resistance has prompted one business-lobbying group, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, to begin buying television advertisements in select markets calling on voters to pressure their senators into acting.

One 30-second spot, which began airing last month, claims that litigation costs families an extra $3,400 each in the form of higher prices charged by businesses. The chamber says it plans to launch a second spot within the next week.

FLORIDA AS MEDICAL TOURIST DESTINATION ADVANCES IN HOUSE via The New Service of Florida

A $5 million proposal (HB 1223) to start marketing Florida to people seeking medical treatment, from specialized surgery to routine procedures or cosmetic surgeries, cleared its first House panel on Tuesday. The medical tourism proposal by Rep. Pat Rooney received unanimous support from the Finance and Tax Subcommittee.

“This is a unique situation that we feel, with all the different types of hospitals that we have here, and research centers, that we can take advantage of folks that are looking for those types of procedures and operations, that we can entice them to come to Florida,” Rooney said.

The bill would give Visit Florida $3.5 million to set up a four-year plan to promote Florida’s medical providers, their services and specialties. Visit Florida would also be directed to use $1.5 million of its state funding to establish a matching grant program for local and regional economic-development organizations that have medical tourism marketing programs. Meanwhile, Enterprise Florida would be directed to work with the Department of Economic Opportunity to market Florida as a health care destination.

The measure also has been assigned to the House Appropriations and Economic Affairs committees. The Senate companion (SB 1150) has been unanimously backed by two committees and awaits a scheduled appearance before the Appropriations Committee.

HOUSE PASSES JUVENILE JUSTICE REVAMP

After struggling in the past to resolve the issue, the Florida House on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would change juvenile-sentencing laws in cases of murders and other serious felonies.

The bill (HB 7035) stems from a pair of major U.S. Supreme Court decisions that dealt with life sentences for juveniles. The decisions have spawned legal questions in Florida courts, and House bill sponsor James Grant said lawmakers need to pass a bill or that the Florida Supreme Court will end up deciding the sentencing issues.

“I believe we have landed in a good spot,” Grant said.

In a 2010 case, known as Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court banned life sentences without a “meaningful opportunity” for release for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes. And in a 2012 ruling known as Miller v. Alabama, the high court barred mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. Juveniles can still face life sentences in such cases, but judges must weigh criteria such as the offenders’ maturity and the nature of the crimes before imposing that sentence.

The House bill calls for judicial hearings and sentencing standards that would vary depending on the nature of the crimes.

As an example, a juvenile convicted of a murder classified as a capital felony could be sentenced to life in prison after a hearing to determine whether such a sentence is appropriate. If a judge finds that a life sentence is not appropriate, the juvenile would be sentenced to at least 40 years. Also, juveniles convicted in such cases would be entitled to reviews after 25 years.

An underpinning of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings was that juveniles are different from adults and function at different stages of brain development. As a result, the court held, juvenile sentencing guidelines must offer young offenders the chance to show that they have been rehabilitated while in prison.

Member of both parties praised the House bill, which came after earlier legislative attempts to address the issue failed. Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he doesn?t believe the bill goes far enough to protect juveniles from harsh sentences, but he said it is an improvement.

Grant said it will ensure that “monsters” who threaten safety will not be let out of prison but that not all juveniles would be treated that way.

NURSE PRESCRIPTION BILL SQUEAKS THROUGH via Mary Shedden of Health News Florida

A bill that would let nurse practitioners prescribe controlled substances and commit patients under the Baker Act narrowly passed the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday.

The 5-to-4 vote on SB 1352 reflected the divided emotions among the dozens of nurses, psychiatrists, physicians and others who spoke during the hearing. The comments followed many of the same arguments heard since before the legislative session began, pondering whether giving nurse practitioners more authority will help address Florida’s shortage of primary care physicians.

Sponsor Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said some of her rural constituents have no access to a doctor, meaning the restrictions create unnecessarily delays to emergency treatment. Right now, Florida is the only state that requires advanced practice registered nurses to get a doctor’s signature for narcotic prescriptions.

Grimsley, a registered nurse, said nurse practitioners also are legally unable to identify if someone is a mental health risk to themselves and need a 72-hour involuntary hospital evaluation.

REP. O’TOOLE PLAYS PARENTS, STUDENTS FOR FOOLS Full blog post here

We heard Rep. Marlene O’Toole didn’t like the money course and that’s why she is the sole blockade between students and financial literacy education. But it turns out she does like it … she just doesn’t have time for it. Like a bad April Fool’s joke.

She told AP’s Gary Fineout as much.

I’m sure students, teachers, and parents, who have nothing else going on in their lives, can appreciate her tough position – there is just too much to do besides equipping students with the life skills they need to be successful in life.

Except her non-support support doesn’t add up.

This is a piece of legislation being pushed by the Florida Council on Economic Education, with Jeff Atwater on their board. Backers include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Florida Bankers Association, the Business Law Section of the Florida Bar, the Florida Prosperity Partnership, etc. etc. etc.

Did I mention it also has 40+ House co-sponsors and 10+ Senate co-sponsors?

What’s the deal, Rep. O’Toole? If you support it, why don’t you let it be heard?

TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: Remember a push to require HS students in Fla to take a financial literacy course? It’s dead for the 2014 session

TWO FORMER LIQUOR REGULATORS JOIN PUSH TO TEAR DOWN WALL OF SEPARATION BETWEEN GROCERIES AND BOOZE via James Rosica of PoliticalFixFlorida.com

Retailers have enlisted two former alcohol regulators in their effort to repeal state law requiring separate liquor stores next to supermarkets and other shops.

Floridians for Fair Business Practices, a joint effort of Walmart and Target, announced that John Harris and Wes Singletary “have joined its ranks.”

Harris was formerly the head of Florida’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco and Singletary served as its chief of licensing and auditing.

Bills filed in the House and Senate (SB 804, HB 877) haven’t been scheduled for a hearing. The legislative session is nearly half over, ending on May 2. Liquor store chains, including ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, and the alcohol-abuse prevention community oppose the move.

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APPOINTED: Nick DiCeglie and Barbara Todd (reappointed) to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Region 8.

COMMON CORE BACKLASH PROMPTS CHANGES via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Fueled by parents angry over contentious new national education standards called Common Core, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature is pushing through a series of sweeping changes.

GOP lawmakers are advancing a bill that repeals more than 30 mentions of Common Core that were placed into state law just a year ago.

Some Republicans are also pushing ahead a bill that would mandate school districts adopt their own textbooks even though small school districts are complaining they don’t have the money or the time to take over a job typically done at the state level. This comes after some conservatives complained that a high school world history textbook approved by the state gave too much attention to Islam.

The Florida Senate has already passed a far-reaching data security bill (SB 188) that would ban school districts from collecting any type of biometric data, including fingerprints or palm prints, from students or parents. The measure is going to force Pinellas County to scrap a system it’s been using to verify that students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

But legislators have refused to jettison Common Core standards. Bills from Republican legislators that called for a pause on putting the standards in place have not been debated during this year’s session.

The call for changes came nearly three months after Gov. Rick Scott promised Republicans attending an annual state party convention that officials would respond to complaints about Common Core. Scott’s remarks were made a day after a state party caucus passed a resolution opposing the standards.

FLORIDA HAS HIGHEST AVERAGE GAS PRICE IN SOUTHEAST via the Gainesville Sun

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline inched up 2 cents in the past week. Typical spring factors like refinery maintenance, increasing demand and the switch to summer-blend fuel remain part of the story.

The most expensive prices in the Southeast are found in Florida, where the average price was $3.63, 8 cents higher than the national average and 7 cents higher than last week.

“Florida motorists are seeing the highest gas prices since July,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “While Florida prices could continue inching up, they are still well below last year’s peak of $3.88 and not expected to reach $4 a gallon.”

Gas prices in Florida are increasing more than other states because of supply issues and strong demand. Unlike other states, the majority of Florida’s gasoline is delivered by ship instead of pipeline. According to the Energy Information Administration, imports have dramatically declined, during recent years, due to refinery closures in the Caribbean and limited shipments from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico that would otherwise be able to offset the shortage. Now, anytime gasoline demand spikes, retailers must engage in a bidding war with the New York Harbor for shipments from the Atlantic basin to prevent a shortage.

***CoreMessage is a full-service communications and issues advocacy firm with the experience, relationships and expertise to help you get your message out. Connected at the state capitol and throughout Florida, the CoreMessage team unites issues with advocates, messages with media and innovative solutions with traditional tactics to get results. Follow CoreMessage on Twitter and visit them on the Web at www.coremessage.com***

***RSA Consulting Group is in the business of building Relationships, developing Solutions and Achieving results.  With RSA clients receive the personal attention and commitment they deserve.  RSA is a full service consulting firm with expertise in areas of government & community affairs, strategic planning, fundraising & event planning, as well as media & public relations.  To learn more visit www.rsaconsultingllc.com.***

AMANDA MURPHY QUALIFIES FOR RE-ELECTION VIA PETITION

Murphy submitted the necessary 1,012 petitions to qualify to get her name on the ballot and was verified by the Pasco Supervisor of Elections office. She is the first candidate to qualify in the HD 36 race. Murphy was elected last October in a special election to replace Mike Fasano who was appointed as the Pasco Tax Collector by Gov. Scott.

“We are so excited to have been able to continue the energy and excitement we saw last October,” said Murphy. “This community is engaged in ensuring that we continue to have someone in Tallahassee fighting for the values that we hold dear here in West Pasco. I am very blessed for the countless hours our volunteers have spent collecting these petitions and we plan to carry this momentum all the way to November.”

ROSS HANCOCK SEEKS REMATCH AGAINST ERIK FRESEN IN HD 112

Democrat Ross Hancock would like a rematch against Republican Erik Fresen in House District 114, but first he must get out of what looks to be a tough primary.

In 2012, Democrat Ross Hancock lost by just two points to Republican incumbent Erik Fresen in a closely watched state House race. Hancock filed yesterday with the Florida Division of Elections to run in HD 114, located in Miami-Dade.

Hancock launched his campaign today with this video.

“The race against Rep. Fresen will be about the long-neglected interests of Florida homeowners versus special interests that benefit from the ethically challenged incumbent’s favors,” said Hancock.

Hancock joins Democrat Daisy Baez in the race.

***CoreMessage is a full-service communications and issues advocacy firm with the experience, relationships and expertise to help you get your message out. Connected at the state capitol and throughout Florida, the CoreMessage team unites issues with advocates, messages with media and innovative solutions with traditional tactics to get results. Follow CoreMessage on Twitter and visit them on the Web at www.coremessage.com***

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Melissa Akeson, Michael Rubin, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Village of Indian Creek

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Silvermark LLC

William Brod: Capitol Lobby Firm Inc.

John Hicks, J.D. Hicks & Associates: Michaels Development Company; Shands Teaching Hospitals & Clinics

Fred Karlinsky, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb PA: Gray Insurance Company

Lori Killinger, Terry Lewis, Christopher Lyon, Lewis Longman & Walker: Tierra Verde Community Association

Jamie Miller, Jerry Paul, Robert Shave, Capitol Energy Florida: Key Agency

Jeremy Sysac, Real Energy & Environment Strategies: BioNitrogen, Bostick Land Services LLC

Missy Timmins, Timmins Consulting: Miami Project/Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

THE RETURN OF THE FAPL-TINI TONIGHT

The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists is hosting a mixer to mark the mid-point of the 2014 legislative session. The event is at the Florida Association of Realtors office at 200 S. Monroe and begins at 5:30 p.m.

Drop in for some great Anheuser-Busch brews (via Jose Gonzalez), a glass of wine, or a “FAPL-tini,” along with delicious hors d’ouvres from Clyde’s and Andrew’s.

***Do you need some “Success Insurance” for Session?  Add some clout to your lobbying team and contact former Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp. Having served both in the Executive Office of the Governor and in the Florida Legislature, he has an in-depth understanding of how the legislative process works behind the scenes. Since leaving public office in January of 2011, he has used his knowledge and experience in state government to help a wide range of clients successfully pursue their goals and objectives.  Don’t take success for granted.  You can reach Governor Kottkamp atLgjdk1@aol.com.***

CONTEXT FLORIDA: LEADING OBAMACARE, FLOOD INSURANCE, CHRISTIAN PRAYERS AND THE SKILLS GAP

On Context Florida: No matter how hard the Florida GOP tries, the state continues to lead the way on Obamacare adoption, writes Daniel Tilson. Until we start exploring real alternatives, the nation is stuck with federally subsidized flood insurance, says Linda Cunningham, and it is broke. There’s nothing new about our nation’s governments beginning legislative sessions with a prayer, but Steve Kurlander feels that overt Christian prayers have no place at government meetings. Shannon Nickinson believes that high schools need a new look to fix the increasing “skills gap.” Return on the investment of our public education dollars is something that bears serious consideration.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

ON THIS DAY

It’s the 501st anniversary of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León ’s discovery of the place he called Florida, the land of flowers.

***Things will be great when you’re downtown at 101 RESTAURANT and MINT LOUNGE in Tallahassee. 101 Restaurant has been voted the best meal in the Capitol City featuring steaks, seafood, and specialty cocktails.  We offer $8.99 lunch specials all week long that include pastas, pizzas, and salads.  Mint Lounge is upscale and classy, and it’s the best place to enjoy live music and a good vibe.  Wednesday Featured Lunch Special: $8.99 Burgers. Double Happy Hour 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Wine Down Wednesday: $3 Glasses & $15 Bottles of Premium Wines; Jordan Sinclair performing live outside and the “One Man Band” Dan Fester will be performing inside Mint Lounge.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our good friend, Democratic spokesman extraordinaire Danny Kanner.

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.