Sunburn for 4/21 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

in Uncategorized by

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

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***

THE WEEK AHEAD

Most of the preliminary work is done. Lawmakers have been home for a week because of the Passover and Easter holidays. Now, it’s time to get down to business. The legislative session will enter its final two weeks Monday, with lawmakers still needing to negotiate a 2014-15 state budget and decide the fate of dozens of bills. While a handful of committees will meet early in the week, much of the action now turns to the House and Senate floor.

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

Will the debate over in-state tuition for undocumented students — with Rick Scott, Will Weatherford and Jack Latvala on one side and Don Gaetz and Joe Negron on the other — endanger a collegial end to the 2014 legislation?

Who wins Tuesday’s special election in Congressional District 19? The latest poll shows Curt Clawson with a two-to-one lead over Lizbeth Benacquisto and the rest of the field.

What questions will be asked of Charlie Crist when he heads into the Tiger’s Den at the Capital Tiger Bay Club on Tuesday?

Will speed limits in Florida be raised? On Wednesday, the Senate will begin debating a proposal filed by Sens. Jeff Brandes and Sen. Jeff Clemens that could allow speed limits to go as high as 75 mph on some highways?

Will pressure continue to build on Crist to debate his rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Nan Rich?

PROGRAMMING NOTE

SaintPetersBlog will be in Tallahassee on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning. Please email me at saintpeter4@gmail.com if you would like to meet while I am in town.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget, and your industry. Unlike some other providers, we own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks.***

EVE OF CD 19 SPECIAL ELECTION

FINAL POLL: CLAWSON 38%, BENACQUISTO 19%, DREIKHORN 18%, KREEGEL 17% Full blog post here

The latest poll … finds political newcomer Curt Clawson has a two to one lead over his rivals to fill the seat formerly held by Trey Radel.

The poll surveyed 669 republicans in Lee and Collier Counties. Almost all respondents say they are very likely to vote.

The company did the phone survey on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Results show Clawson, the former business executive, leads the contest with 38% support. State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto is second with 19%, Michael Dreikorn, 18%,  and Paige Kreegel, 17%. And those who are not sure whom to support, polled at 7%.

Clawson backers are not surprised. “I have always felt good and positive about him,” said Portia Wright. “I believe what he is saying.”

The poll shows Clawson has broad and equal support among men and women, and especially strong support among those who call themselves “very conservative.”  He has double the support of Benacquisto and Kreegel in that category.

MORE THAN 10,000 COLLIER, LEE REPUBLICANS HAVE VOTED EARLY via Kalhan Rosenblatt of NaplesNews.com

Saturday was the last day of early voting in the special Republican primary election for CD 19.

In all, 6,327 Republicans in Lee and 4,163 in Collier voted early over the last week, according to numbers reported by the supervisor of elections offices in each county.

Thousands of Southwest Florida Republicans skipped voting in person all together. Lee County received 28,643 ballots by mail — a return of about 79 percent of all ballots sent by mail, said Jo Ann Beaumont with the Lee elections office. In Collier, 9,306 voters mailed in their ballots.

MICHELLE BACHMANN ENDORSES CURT CLAWSON IN CD 19 PRIMARY Full blog post here

Former Republican presidential candidate and Tea Party leader Rep. Michelle Bachmann has endorsed Clawson.

Although Clawson’s announcement of the endorsement contained no statement from Bachmann, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus who announced that she would not seek re-election to her Congressional seat in 2014, the candidate did express admiration for the Minnesota congresswoman. “

“Congresswoman Bachmann was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party, and after this year she will be missed in Congress,” Clawson said. “With a victory next Tuesday, we can continue the work she has started to protect our Constitution and restore fiscal integrity to Washington.”

HUNDREDS RALLY IN ESTERO WITH TEA PARTY EXPRESS via Ryan Mills of NaplesNews.com

Just days before Tuesday’s special primary election, about 500 people gathered behind the Estero Community Park rec center on Saturday afternoon for a Tea Party Express rally.

But the event really seemed to be a campaign rally for Clawson, whom the Tea Party Express has endorsed. While all four of the Republican contenders were invited, Clawson was the only one to show by noon.

Organizers said candidate Michael Dreikorn was expected to attend as well. A few Dreikorn supporters were visible in the crowd.

Clawson supporters dominated the rally, which featured speeches by local tea party darling Byron Donalds and former U.S. Congressman Connie Mack, both of whom have endorsed Clawson.

PAIGE KREEGEL MAKES PLAY FOR FEMALE VOTERS via POLITICO

In the final week of the special GOP primary election in CD 19, Kreegel is making a direct-mail play for older GOP women. The mailer is based on a letter from Kreegel’s mom, Alberta, and started hitting the mailboxes of almost 40,000 women 65 and older on Wednesday, said campaign manager Alex Melendez. Kreegel’s not the only candidate trying to appeal to the female GOP electorate: Benacquisto has touted her endorsements from Sarah Palin and multiple women’s groups.

TWEET, TWEET: @melissamoore: Comment from aunt, who lives in #FL19, on the race… I’d vote for satan, and sell my soul to him, if it meant this crap was over.

***The RSA team produces results for its clients through its extensive knowledge of the legislative process, longstanding relationships with elected officials and community leaders and strong work ethic.   RSA is a full service consulting firm specializing in community and government affairs, fundraising & event planning.  RSA clients receive personal attention and commitment from a team of seasoned lobbyists, led by Ron Pierce.   Learn how we can help your business, visit www.rsaconsultingllc.com.***

DEMS’ MIDTERM STRATEGY: TRIAGE via Alex Isenstadt of Politico

House Democrats, battered by Koch brothers ads and facing a grim outlook for the midterms, are providing the clearest indication yet of how they plan to respond: By shoring up imperiled incumbents and only the most promising challengers, but most likely leaving some of the party’s upstart hopefuls to fend for themselves.

The strategy, detailed in nearly two dozen interviews with party officials and strategists, is a tacit acknowledgement of the ominous political environment Democrats are up against this year. The goal is to stop Republicans from padding their 17-seat edge and keep the party within striking distance of the majority in 2016, a presidential election year that could well be more favorable to Democrats.

House Majority PAC, a leading Democratic super PAC and one of the biggest players in congressional races, will begin placing its first round of TV ad reservations. Of the 24 districts the group is reserving commercial time in, 18 of them are occupied by party incumbents. The ads will begin running around Labor Day, when the midterm sprint begins in earnest.

… House Majority PAC will buttress several Democrats who’ve been favored to win, such as … Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Operatives working with Democratic groups say they’ve been tasked with examining how much damage incumbents have incurred from a wave of attacks funded by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-funded outfit. They’ve been conducting polling much earlier in the election year than they initially anticipated.

The focus on protecting incumbents is fueling anxiety among Democratic challengers that they won’t receive campaign resources from the national party.

RATINGS CHANGE IN CD 18 via Nathan Gonzalez of Roll Call

The way things are going this cycle, Democrats could use a piece of good news — and Rep. Murphy’s re-election might be just that for party strategists.

The Democratic congressman was initially elected last cycle in a very close race, 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent, over polarizing GOP Rep. Allen West in CD 18. Mitt Romney carried that district with with 52 percent.

That close margin of victory and Romney’s win in the district virtually guaranteed Murphy a slot near the top Republican takeover lists for 2014.

But Murphy has been one of the most prolific fundraisers in the entire House. The congressman raised more than $675,000 in the first quarter and had more than $2.2 million in the bank at the end of March.

Meanwhile, Republicans appear to be banking on former state Rep. Carl Domino getting through the Aug. 26 primary and then writing a significant personal check for the general election campaign. Domino had $388,000 on hand on March 31.

The nature of CD 18 and the national political environment could end up giving Murphy some problems. But this race doesn’t deserve to be in the broad toss-up category right now. We’re changing the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Tossup/Tilts Democrat to Leans Democrat.

GOOD FOR HIM! — MURPHY AIDE CASES IN ON POLITICAL CONSULTING BUSINESS via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

It’s not unusual for Capitol Hill staffers to do campaign work on the side, but Eric Johnson is in an elite league.

Johnson earned $113,417 last year as chief of staff for Rep. Murphy, while his political consulting shop, Johnson Campaigns Inc., received $91,500 from Murphy and other Democratic candidates.

About two-thirds of the consulting fees collected by Johnson Campaigns in 2013 went to Johnson himself, he estimated, with the remainder going to subcontractors and expenses.

Johnson said he’s careful to follow House rules that prohibit the use of congressional office resources, including staff time, for campaign-related activity.

“I do portion out time on the official side and time on the campaign side,” said Johnson, who estimates he spends 50 hours a week on his congressional job and 20 hours on campaign consulting.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

CHARLIE CRIST ESTABLISHES BROWARD BEACHHEAD, REPUBLICANS COUNTERPUNCH via Anthony Man of the South Florida SunSentinel

Hundreds of Broward Democrats – included many elected officials and local party leaders – turned out Saturday and turned up with major enthusiasm for  Charlie Crist.

The crowd, which may have topped 300 people, got a full dose of Crist-style sunny optimism about Florida – and an even fuller dose of condemnation of Gov. Scott.

Many of the Democratic elected officials at the event said they weren’t necessarily supporting Crist, insisting they were officially remaining publicly neutral in his primary contest with Broward’s favorite daughter candidate, former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston.

But their presence at the Crist event spoke volumes.

Among those who professed neutrality, or didn’t specify a side: Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, county commissioners Stacy Ritter and Kristin Jacobs, State Reps. Jim Waldman and Hazelle Rogers, Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Levoyd L. Williams, state representative candidate Steve Perman, Broward Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar, vice chairwoman Cynthia Busch and Democratic state committeeman Ken Evans.

There was hardly a mention of Rich, though one supporter showed up holding signs supporting her. And two reporters asked Crist if he’d change his mind and debate her.

“No,” was his answer.

Pressed, he said: “I’m focused on Rick Scott. I mean it’s so important that we defeat this guy and that somebody get in the office that cares about people as Omar was saying earlier. Listen, if I spent any energy doing anything but that shame on me.”

A handful of sign-carrying protesters from Tea Party Fort Lauderdale were on hand.

CRIST‘S BIGGEST CHALLENGE: MOTIVATING DEMOCRATS IN SOUTH FLORIDA TO VOTE via Steve Bousquet and Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Sam Oser is 88, and he wants to live long enough to see a Democrat get elected governor of Florida again — even one who used to be a Republican.

So Oser is ready to embrace Crist, a career politician of changing stripes who’s a Democratic newcomer. No matter, says the West Palm Beach retiree: Democrats are doomed to irrelevance until they reclaim the Governor’s Mansion after a 16-year absence.

But for Crist to win, South Florida voters need to do something they haven’t done in years: vote in bigger numbers in a governor’s race.

About a third of Florida’s 4.6 million Democrats live in the three-county metropolis of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, a sprawling breadbasket of liberalism that proved critical in both of President Barack Obama’s Florida victories.

Year after year, voters in the Democratic region are among the state’s worst when it comes to showing up at the polls. It was most glaring in 2010 when Scott won office and statewide voter turnout was a meager 49 percent.

The turnout in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties was worse: about 41, 40 and 47 percent, respectively. If those three counties had voted at the state average, Democrat Alex Sink likely would have beaten Scott by nearly 250,000 votes statewide. Instead, Sink lost by 61,550 votes.

Crist vows that won’t happen again.

CAPUTO COLUMN: THE POLITICS OF CRIST’S DEBATE DODGE

 (S)ince Crist has so much more support (the former governor has universal statewide name ID, Rich is barely known), why not throw her a bone and debate the longtime Democrat who once led her party in the state Senate?

“No,” Crist said tersely Saturday at a Plantation field office opening, where about 300 people showed up in a sign of his groundswell of support in Rich’s home county.

“I’m focused on Rick Scott. It’s so important we defeat this guy,” Crist said. “If I spend any energy doing anything but that, shame on me. I gotta go at it.”

Rich, pointing to Crist’s party-switching past, said his debate posture is “disrespectful to Democrats. We deserve to know where he stands on Democratic issues.”

… Privately, Crist’s top backers say they don’t want to give Rich the platform. That she hasn’t earned it. That her campaign isn’t viable. That she’s motivated by bitterness and is now just an ironic pawn used by Scott.

Crist, however, is also using Rich.

He wants her in the race as an unknown so that, come the Aug. 26 primary, he’ll beat her and the others by double digits. He’ll hog the spotlight, appear as if he has momentum.

The tactics and strategy are as sound as they are mercenary.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Political Accounting Group, LLC.  We are a full service firm that will work with you to handle all of your reporting requirements along with your treasurer functions. So to help you see how easy and low cost it is to have a professional on your side, we are offering an introductory $99 reporting fee for your first month. That is much less than the value of your time and it could also be less than the fines you will pay for not filing on time or accurately. Visit www.pagworks.com for more information.***

SCOTT’S OFFICE: ASK EMPLOYEES FOR RECORDS, NOT US via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

The administration of Gov. Scott is making a unique legal argument when it comes to handing over public records: Get it from the employees, not us. As part of a bitter ongoing legal battle, attorneys who work for the governor declared that both current and former employees are the “custodians” of any text messages or emails done on personal accounts even if they cover state business.

The Scott administration and state agencies generally require that employees turn over emails and text messages from personal accounts if they covered state business. Past requests made by media organizations, including The Associated Press, as well as open-records advocates have shown various Scott administration employees using personal accounts to conduct state business.

Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews, a persistent critic of Scott caught up in a land dispute with the state, filed a series of public records lawsuits maintaining that Scott and other state officials weren’t complying with the state’s Sunshine Laws. Florida has some of the broadest public records laws in the nation.

In a court filing, Scott’s assistant general counsel argued the administration had turned over thousands of relevant records but then added the office “does not have control over employees private accounts, and devices, and therefore, it does not search those accounts and devices for public records.” The filing then stated that both current and former employees are “the records custodians of public business contained on private accounts and devices.” That means that in order to obtain certain records the press and public would have to ask those employees directly and then potentially sue those state workers if they do not comply with the request.

IMMIGRANT TUITION BILL REOPENS RIFT IN REPUBLICAN PARTY via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Gov. Scott was just about to kick his Hispanic outreach campaign into gear when two top Republicans in the Florida Senate complicated the effort by unexpectedly blocking a priority bill that would give in-state tuition rates to some undocumented immigrants.

The abrupt procedural move by Senate President Gaetz and Senate budget chair Joe Negron caught Scott unaware along with fellow House Republicans and the party’s most-respected former governor, Gov. Jeb Bush, who had privately asked some senators to hear the measure. In a rare joint public statement, Bush, Scott and another former Republican governor, Bob Martinez, urged the Senate to take up the bill, which has majority support in the chamber.

Aside from the two Senate Republicans politically helping a Democrat campaign against a Republican, the situation has another irony: Crist was once a Republican who opposed the same bill that he now supports. Scott, who also has reversed himself on the issue, made clear that he wants the Senate to pass the bill.

Negron said his opposition was rooted more in financial costs of the legislation; hours before, Gaetz fretted that it could subsidize education for those who hail from countries that are “caldrons of terrorism and anti-American violence.”

TIMES EDITORIAL: IN-STATE TUITION IN SCOTT’S HANDS 

“Only Gov. Scott can salvage the dreams of thousands of undocumented high school students whose only hope to afford college is being allowed to pay in-state tuition. Only the governor has the stature and political leverage to force the Senate to take up this issue of fundamental fairness that the House already has approved. Only the governor can dictate the outcome of legislation that would help him politically and stop penalizing students who already are succeeding in our local schools and communities.

“… Only Scott has the political leverage to make Gaetz and Negron see the light. But it will take more personal attention to legislative maneuvering than the governor previously has shown. Scott supported accepting billions in Medicaid expansion money last year, then failed to lift a finger when the House refused to act. Now he faces the same situation with the Senate on an issue that could help his re-election bid and Republicans in general with Hispanic voters. Is this governor feckless or merely impotent when it comes to working the levers of his office and dealing with the Legislature?”

***SUNBURN is sponsored in part by Floridian Partners, LLC, a statewide Public and Government Affairs firm with offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Their firm’s success is measured by its clients’ success. Outreach and Public Advocacy; Strategic Issue and Campaign Development; Grassroots and Grasstops Coalition Building – Floridian Partners is a one-stop firm for clients needing assistance at all levels of government in Florida.***

SEN. PREZ GAETZ TRIES TO RE-KINDLE MEDICAID EXPANSION TALKS WITH FEDS via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

With HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepping down, Senate President Gaetz is trying to measure her repalcement’s interest in negotiating alternatives to the Medicaid-expansion component of the federal health-care law.

“As you know, the Florida Senate developed and passed a bill in 2013 that would have created a premium assistance plan as a way to expand coverage,” Gaetz wrote to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday. “Subsequent to that action, we appealed to Secretary Sebelius  for greater flexibility as a solution to the concerns that prevented an agreement … on this important issue. Her response reiterated the previously issued rigid regulations.

“Now we are reaching out to Sylvia Burwell, the nominee to replace Secretary Sebelius, to ask her to reconsider several specific policies that block expansion in Florida and other states.”

Florida is punting $51 billion in federal money by not expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program to more than 900,000 uninsured who won’t be covered by the federal health-care law. Republican senators have argued they want more flexibility to take the federal dollars and fund private managed care plans with them – while Speaker Weatherford has opposed expansion because he argued the federal government couldn’t be trusted to pay most of the cost.

Gaetz wrote in a letter to state senators Thursday that the idea “does not appear to address the problems” recently expressed by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) with a similar way that Florida finances its health-care system for the poor: a fund hospitals pay into to draw down more federal cash, then dip into to pay for treating poor patients. That’s because states that utilize multiple methods for pooling money can inflate the federal share of the costs and wind up increasing health-care costs.

In his letter, Gaetz notes that the fact the federal government is expressing concerns about that arrangement suggests it would be foolhardy to expand Medicaid without more flexibility to utilize block grants or other “market-based” reforms to discourage over-use of medical services.

“The prime focus should be on the lack of flexibility in the management and implementation of Medicaid in general and an expanded Medicaid program in particular,” Gaetz wrote to Nelson. “Federal micro-management is a greater obstacle to expansion than funding source.”

He then asks Nelson to support block grants of “shared risk models,” which “would provide a meaningful contribution to enabling Florida to expand this coverage.”

LEGISLATURE GIVES BUDGET PRIORITY TO HOMETOWN PROJECTS OVER AT-RISK KIDS via Mary Ellen Klas and Carol Marbin Miller of the Tampa Bay Times

In the wake of a bloody year for Florida youngsters, lawmakers have pledged to repair the state’s frayed safety net for abused and neglected children.

But as the state’s annual legislative session winds toward the final gavel, many children’s advocates say legislative leaders have failed to match their words with action and fear some proposals may create new problems.

Gov. Scott has proposed spending $39 million to hire 400 “boots on the ground,” or child abuse investigators who will respond to hotline reports and identify at-risk kids. But investigators typically work with a family for 60 days or less, and then families in need of follow-up help are sent to privately run local agencies.

Those agencies, the governor says, don’t need new money. The agencies counter that if the governor’s plan goes through, their already-backlogged caseloads will swell and families will compete for the services they need to keep children safe. They are asking for $25.4 million more.

Florida lawmakers will devote the next two weeks to making choices about how to spend $1.3 billion in new revenue as they craft a record $75 billion state budget. The first drafts show that legislators’ pet projects account for more new money than at-risk kids.

After the Miami Herald documented the deaths of 477 children in the past six years whose families were known previously to the Department of Children & Families, Florida legislators vowed to make repairs to the state’s system.

But how much more is still an open question. Neither the governor nor the Senate have embraced the Coalition for Children’s request. The House budget, which has adopted the governor’s plan to spend $39 million on new investigators, includes $4.6 million in new money for family support services.

BILL COULD SLOW FLORIDA CRAFT BEER INDUSTRY GROWTH via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

The fight between craft brewers and the distributors of Budweiser over the legalization of half-gallon beer containers has gotten so bitter that it is even being likened to extortion.

The issue seems simple enough: Florida allows breweries to fill quart and gallon containers – called growlers – at their tap rooms, but the half-gallon size that’s the industry standard in 47 other states remains illegal. Brewers, their customers and some lawmakers think the state should just get rid of the restriction that many call silly. But the politically powerful Anheuser-Busch InBev distributors have a powerful ally in Senate President Don Gaetz as they try to force craft breweries to give up some of their profit.

The latest idea is to force breweries to buy their own beer from distributors at a markup before they can sell cans and bottles to brewery visitors – the beer, in most cases, wouldn’t even leave the premises or be handled by the distributors. Now, the brewers don’t have to use a middleman.

“It’s like paying protection money” to the mob, said Sen. Jack Latvala, who supports allowing half-gallon growlers with no strings attached.

Gaetz has in recent weeks been playing both sides – telling beer lovers who have complained about the proposed legislation that he helped a craft brewery in his district get started, but is still supporting the bill (SB 1714) that takes profits from craft brewers and hands them to distributors. The bill will likely be considered before the session closes May 2.

Anheuser-Busch InBev distributors, who handle Budweiser, are trying to protect the three-tier system of alcohol distribution the federal government set up after Prohibition ended in the 1930s. It basically ensures that alcoholic beverages are passed through a distributor to get to retailers. Exceptions have been made for purchases where products are produced, like buying wine at a winery or rum at a distillery.

MillerCoors distributors do support legalizing half-gallon growlers with no strings attached. Other regulatory concerns should be addressed separately, said Eric Criss, their lobbyist.

OBJECTIONS SIMMER AS PUTNAM’S ENERGY BILL WOULD ELIMINATE SOLAR REBATE PROGRAM via Bruce Ritchie of the Florida Current

A House bill containing energy proposals by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has passed House and Senate committees with only one opposing vote.

But some energy activists continue to object to a provision that would eliminate the Solar Energy Rebate Program even though money has not been provided for the program, which shut down in 2010.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy are objecting to legislation, HB 7147 and SB 1044, which would eliminate the solar rebate program in state law.

The Solar Energy System Rebate Program was created in 2006 when the Legislature passed SB 888, the Florida Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act, and then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed it into law.

But the solar rebate program proved more popular than future Legislatures thought the state could afford. When the program shut down, there was a backlog of $52 million in rebate applications.

In 2010, the Legislature appropriated $22 million to pay down some of the backlog. In 2011, about 8,000 applicants received 52 percent of their eligible amounts, Putnam said.

This year, Putnam is pushing what he calls an “aggressive” legislative agenda that includes diverting general revenue from an energy tax to schools construction. He also proposed a sales tax holiday for energy- and water-saving appliances.

SENATE APROPS TO CONSIDER THIS WEEK CHARLOTTE’S WEB, PENSION REFORM AND TAXES

As the 2014 session winds down, the Senate Appropriations Committee could consider as many as 60 bills, including measures dealing with state pensions, medical marijuana and taxes. Appropriations will meet 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, as both lawmakers and lobbyists try to push bills through committee and to a full Senate vote before the end of the session on May 2.

Also on the agenda is a proposal (SB 1114) to reconfigure the state retirement system, by extending the vesting period for government workers currently enrolled in the traditional pension plan, while funneling new workers into a 401(k)-style program if they do not choose a particular pension plan.

The committee expects to consider SB 1030, which could authorize a strain of marijuana called “Charlotte’s Web,” a pot extract that helps children who suffer severe seizures due to a form of epilepsy, but does not get users high. Another bill facing Appropriations is HB 5601, the House’s proposed tax-cut package, including a series of sales-tax holidays. The Senate’s tax-cut plan is significantly different.

SPOTTED: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman with Senator Jeff Brandes at Friday night’s Lightning playoff game.

***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.***

DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANTS CRAFTED MAPS, FUNDING REDISTRICTING LAWSUIT via Matt Dixon of PoliticalFixFlorida.com

It was a crisp mid-February day in the nation’s capital, but a hot topic at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee had a distinctly Sunshine State feel. A handful of Democratic political operatives, many of Florida’s congressional Democrats, and Nancy Pelosi, the House’s top Democrat from California, huddled in the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2012 meeting to discuss an ongoing Florida redistricting lawsuit. On the agenda was an overview of the newest version of Florida’s congressional map, which was drawn as part of the lawsuit in a Tallahassee court challenging the redistricting process.

Court documents and emails that are part of the redistricting lawsuit show that the map was drawn and paid for by Democratic consultants in consultation with the Florida Democratic Party, which is no longer involved in the lawsuit. Plaintiffs in the case argue that congressional maps passed by lawmakers in 2012 are political documents that violate Amendment 6, one of the so-called “Fair District” amendments passed by voters in 2010. The amendments were an attempt to remove politics from the redistricting process, by no longer allowing new maps to explicitly “favor or disfavor a political party.”

The firm that drew the maps was the National Committee for an Effective Congress, a Democratic group that specializes in redistricting.

Thousands of pages of emails and court documents show that “political performance” and political concerns of individual members were driving factors behind the map. Throughout the pending lawsuit, filed two years ago, there have been emails showing that political consultants on both sides played a role in the redistricting process. For Republicans, emails already released as part of the lawsuit show an aide to then-House Speaker Dean Cannon, sending at least 23 maps to a GOP political consultant and lobbyist, among other examples.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND h/t to Florida Current

Rep. Eric Eisnaugle has brought on Caleb Hawkes, who has worked as a campaign manager for the Republican Party, as a legislative assistant and Alexis Calderone as district secretary.

TWEET, TWEET: @JimmyPatronis: You’re the best! @MearKat00 #seersucker day is April 25th!

MONDAY BEGINS THE LEGISLATIVE “HOME STRETCH” IN TALLAHASSEE Full blog post here

Now that lawmakers have returned from the weeklong Passover and Easter holidays, the home stretch of the 2014 legislative session has begun, with Tallahassee entering the final two weeks starting Monday.

At the top of the agenda for both chambers are negotiations for the 2014-15 state budget, as well as the fate of dozens of bills.

Although committees meet early in the week on a series of issues —including abortion and the viability of fetuses, continued operation of trauma centers statewide, and allowing craft beer breweries to sell a product in half-gallon growlers, among others — the majority of the action will center on the House and Senate floor.

***Wage theft is a serious and growing problem in Florida. The Florida Legislature is now taking up dangerous bills to make it harder for victims to recover their rightful earnings. Tell your legislators to stand up for Florida’s workers vote AGAINST SB 926 and HB 957. Sign the petition today!***

MAVPAC FUNDRAISER TONIGHT Full blog post here

AG Pam Bondi will be the special guest at a chicken-and-beer reception tonight sponsored by the Republican-aligned Maverick Political Action Committee, a group designed to engage the next generation of GOP leaders.

Headed by George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and grandson of President George Herbert Bush, MAVPAC is the political committee formed as an outreach to young professionals from the ages of 27-40.

The fundraising event is on Monday, April 21 at 5:30 p.m. in the Tallahassee Florida Realtors offices. Food and refreshments will include Chick-Fil-A and beer.

The offices of Florida Realtors are at 200 South Monroe Street in Tallahassee. Tickets are $5 per person for those under 30 years old, and $25 per person for those over 30. Admission is free for sustaining members of MAVPAC.

Contributions can be made online; RSVPs are by emailing Kevin Curran at Kevin@MaverickPAC.com.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: PayIt, LLC

Sarah Busk, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: The Florida Bar

Chip Case, Jefferson Monroe Consulting: Learning.com, Inc.

Jim Horne, Strategos Public Affairs: Fullbridge, Inc.

Gary Hunter, Hopping Green & Sams: Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

Nick Iarossi, Ashley Mayer, Chris Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Kinder Morgan Energy Partners

Isaac Dean, Henry Dean & Associates: Florida Crystals Corporation

TALLYMADNESS

One is a rising star of one of Florida’s leading governmental affairs firms, while another is a veteran lobbyist who is a familiar face on Adams Street. One is one of the hardest working operators backed by one of largest law firms in the country, while another is a soft-spoken family man considered one of the most effective advocates in the capital.

Together, they are the Final Four of TallyMadness — an online voting competition to determine the “best” lobbyist in Tallahassee: Scott Ross, Jim Magill, Mark Delegal, and Jon Johnson.

#10 seed Ross is this year’s Cinderella contender, making his way into the Final Four with a series of upsets against higher-seeded opponents. But he’s also part of the Floridian Partners team and that brings with it the backing of several other prominent lobbyists. But most important to Ross’ improbable run is his wife, Ashley, who has been his top booster throughout the competition.

Ross will face-off against agill, a savvy veteran who won his way into the Final Four with wins over Rich Heffley, Ron Book, and Mercer Fearington. Getting by those three was no easy task, but Magill enjoys broad support from a career’s worth of friends and associates. On the other side of the bracket is Delegal, the face of Holland & Knight in Tallahassee.

Delegal has racked up a series of wins that have seen him draw the most votes of any of the Final Four contenders. Perhaps the entire H & K support staff is voting for their favorite son? Delegal’s next match is against the last remaining #1 seed in the competition — Johnson of Johnson & Blanton. One of the classiest gentlemen in the process, Johnson is also one of the fiercest competitors in the capital.

Ross vs. Magill; Delegal vs. Johnson. What a foursome!

Voting to determine who will play in the championship match-up ends on Tuesday, April 22.

***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, 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: TELEMEDICINE, BANISHING THE NRA, HIDING THE FLAG AND FCAT TIPS

On Context Florida: The Florida Medical Association recognizes the state is facing a potential shortage of doctors and nurses, writes FMA Executive VP/CEO Tim Stapleton, but telemedicine and new technologies should not allow unlicensed or poorly credentialed physicians from out-of-state engage in medical or regulatory fraud. Marc Yacht, former Director of the Pasco County Health Department, imagines a world where conservative Republican legislators banished NRA lobbyists from the Florida Capitol after “divine instructions” at a Republican prayer meeting. On the West Coast, courts seem to have a demented understanding of the Constitution, says former State Sen. John Grant. Case in point is a recent decision by the Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling  that officials in a San Jose high school were justified in ordering students to take off (or turn inside out) American flag T-shirts to avoid racial violence. Beth Smith, assistant principal of Valleyview Elementary School in Lakeland, offers some tips for students taking the FCAT, which begins this week.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to reporter James Call, lobbyist Towson Fraser and Florida TaxWatch’s Morgan McCord. Celebrating today is Dave Beattie and Rachel Perrin Rogers.

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.