A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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HILLARY CLINTON HEADED TO FLORIDA FOR SECOND PAID SPEECH via POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman.
Hillary Clinton’s second paid speech will be next week in Florida.
The speech will be at a conference Tuesday hosted by Fidelity, the Boston-based investment services giant, in Naples, the source said.
The speech comes just under a week after Clinton’s first, in Texas, on the eve of the George W. Bush presidential library opening.
For 2016 watchers, the fact that it will be in Florida is of note. Another upcoming speech that has been publicized previously is in Michigan in the coming weeks.
NELSON FOR GOVERNOR CHATTER GETS SERIOUS via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
A spokesman for Nelson confirmed to a Washington, D.C. based newspaper that the third-term Democrat from Brevard County is not ruling out running.
“I’d say that’s true, that he’s considering it,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin is quoted saying by Roll Call. “An awful lot of people have contacted him and asked him to do so. But — and as he’s said a number of times — he presently doesn’t have any intention of running. He’s got a job to do as a senator.”
It’s the most definitive statement yet on Nelson’s interest in running for governor. In March, Nelson told reporters he was not planning on running of governor.
WOULD NELSON APPOINT HIS OWN SUCCESSOR? OR WOULD SCOTT?
An aide with Florida’s Division of Elections said such a situation would leave a small window of time for Scott to appoint a Republican to the Senate. But Democrats say Nelson would appoint his own successor.
Regardless, the appointee would hold the seat until a 2016 special election.
TWEET, TWEET: @asharock (Deputy Editor of PolitiFact): First blush, @FLGovScott could make the pick. Nelson would have to resign U.S. Senate before taking oath as governor.
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LENNY CURRY SITS DOWN WITH SACHS MEDIA GROUP ALIA FARAJ-JOHNSON Watch here
Florida’s 2014 governor’s race is underway and RPOF chairman Lenny Curry says he’s confident his party will maintain control. “Rick Scott is our incumbent governor, Rick Scott is going to be our nominee, our party is going to emerge unified into the ‘14 election cycle,” Curry says. He insists the party remains unified behind the Governor, despite Scott’s call for Medicaid expansion in the face of opposition from some conservatives. “It’s the law of the land, he was faced with a set of circumstances, no good choices, and he made the best decision he could with the data in front of him,” Curry says. In their conversation, he and Faraj-Johnson also discussed the possibility of former Governor Charlie Crist challenging Gov. Scott for his old job. Curry addresses those issues, former Gov. Jeb Bush and more on “Florida NewsMakers.”
SCOTT IN DC: Today, Gov. Scott will be in Washington D.C. to meet with the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, POLITICO and National Review.
TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: During a time when @FLGovScott priorities are in limbo he is spending all Friday in DC meeting with national media outlets
SCOTT: ‘I WORRY ABOUT SPECIAL MEMBER PROJECTS’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Gov. Scott will soon receive a $74 billion budget larded with the most local projects in lawmakers’ districts in years, and he said Thursday he’s worried about so much porkbarrel spending for parks, aquariums, museums and other projects — even in a year with a big budget surplus.
In a meeting with the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board, Scott spoke at length about the state’s increasingly robust economy.
“Now the goal is, don’t spend it on things that are not going to be helpful to the state,” Scott said. “I worry about special member projects … It’s your money.”
SCOTT SIGNS DRONE BILL via the News Service of Florida
Gov. Scott signed a bill Thursday that would restrict the use of unmanned aerial drones by law enforcement. Scott held a brief event marking the signing of the measure (SB 92), which bars law enforcement from using the automated surveillance aircraft unless a judge issues a warrant, there is a “high risk of terrorist attack” or officials fear someone is in imminent danger. “The House and Senate worked with law enforcement to make sure that we can do the right thing in a time of emergency, if there’s a safety [issue], things like that,” Scott told reporters afterward. “But, look, I believe in privacy.”
THE RIGHT THING TO DO, REALLY, GOVERNOR? by Paula Dockery of the Florida Voices
“[…]Recently, a phrase he has used on occasion has become his latest catch phrase. During a meeting of the Florida Cabinet at the Capitol on Tuesday, he said it again. ‘It’s the right thing to do,’ speaking of the student fee freeze in higher education. My first reaction was to be flattered by his adoption and slight modification of my campaign theme, ‘Doing the right thing.’ But simply saying it does not make it so.
Actions must match words and must truly be what is right for the people we serve.
… When he tried to purge the voting rolls, using extremely suspect lists and kicking legitimate voters off the rolls, it was not the right thing to do. When he signed and then defended the 2011 election reform bill that shortened early voting and led to long waits during both early voting and Election Day, it was not the right thing to do. When he killed a private/public partnership for high-speed rail that required no state dollars for construction or operations but then approved a government-run commuter train that required at least $1.2 billion in state funds and at least 10 years of state operating funds, it was not the right thing to do. When he allowed a $300 million cut from the state’s 11 existing universities while creating a 12th with no accreditation, students or faculty, it was not the right thing to do. When he cut $1.3 billion from K-12 education in the 2011 session, and only replaced $1 billion in the 2012 session while bragging that he increased education funding by one billion “new” dollars, it was not the right thing to do
… Really, governor? If you want to own the phrase, you have to walk the walk.
Here are some suggestions — truly ‘the right thing to do’: Veto the ‘parent trigger’ bill … Veto the entire budget if the Legislature doesn’t follow your top priority of $2,500 across-the-board pay raises for our under appreciated teachers …Veto any election reform bill that does not undo all the damage done in the 2011 … Don’t allow this legislative session to end without addressing Medicaid expansion to serve the 1.1 million Floridians in need.”
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FLORIDA’S UNEMPLOYMENT LAW VIOLATES CIVIL RIGHTS, LABOR DEPT. RULES via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
Florida’s 2011 unemployment compensation law, which makes those seeking benefits file online and complete a skills test, has been ruled in violation of federal civil rights laws by the U.S. Department of Labor, organizations which filed the complaint said Thursday.
The National Employment Law Project, Florida Legal Services and Miami Workers Center challenged Florida’s law in 2011, charging that sweeping changes to how Florida workers must file claims have denied unemployment checks to thousands of eligible Floridians.
Critics also said that frustration with the system may be aiding Scott’s goal of reducing unemployment. Some workers may abandon their job search or just leave the state, falling out of Florida’s labor market.
“The decision by the USDOL Civil Rights Center is a victory for Florida’s unemployed workers with disabilities or limited English proficiency, who have been shut out of the system by the onerous online requirements,” the workers’ organizations said Thursday in a statement.
ONE IN FOUR FLORIDIANS LIVE NEAR POVERTY LINE
Most Floridians living in poverty have families, and the situation has been made worse by an 11 percent decline in incomes during the downturn. The findings by a research group at Florida International University conclude that poverty in the Sunshine State disproportionately affects African-American and Latino residents. About 23 percent of Florida’s 18 million residents live in what the federal government considers poverty or “near poverty,” defined as earning $14,000 or less.
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LATVALA TO WEATHERFORD: “WE DON’T DO THINGS LIKE THAT AROUND HERE” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times
Having already clashed on the ethics bill, Sen. Jack Latvala and Speaker Weatherford are at odds again on another piece of legislation.
Weatherford has been championing HB 7011 as one of his top priorities. It would prohibit state workers, teachers and county employees from enrolling in the Florida $132 billion pension system. Weatherford wants them instead to enroll in 401(k)-style investment plans that he says will help stave off a financial crisis with an unfunded pension years from now.
… “He brings it up every time I talk with him,” Latvala said. “I’ve told him he doesn’t have the votes. At this point, if he wants a floor vote, let him have it. It won’t pass.”
Asked why Weatherford wants it despite a doomed fate, Latvala said: “He just wants to know who’s with him and who’s against him.”
Latvala said Weatherford’s demands are breaching legislative protocol.
“We have our bills, they have theirs,” Latvala said. “We pass our bills, they have ours. It would be fairly unprecedented for him to do this. We don’t do things like that around here.”
WEATHERFORD OPTIMISTIC via Jennifer Currington of the Orlando Sentinel
“Our job is to put together a budget we think meets the needs of the citizens of Florida. The governor’s job is to go through it with a fine tooth comb and determine which projects are worthy,” Weatherford said. “I can’t remember a year when a governor didn’t veto some if not a lot of projects and I’m sure there will be some vetoes this year, but that just kind of goes with the territory…we expect him to hold us accountable…we think what he’ll see with our budget is that it’s a very reasonable one and it addresses the needs of the state.”
Weatherford also said that he isn’t threatening or twisting arms in the last few days of the legislative session as many issues come down to the wire.
“I put my arm around [Senators} and I say, ‘Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you vote for this good piece of public policy and here’s why I think you should vote for it’,” Weatherford said. “I’m not a person who threats publicly, I’m not a person who threats privately. That’s not what I think gets things done in this process.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Alimony recipients, women, families and others who are outraged by the potential harm of alimony reform, will rally on Friday to urge the Governor to put Florida’s families first and veto SB 718 that landed on his desk this week. 11:30 a.m., Plaza Level
BUDGET TALKS DIRECT AHCA TO INVESTIGATE MANAGED CARE FOR DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED
Budget fine print released Tuesday by the Health and Human Services Conference Committee directs the Agency for Health Care Administration to develop a plan for moving people with developmental disabilities into managed care programs.
While the budget language is merely a directive to create a plan for review, many providers think it’s a smart, methodical way to look at how the state provides care for those with developmental disabilities.
To some, this move reflects growing concerns surrounding the implementation of Florida’s “iBudget” system, the program created by the 2010 Legislature to provide for greater predictability and flexibility in spending for individuals receiving services through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities Medicaid waiver.
Joe Aniello, president and chief executive officer of United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida, said as reported by the News Service of Florida, that iBudgets have led to service cuts for many enrollees, and that managed care would be better suited to provide integrated medical and long-term care services.
Much like Florida’s mainstream Medicaid program, plans proposed under this budget language would be designed as provider service networks.
Sen. Denise Grimsley, Chair of Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations, said concerns have been raised to legislative staff regarding the current structure of service provision for persons with disabilities, and suggested that it would be valuable to lawmakers to review alternative plans. Tuesday’s budget language would require a plan to be submitted to legislative leaders by Dec. 1, and would require legislative approval before any actual program changes are made.
APD has defended the iBudget program, stating that it gives individuals choices on how to spend their taxpayer funding for community services and also provides immediate access to change services as needs change.
It appears these debates will be increasingly voiced as the Legislature and agencies deliberate if and how to adjust this critically important program.
BILL ELIMINATING NO-FAULT INSURANCE LIKELY DEAD … FOR THIS YEAR via Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current
Legislation moving Florida from a no-fault automobile insurance system to a mandatory bodily injury system is all but dead this legislative session, as it failed to pass its last committee reference and is unlikely to be called to the Senate floor.
SB 1888 would move the state from the personal injury protection (PIP) system that pays up to $10,000 in medical bills for those injured in car crashes regardless of fault and into a mandatory bodily injury that pays for medical care up to $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for two or more people for those not at fault in an accident.
The bill did not make it onto the Senate Appropriations Committee agenda Tuesday, its last committee reference. There are no more committee meetings scheduled for the nine days left in the legislative session, and only Senate President Don Gaetz can call for a committee meeting this late in session. A spokeswoman for Gaetz said he doesn’t plan on removing the committee reference for SB 1888.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, pushed for the bill after Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis placed a temporary injunction on last year’s HB 119 last month. The measure capped non-emergency care for PIP claims at $2,500, required patients to seek care within 14 days, and prevented massage therapists and acupuncturists from receiving PIP claims.
Lawmakers are concerned the PIP savings under HB 119 would be nullified under the injunction. Although the Office of Insurance Regulation is appealing the injunction, Lewis vacated the stay of the injunction last week.
COULD A PIP SPECIAL SESSION BE IN THE WORKS? via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel
Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman David Simmons told the Sun-Sentinel that should an appeals court strike down reforms the state made to personal injury protection law last year, he will recommend to Senate President Don Gaetz that the Legislature return to Tallahassee for a special session to address the issue.
“I think that PIP is breathing its last gasp of breath and depending on what the court of appeals does, we may be back here dealing with this issue,” he said.
“The simple fact of trying to do something between now and May 3 is like trying to put 25 pounds sugar in a 15 pound sack,” Simmons said. “It’s exceedingly difficult.”
Simmons met with Gaetz earlier this week to discuss “solutions” to the issue.
A spokeswoman for Gaetz said that the President wants to hear from the court before taking any action on the issue.
NEGRON’S DMV, INSURANCE TAX CUTS MOVED TO HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS
The measure (SB 1832) by Sen. Joe Negron that cuts vehicle registration fees and ends a tax credit that out-of-state insurance companies have enjoyed for a quarter century, will be the focus of a special House Appropriations Committee meeting on Friday.
The elimination of the tax credit, approved by the Senate on Wednesday, is being offered to offset a 55 percent cut to the 2009 hike on vehicle registration fees.
“I don’t think there is unanimity in the House with regard to this issue, I’ve heard a lot of difference of opinion within my caucus and within the Democratic caucus,” said Speaker Weatherford. The bill would advance to the House floor if backed by the committee.
By cutting the hike on vehicle registration, motorists overall could see up to $224 million a year in savings. Repealing the insurance industry tax credit could increase state revenue by $231 million a year. Senate President Don Gaetz wants to see the measure pass. “When we can give nearly a quarter billion dollar tax break to people …. it’s mighty important,” said Gaetz.
SENATE READY TO HIT SWITCH ON NUKE FEE via the News Service of Florida
A refund would be required from energy companies that fail to advance any nuclear power plants planned in the future under a measure (SB 1472) that the Senate on Thursday rolled towards a final vote.
But don’t expect money back for plants now in the pipeline.
“We can’t retroactively refund for things that were permissible under law, but we can for costs going forward,” said Sen. John Legg, the sponsor of the bill.
The proposal, intended to alter a 2006 law that has allowed power companies in Florida to charge for pre-construction costs, would require power companies to repay customers the advanced charges, along with any rate of return gained on the money, if the company decides to halt a future project. The proposal was initially crafted by Tampa Bay area legislators who wanted to cut off a 2006 law that has allowed utility companies to collect hundreds of millions in pre-construction costs.
If the Senate bill is approved, negotiations with the House are expected.
TWEET, TWEET: @BrettDoster: .@WiltonSimpson congrats on passing wine canister bill. Good for consumers, the economy, and the environment. A great win.
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NEW ON THE TWITTERS: Melissa Hagan, candidate for House District 6. Follow her @HaganforFLHouse.
TALLY LOBBY CORPS TO TURN OUT FOR FUNDRAISER FOR STEVE SOUTHERLAND ON MAY. 1
Seeming to not want to outdone by Brian Ballard and his fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidate Gwen Graham, Chris Dudley, Brewster Bevis, Clark Smith and an A-list of the Tallahassee lobby corps are joining Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi and Adam Putnam in hosting a fundraiser for Republican incumbent Steve Southerland.
Among those also on the host committee are Jerry Paul, Jeff Hartley, Lance Lazono, John Holley, Travis Coker, Chairman Lenny Curry, Stephen Winn, Rusty Roberts, Slater Bayliss, Chairman Al Cardenas, Robert Coker, Cynthia Henderson, Jon Johnson, Rhett O’Doski, Stephen Shiver, Sean Stafford, Cory Tilley, Missy Timmons, Charlie and Alison Dudley, Paul and Sally Bradshaw, Paul Mitchell, Sandy Safley, David Browning, Kirk and Nicole Pepper, Dean and Ellen Cannon, David Ramba, The Honorable Fred Dudley, Ted and Lisa Smith, Travis Blanton, Erik and Kristin Kirk, Tim Meenan, and Monesia Brown.
The May 1 event is a breakfast one, at — where else? — the Governors Club beginning at 7:30 a.m.
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4TH FLOOR FILES The latest installment of the 4th Floor Files features Jeff Johnston of Corcoran and Johnston. His clients include Florida Crystals Corporation, HCA Healthcare and TECO. Here’s the file on Jeff.
JAMESTOWN ASSOCIATES HOSTING OPEN HOUSE NEXT WEEK
The new Tallahassee office of Jamestown Associates is hosting an open house reception next week, May 1, and invites people to “stop by and join us for a drink and refreshments” between 4:30 and 6:00 pm.
The gathering will include new Executive Vice President John Konkus, former chief of staff to Jennifer Carroll, as well as Jamestown CEO Larry Weitner and other VPs. Jamestown is a full service campaign firm with offices in Princeton, DC, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, and recently added Austin. Their clients include Chris Cristie, Richard Hanna, Tim Walberg, and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
The open house is at 200 West College Avenue; and the invitation makes clear there are no lobbying-related restrictions for legislators or staff to attend.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Ralph Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: City of Doral
Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: American Civil Liberties Union of Florida
Wendy Bitner: Lisa Miller & Associates
Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul, Cynthia Lorenzo, Kirk Pepper, Alan Suskey, Capitol Insight: Continuum Labs
Mark Delegal, Marc Dunbar, Pete Dunbar, Martha Edenfield: Geographic Solutions
John Reid, Lawson & Associates: Florida Health Care Association
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EGLIN’S F-35S WIN OVER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN via contributor Karen Cyphers
A visit to Okaloosa County’s Eglin Air Force Base converted US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey from ambivalent to sold on the F-35 fighter program — a development that follows a series of bright signs for the future of this massively impressive stealth multirole aircraft. Dempsey became an advocate of the F-35 after a conversation with a Marine officer running one of the first operational squadrons at Eglin. The F-35 comes as the latest installment, and perhaps the centerpiece, of a multi-generational effort to assure US air dominance. It is sleek, nearly invisible to radar, and can reach 1.6 times the speed of sound. It is adaptable for vertical takeoff and landing, and will be adopted by the US Air Force, Navy and Marines, and many US allies. Dempsey’s support of the F-35 is tandem to indications from senior Pentagon officials that they intend to protect the program in the budget process.
EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Tallahassee Home to Florida’s New Quail Forever Chapter”
EMAIL I REGRET OPENING: “The World Deserves an Al Pacino Day!”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Representative Larry Ahern.
A VERY SPECIAL HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Brian Aungst, Jr., one of the hardest working young professionals in our community: Brian is currently on the PCREC, the Juvenile Welfare Board (appointed by the Governor), Legal Counsel for the Greater Clearwater Regional Chamber (he will be their Chairman in 2015), on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Board and Executive Committee, Chairman of the City of Clearwater’s Business Task Force (appointed to the Task Force by Mayor Hibbard and then elected chair by the group) and a counselor in youth drug court.
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