Sunburn for 4/30 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

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

OBAMA APPROVAL RATINGS HIT NEW LOWS IN LATEST WP/ABC NEWS POLLING Full blog post here

As Democrats brace for a tough road ahead of the midterm elections, President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are hitting new lows.

President Obama’s approval rating took a five-point hit in April, as more than half of Americans say they disapprove the way he is doing his job, according to a newly released poll issued by Washington Post-ABC News. Two-thirds of voters also believe the U.S. is going in the wrong direction, a four-point jump since January.

What makes things more difficult for both the President and his party in November is that those who say they do not like Obama feel strongly about it.

In addition, more than 70% of respondents hold a negative opinion of the nation’s economy, and many blame both Congressional Democrats and Obama for the way things are.

Among the 52% of respondents expressing dislike of Obama’s job performance, a solid 40% say they “strongly disapprove” of how he handles his job, up two percent from last month. Those numbers represent the president’s highest unfavorable ratings so far this year. Forty-six percent of voters approve of Obama’s job performance, with one-quarter (25%) saying they strongly favor him; and only 22% say they approve “somewhat.”

The president’s numbers are even more dismal in specific issues, as Obama gets the worst marks on his handling of the economy, and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act – 57% say they dislike the way he manages the economy, and 54% disapprove of his running of the ACA implementation.

ALAN GRAYSON SEEKS ANNULMENT, SAYING HIS WIFE WAS WED TO ANOTHER MAN via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

When U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson married his wife, she was already wed to another man, according to a new court filing by the congressman’s lawyers, seeking an annulment on the basis of bigamy.

In new court paperwork filed in the couple’s divorce case, days before their 24th anniversary, Grayson accuses Lolita Grayson of fraud, unjust enrichment and misrepresentation, among other claims.

He’s also suing for defamation, the new document states, stemming from a disturbance at their home in March. Lolita Grayson accused her husband of shoving her, but later dropped her petition for a domestic injunction.

Alan Grayson’s new filing, a counter-petition to her January divorce filing, states that when he met Lolita Grayson in 1985, she “represented herself as single in order to induce Mr. Grayson to marry her.”

The paperwork refers to the couple’s union as a “bigamous marriage.” Lolita Grayson filed a false application for their marriage license, it says, asserting that she had been divorced since 1981.

Several years after marrying Alan Grayson, Lolita Grayson “secretly participated” in a divorce from her prior husband, a man named Robert Carson, in Broward County, Fla., the documents state.

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CRIST 44%, SCOTT 41%, ACCORDING TO NEW SURVEY USA POLL

In a new News Channel 8 poll, Democrat Charlie Crist leads Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 gubernatorial race, but his lead has slipped slightly over the last two weeks.

Crisl leads Scott 44 to 41 percent. Crist’s lead has slipped two percentage points from the last poll, while Scott remains flat in the survey. In the last News Channel 8 poll, conducted by Survey USA, Crist was up 46 to 41 percent. Survey USA asked likely voters, “If the election for Florida governor were today and you were filling out your ballot right now, who would you vote for? In the new survey, 6 percent said they would vote for another candidate, which is down from 7 percent during the last poll. 8 percent said they were undecided, which is up from 6 percent previously. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4.3 percent.

AHEAD OF BILL CLINTON FUNDRAISER, RPOF WEB AD RECALLS CRIST CALLING ON HIM TO RESIGN via the Miami Herald

The Republican Party of Florida released a new on-line ad, “Money and Fame.”

Former President Bill Clinton is set to headline a DGA fundraiser for the benefit of Crist in Miami Beach on May 6. This ad highlights Crist’s previous statements about the former President while Crist was running for U.S. Senate in 1998 against Senator Bob Graham.

This digital ad will be promoted on Facebook and Twitter.

LEADERSHIP FLORIDA & FLORIDA PRESS ASSOC. ANNOUNCE DETAILS FOR OCT. 15 GUBERNATORIAL DEBATE Full blog post here

Voters will finally get what they have been clamoring for, a chance to see the leading candidates for Florida governor — side by side, in person – in one of the closely watched contests in the country.

Leadership Florida, in cooperation with the Florida Press Association, announced new details for “Decision 2014: Before You Vote,” the statewide televised debate between incumbent Gov. Scott and former Gov. Crist, who is seen as the likely winner of the Democratic nomination.

Miami-Dade/Broward CBS affiliate WFOR-TV/CBS4 will serve as producers of the one-hour discussion, which takes place Wednesday, October 15 at Broward College from 7 – 8 p.m. The program, expected to reach millions of Florida voters, also will be live-streamed at www.beforeyouvote.org, as well as rebroadcast nationally by C-SPAN.

Locally, the event will be on ABC affiliates WFTS-TV/Ch. 28 in Tampa/St. Petersburg and WFTV-TV/Ch. 9 in Orlando, as well as the SunCoast News Network in Sarasota.

WHY CRIST IS RIGHT NOT TO DEBATE RICH via The Crowley Report

The simple fact is that (Nan Rich) has no path to becoming the Democratic nominee for governor. The most telling measure is dollars. She has raised few of them. Her cash haul is a bit more than $328,000. She has other contributions – largely from the Florida Democratic Party to pay for her small staff – of about $182,000. She has spent $230,000.

She will not raise much more. Her campaign is effectively broke. She cannot do the things that need to be done to win a statewide race in Florida.

Consider this number: 4,628,876

That’s how many Democrats there are in Florida. They are in 11 media markets. An effective statewide advertising campaign costs $2 million a week – a Democrat can spend about half that for a primary race in fewer markets. And that is minimal. Scott is planning on spending $100 million on his reelection. Crist talks about spending $50 million to return to the governor’s mansion.

Rich is not rich enough to get there. Unless she suddenly gets a sizeable infusion of cash, her campaign is  a quixotic effort that has no real chance of success.

The state is too big. There are too many voters. You can’t reach them all by car. You can’t talk to enough of them individually or in groups to make a serious dent. We are a media state – traditional and social – and it takes cash, lots of it, to win.

CHRIS CHRISTIE VISITS FLORIDA WEDNESDAY FOR RICK SCOTT FUNDRAISER

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chair of the Republican Governors Association, will travel to Florida today for two events celebrating Gov. Scott.

Christie and Scott will visit medical device manufacturer ConMed Linvatec in Largo at 10 a.m. to discuss the Scott’s efforts to eliminate taxes of Florida manufacturers. The event, which is open to the press, will be at Linvatec’s corporate offices at 11311 Concept Boulevard.

At noon, Christie will attend a private luncheon fundraiser to benefit Scott hosted by the Republican Party of Florida in Lakeland.

Wednesday’s trip will be the first official visit by Christie to Florida since January, when he hit the fundraising circuit in Naples, West Palm Beach and Orlando, appearing at a series of RGA events.

UTILITIES, GOV’T CONTRACTORS & UFC HELP SCOTT VIA RGA via Jason Garcia of theOrlando Sentinel

The largest contribution Gov. Scott has received this election cycle is a $2.5 million check written by the Republican Governor’s Association, which Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, cashed on Jan. 27.

So where did the RGA get its money? New federal tax records show that developers, utilities and pharmaceutical companies were among those who wrote five- and six-figure donations to the association around the time it made its eye-popping donation to Scott.

Several of those contributors regularly interact with Scott’s administration or are hoping for the Republican governor’s help in the future, including Zuffa LLC, the parent company of Ultimate Fighting Championship, which gave $100,000 to the RGA on Jan. 10. Zuffa is currently lobbying the Legislature this spring to rewrite boxing and mixed-martial art regulations and to exempt some of its fight records from the state’s public-records law. If they pass, Scott will have to decide whether to sign or veto them.

… A host of other businesses and individuals gave money to the RGA shortly before it donated to Scott, from drug-maker Pfizer ($250,000 on Jan. 10) to Station Casinos ($100,000 on Jan. 10) to Delta Air Lines ($25,000 on Jan. 10).

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SCOTT FINDS FEW COMPLAINTS IN MEETING WITH SENIORS ON MEDICARE ADVANTAGE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Gov. Scott assembled about 20 seniors for a roundtable discussion on Medicare Advantage cuts under the federal health care law — an issue Scott and Republicans have used to criticize Obamacare.

But the group that met with Scott at the Volen Center had few complaints and said they hadn’t experienced many changes since the Affordable Care Act took effect.

One woman praised Medicare Advantage for making drugs affordable, but did say she’s had trouble finding an orthopedic surgeon to do a knee procedure.

Focusing on seniors’ concerns about the Affordable Care Act, especially in Florida, makes political sense. But Ruthlyn B. Rubin urged Scott and seniors to take a broader view.

“We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America, it’s not the United States of Senior Citizens,” Rubin said.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS FORMALIZE ‘CAUCUS’ OPPOSITION TO GAMING COMPACT ABSENT INCLUSION IN TALKS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Can Gov. Scott ratify a gaming compact without a vote from Democrats? The Florida House Democratic Caucus is pretty confident the answer is no.

The caucus on Tuesday formally announced what had been informally previously accepted — that Democrats have taken a “Caucus Position” to withhold their support for ratification of gaming compact between the governor and the Seminole Tribe of Florida until Democrats are included in negotiations.

The postion was “developed at a routine Tuesday meeting of the House Democratic Caucus,” the Democrats announced in a statement. It was approved unanimously by voice vote.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston criticized the governor’s failure to include legislators in his current talks. “Once again, the people of Florida are witnessing Governor Scott’s failure of leadership,” he said.

The governor’s deputies announced the governor as “getting close” in completing a deal with the tribe and tested the interest of legislators to conduct a May special session on a compact. They sent a signal there was little interest in moving forward without details of the deal.

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SENATE PASSES BILL CREATING CRAFT BEER REGULATION via The Associated Press

Florida’s growing craft beer industry would face new regulations under a bill passed by the Senate.

The Senate voted 30-10 on Tuesday for a bill that would restrict the amount of packaged beer breweries can sell directly to visitors.

Craft brewers opposed the bill. They currently can sell unlimited amounts of their kegged, canned and bottled beer at the breweries.

Sen. Kelli Stargel argued the brewers are now operating under a loophole created for the Busch Gardens theme park and the bill would clear up ambiguity in the law.

But Sen. Jack Latvala said the bill will stifle the growing industry and cost jobs.

The bill would also legalize half-gallon refillable beer containers known as growlers.

REAX

Sen. Stargel: “Under this law, all breweries will be able to sell up to 20 percent of their on-site production in cans, bottles and even 15.5 gallon kegs annually – which is a number that ensures that they will be able to continue to grow and expand. In addition, this bill would allow all breweries to sell an unlimited amount of what they brew in their taprooms, sell an unlimited amount of what they brew in 32-, 64- and 128-ounce growlers, and sell an unlimited amount of guest tap beer for on-site consumption.

“As this bill heads to the Florida House, I want to recognize and thank Majority Whip Dana Young, as well as Speaker Will Weatherford and Representative Debbie Mayfield for the hard work that they and their staffs have put into this legislation on the House side. I am hopeful that the House will give thoughtful discussion to this good bill, to ensure breweries, also licensed as retailers, are clearly operating under the law, while still giving them the opportunity to grow and flourish.”

Spkr. Will Weatherford: “That bill has an uphill battle in the House.”

Tom Pepin, CEO of Pepin Distributing Company: “We strongly urge the Florida House to consider taking up and supporting this good public policy that eliminates the tourism exemption and creates a brewer/vendor license, so that craft breweries can be in compliance with Florida law.”

Justin Wilson, Institute for Justice: “Sen. Stargel’s bill is a Trojan horse that stands to cripple Florida’s craft breweries.”

TWEET, TWEET: @SteveSchale: My Uber driver should legally be allowed to go 75 down I-10 to Jax so I can buy 64oz growlers from @IntuitionAle #freedom

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UNTIL THE FINAL HOUR, LAWMAKERS SCRAMBLE TO PAY FOR MORE PET PROJECTS via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Long after House and Senate budget negotiators have cinched deals on the biggest brick-and-mortar components of their $75 billion spending plan for next fiscal year – school budgets and charter construction, health-care funding for hospitals, environmental projects and road-building – they huddled again … to roll out $167.8 million in new pet projects for lawmakers to take home.

The vast majority of the 90 or so projects would go to colleges and universities, water projects, and hospital and social service organizations – and many are tied to the current or future leaders of the Legislature.

Charter schools had secured $50 million for construction and renovations in the budget — far less than the $91 million they landed last year.

They also found a way to give Florida State University $600,000 for an endowed professorship named after a major Republican Party donor – Panama City hotelier Charlie Hilton.

Senate President Gaetz has gone to bat for the University of West Florida, which in Pensacola near his district, and the school landed $2 million for it a mechanical engineering school and another $1 million for a physician assistance program.

Ditto for incoming House Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli. With Kennedy Space center in his district, the Brevard-based Space Florida, the semi-private taxpayer-funded space promotional agency, concluded what’s been a banner year for public dollars with $2 million more for “Cecil Field space port infrastructure.”

Springs clean-up, which already had landed $30 million in the budget, got $5 million more, along with new language directing the Department of Environmental Protection to spread the dollars out statewide.

BUDGET GETS LAST-MINUTE $4.5 MIL BOOST via Matt Dixon of the PoliticalFix.com

Going into Tuesday, most in the state Capitol thought the budget was done. They were wrong.

During a meeting that lasted less than one minute, budget negotiators added an additional $4.5 million to the budget.

“The House had requested the Senate to require several additional items, that was the purpose of this meeting,” said state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

The new funding includes $1 million for the Ubran League, $1 milloin for the boys and Girls Clubs, $500,000 for Learning of Life, and $2 million for Lauren’s Kids.

“We are the appropriations we are elected to make these decisions,” Negron said.

GARDINER GETS BUDGET LANGUAGE FOR POTENTIAL OSCEOLA HIGH-TECH GROUP via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

A high-tech group thinking about setting up shop in Osceola County could be in line for a taxpayer-financed windfall, thanks to a provision inserted into the state budget by incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner.

But neither Gardiner nor economic-development officials are willing to say just who that group is.

The unusual budget language authorizes the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida, the agencies in charge of doling out public incentives, to evaluate a “non-profit consortium of high-impact technology businesses” for possible incentive awards.

The language is necessary because the nature of the project is outside the typical type of corporate asks that Enterprise Florida negotiates.  It was spurred by an unnamed but potentially large development project in Osceola County. Gardiner this week declined to speak in specifics about the project, but said instead he wanted to create a “process” for reviewing similar types of university-initiated technology efforts in the future.

Think Scripps or Sanford-Burnham.

For all of Florida’s massive biotechnology projects – which have drawn more than $1.7 billion in taxpayer investments over the last decade – there are others that flopped or were never closed on because the incentive asking price was too high or the payoffs too nebulous.

Gardiner said he wanted the policy established that these projects would have to go through a tougher state-based economic assessment in the future before the Legislature commits cash.

READ HERE: The state of Florida’s $77.1 billion budget.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “One person’s turkey is another person’s eagle” – Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: Ok, the new Fla. budget is finally officially out. The timestamp on the email to members is 8:35 p.m.

TWEET, TWEET: @SoStrategyFL: The 72 hour waiting period on voting for the budget tops our list of ideas that must have seemed good at the time.

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HOUSE OKS REFORM DEAL ON CENTRAL FLORIDA EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

The House agreed to go along with plans to merge Orlando’s scandal-plagued roadway authority in exchange for exempting Osceola County from much of the immediate cost-sharing.

The House amended a Senate bill, SB 230, to create a new Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), which would absorb the existing authorities in Orange, Lake and Seminole counties.

Osceola would join in 2018, although compromise language would allow the county to keep revenue generated from its own toll roads – a concession that drew concerns from some Orlando lawmakers that Osceola would get benefits from regional planning but be “carved out” of the costs.

The language creates a nine-member board, with Gov. Rick Scott appointing three, instead of a larger board that gave the governor more appointments.

That plan lost all steam after one of Scott’s appointees to the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, Scott Batterson, was indicted by a grand jury last week on bribery charges.

HOUSE READIES SPEED LIMIT BILL FOR FINAL VOTE via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

The House has set up for final passage a bill that could result in higher speeds on Florida highways.

House members began considering the measure (SB 392) Tuesday and could vote on it as early as Wednesday.

If passed without changes, it would head next to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

The bill doesn’t mandate higher speed limits; rather, any increase on a given stretch of highway would occur only if state traffic engineers determine the roadway is safe enough for a higher speed.

Rep. Ray Pilon, a Sarasota Republican and former sheriff’s deputy, brought up the point that if maximum limits rise, minimum speeds will have to rise too. Otherwise, faster drivers will be plowing into slower ones.

Current law allows for 70 mph on interstates, 65 mph for highways with a divided median and 60 mph on certain other roadways.

Under the bill, all of these limits could be raised by 5 mph. The maximum highway speed limit could rise to 75 mph.

NOT MAKING THIS UP: Sen. Dwight Bullard has filed an amendment to SB 296 to change title of bill to “An Act Relating To The Zombie Apocalypse.”

TIMES EDITORIAL: THREE PRIORITIES THE LEG. SHOULDN’T NEGLECT

“With three days left before the 2014 Legislature adjourns, lawmakers should pass three commonsense measures to help ensure that injured Floridians aren’t exploited, sick children can find relief and ambitious young people can afford college. … Trauma center fees … Charlotte’s Web … In-state tuition for undocumented students.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Erik Fresen will hold a press conference in the Senate Building Media Room at 3 p.m. to discuss SB 972 and HB 651, which provide attorneys to children with special needs in foster care.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Health Care for Florida Now coalition will hold a press conference 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the 4th Floor Rotunda. They will urge legislators to expand access to health care in the final week of the legislative session.

WITH CLOCK WINDING DOWN, LAWMAKERS PICK UP PACE Full blog post here

As the legislative clock winds down and lawmakers wait the constitutionally mandated 72 hours before they can wait on the 2014-2015 budget, they will decide the fate of dozens of bills.

The House could vote on a number of issues, including pharmacy audit “Bill Of Rights,” fraudulent ticket sales and mandating public schools teach about the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Among the Senate agenda is revamping the state retirement system and allowing concealed weapons carry during emergency evacuations and the process for sports facilities to ask for state money, which includes the controversial amendment that would withhold funds from Major League Baseball facilities until the league changes its policy on Cuban ballplayers. Also on the agenda is a bill increasing oversight on “compounding” pharmacies.

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FLORIDIANS’ CONFIDENCE IN ECONOMY STAYS FAIRLY FLAT, UF SURVEY SHOWS

Floridians’ consumer sentiment declined one point in April to 79, according to a new University of Florida survey.  Three of the five components making up the index decreased, and two increased.

Respondents’ overall opinion that they are financially more secure than a year ago fell three points to 69 from a post-recession high in March.  Their expectations of improved personal finances a year from now also fell, dropping six points to 77.  Confidence in U.S. economic conditions over the next year dropped five points to 77, but expectations that the nation’s economy will do better over the next five years rose five points to 82. Finally, the component measuring whether the present is a good time to buy a big-ticket item, such as a car, increased three points to 89.

Florida’s unruffled consumer sentiment, however, is five points lower than the national level of 84.  Concern over employment may help explain why. Last month Florida’s unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 6.3 percent.

Housing continued to improve in March with the median price for a single-family home rising to $173,000, a level not achieved since last August.  “However, a recent report on national new home sales for March was surprisingly down 14.5 percent,  indicating there may be a slowdown in housing this year compared to last year,” McCarty said.

Floridians can expect consumer confidence to remain in the upper 70s to low 80s, given the dearth of significant economic news, McCarty said.  However, international developments, such as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and a continuing decline in the growth of the Chinese economy could darken consumers’ mood.

HUGE SETTLEMENT COULD MEAN $80 MILLION TO FIX CONTAMINATION AT OLD TALLEYRAND CHEMICAL SITE via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union

A record, multibillion-dollar payout by a company responsible for pollution nationwide could earmark $80 million for cleaning up the remains of a century-old fertilizer plant in Jacksonville’s Talleyrand area.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review panel is scheduled to meet to talk through plans for cleaning the long-closed Kerr-McGee fertilizer and pesticide plant along the St. Johns River.

The old plant is among roughly 2,700 sites in 47 states for which Kerr-McGee Corp. and a parent company, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., agreed this month to pay $5.15 billion to settle environmental claims.

The Jacksonville plant stood out from the long list of Kerr-McGee properties, holding a spot on EPA’s national priorities list – also called Superfund – where the federal government has taken over cleanup planning because others either can’t or simply aren’t acting to solve serious contamination.

In a hazard ranking applied to potential Superfund sites, the fenced-off Jacksonville property had one of EPA’s highest rankings in the Southeast. Florida’s Department of Health said in 2003 that if people were allowed to live on the site, they could be sick by contaminants within weeks by exposure to arsenic.

Benzene, DDT, toxaphene, lead and other pollutants have also been found at the Jacksonville site, where pollution concerns were first brought to EPA’s attention in 1981.

HERTZ TO ASK FOR MORE TIME TO MEET INCENTIVE DEAL GOALS via Maryann Batlle of NaplesNews.com

Hertz wants more time to meet goals required in a $4 million economic incentive deal with Lee County.

At their regular board meeting May 6, Lee commissioners will consider amending the county’s original agreement with Hertz to change two capital investment deadlines.

Hertz is moving its global headquarters from New Jersey to a 34-acre site on Williams Road and U.S. 41 in south Lee. It has begun construction on a modern, green-friendly facility covered in glass, a departure from the Mediterranean architecture typical in that part of the county.

The rental car giant encountered “unforeseen delays in final design and architectural approvals” from the Estero Community Planning Panel, a citizen advisory group, and from Lee County Community Development, according to the amendment submitted to county commissioners.

As a result of those delays, Hertz has invested about $12.2 million so far, which is short of the $16.25 million required by Dec. 31, 2013, in the current contract, documents state.

Jack Lienesch, ECPP chairman, said he takes “umbrage” that his group is mentioned in the amendment document. Lee County officials made clear the Hertz project would be “fast-tracked,” and the ECPP was “all lined up” to get the process moving, he said.

MANATEE COUNTY RLC REVENUE COMES MOSTLY FROM “GENERALLY SAFE” ROLLING RIGHT TURNS Full blog post here

As the debate over red light cameras continues, changes in Manatee County policy of ticketing “rolling right turns” could result in thousands of drivers facing $158 fines they would not have received in other parts of Tampa Bay.

As of June 2013, red light camerasred light cameras (RLC) in Manatee County was barely producing the revenue to cover the program’s costs.

On July 1, after state law required an increased involvement by sheriff’s offices in the automated issuance of tickets, Manatee County started coming down hard on “rolling right” citations, resulting in a fourfold increase RLC revenue.

Eight months after the switch, Manatee County’s eight RLC intersections generated more than $4 million revenue, with around $2 million going to the county.

The aggressive move by Manatee County to ticket slow “rolling right” maneuvers, considered generally safe by traffic engineers, is unique in the Tampa Bay region. Many local communities offer some degree of leniency on violators.

The 2010 Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which opened the door for standardized use of RLCs across Florida, stipulates officers should not ticket drivers when they make rolling right turns in a manner that is “careful and prudent.”

Supporters of the act maintain they did not want municipalities placing profits over safety.

Nevertheless, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has cited any driver caught approaching a red light at more than 12 miles per hour, even where there are no pedestrians of other traffic present.

PIC DU JOUR: Adam Putnam meets up with Smokey the Bear here.

SPORTS TOURISM HAVING AN IMPACT ON REGION’S BOTTOM LINE via John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

On the weekend after the traditional end to the winter tourist season, Southwest Florida hotel rooms remained packed with out-of-town visitors.

But instead of leisurely beach lovers, many guests were here for serious play — the Florida Scholastic Rowing Association Sweep Championships at Nathan Benderson Park, a 130-team soccer tournament, two youth baseball tournaments and the LPGA Symetra Tour at Sara Bay Country Club.

Combined, the various athletic endeavors generated a sizable — and welcome — boost to the region’s economy at a time of year many hoteliers and restaurant operators once feared because of the drop-off in business.

Sports-related tourism has become a key component in the growth of the region’s hospitality industry and the overall economy.

And it’s not just about spring baseball any more. Rowing, running, BMX, soccer, swimming, triathlons, lacrosse and — coming in June — a Modern Pentathlon are bringing thousands of athletes, coaches and families to Sarasota and Manatee counties throughout the year.

Tourism promoters have worked to cement the region as a global sports destination, one that attracts international athletes during what used to be some of the slower months for accommodations, restaurants and merchants.

A study on the impact of sports tourism affirms that Southwest Florida is succeeding in meeting that goal. The overall economic impact of sports was $78 million last year.

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CITY MAYORS JOIN OPPOSITION TO MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER STADIUM AT PORTMIAMI, ALLIANCE SAYS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

The mayors of 11 Miami-Dade County cities have signed on to a letter in opposition to David Beckham’s proposal to put a Major League Soccer stadium on waterfront seaport property, according to the leading detractor to the plan.

The Miami Seaport Alliance has asked elected mayors and vice mayors to add their names to the list of critics who say a PortMiami stadium would risk jobs, security and cruise and cargo operations. Among those who have said yes, the alliance says, are the mayors of Homestead, Coral Gables and North Miami Beach.

“We believe united, we can help quash this terrible idea of a stadium at PortMiami, a maritime industrial port and a major economic driver of our community,” Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall wrote in a letter to the mayors on behalf of the Seaport Alliance.

MacDougall, who is running for Congress as a Republican in South Miami-Dade, carried out a similar effort last year against the Miami Dolphins’ short-lived push for a stadium renovation partly funded by tax dollars.

This time, the debate is over the best use of the port’s southwest corner, which is too shallow to accommodate cruise or cargo ships. The port had planned to develop it into a major office and commercial complex, but that has faced resistance from downtown Miami interests that argue development on county-owned port land would unfairly compete with the mainland.

Beckham’s group is still negotiating with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration over the potential port site. Representatives of the retired English soccer player, and the mayor himself, have said it’s premature to support or oppose the idea without any specifics in place.

TWEET, TWEET: @DavidLBishop: Might as well announce tomorrow is my last day at the Lottery. Returning to the private sector to lead a PR firm.

WINNERS & LOSERS

As the 2014 Legislative Session approaches Sine Die, it’s time to start thinking about who are the Winners and Losers this year?

For example, a Winner will emerge based on how the “trauma drama” plays out. Will it be HCA or the Safety Net Hospital Alliance? (Or both?) The Losers column will probably include several gaming interests and sports franchises.

SaintPetersBlog will start running profiles of the Winners & Losers as soon as the hanky drops.

Right now, we’re taking readers’ nominations for who won and who lost this session.

So who else belongs on these lists? Which lobby firms, associations, and organizations have had a banner session?

Your suggestions are off-the-record, so pull no punches. Email me at saintpeter4@gmail.com.

***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 at Lgjdk1@aol.com.***

CONTEXT FLORIDA: DANCING IN THE DARK, NAN RICH, SOCIAL WORKERS AND WORK HAZARDS

On Context FloridaDaniel Tilson asks who has the most to gain from a majority of the state’s residents not knowing what legislation their government is advancing, enacting, or refusing to consider. Author, analyst and forecaster Stephen L. Goldstein calls for Nan Rich to drop out of the race for Florida governor. After another disturbed student rampaged through a school, stabbing 20 students and a security guard with a pair of knives,Steve Kurlander believes that the best answer may lie in increasing the number of social workers in schools, people trained to deal with problem students. Even though Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act four decades ago, promising every worker the right to a safe job, West Central Florida Federation of Labor President Lynn Webb says that many work hazards still exist.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association LobbyistThey Cover Florida Like the Sun.***

CONGRATS to Melissa and Rep. Jake Raburn on the birth of their twins, Clayton and Mason.

ROMEO & JULIET: Hearing that the daughter of the president of the trial lawyers association, Paul Anderson, is dating the son of the CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Mark Wilson.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to one of Pinellas’ best: Brian Aungst, Jr. Celebrating today are lobbyist Jennifer Jankowski Green and political consultant April Schiff.

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.