A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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MARCO’S 2016 DECISION via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
Rubio has alluded to the decision that faces him: Does he make a run for president or seek another term in the senate?
The choice is complicated because the next presidential race coincides when Rubio’s first term is up. There are practical obstacles of seeking two offices but, more important, legal ones.
“Questions about whether @marcorubio can be on FL ballot for Senate & Prez in 2016 are picking up from national media,” Chris Cate, Florida’s election spokesman, wrote on Twitter today. “Answer is no.”
“But @marcorubio could still qualify for Senate in Spring 2016, even if he was the leading GOP prez candidate.”
In an email to the Buzz, Cate elaborated:
“The timing of qualifying will depend on when the primary is in 2016. The qualifying period for US Senate will be the week 120 days prior to the primary. And yes, he could qualify at that time, even if he was believed to be the likely GOP candidate for president. (Currently, the primary is 12 weeks before Election Day, but there is a bill proposed to change it to 10 weeks prior, which is what it used to be.)
“Senator Rubio would not be an official candidate for president until after the party’s national convention. If Senator Rubio accepted his party’s nomination and the party subsequently submitted his name as its presidential candidate, he would at that time have to withdraw as a Senate candidate, if he had not done so already.”
SURVEY: FLORIDIANS 50+ OPPOSE THE CHAINED CPI
AARP Florida has released new survey results that show 71 percent of older Florida voters, including strong majorities across party lines, would be less favorable to their member of Congress or Senator if the member voted for a chained or superlative CPI proposal, expected to be included in President Obama’s budget proposal this week. The survey also shows that 75 percent of Florida voters age 50+ oppose the Chained CPI plan to reduce Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit, while 81 percent oppose reducing retired and disabled veterans’ benefits to reduce the deficit.
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BUCHANAN AND ROONEY FIRMLY AGAINST SAME SEX MARRIAGE via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
The growing ranks of Republicans and Democrats in Congress switching their positions on same sex marriage is having no affect on the two men who represent Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties in Congress.
Both U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Tom Rooney remain firmly against against same-sex marriage.
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, but ultimately this is a decision best left up to the states in accordance with the 10th Amendment,” said Rooney, who represents part of Manatee County and all of Charlotte in the House.
Buchanan’s spokesman Max Goodman said the Longboat Key Republican remains opposed to same sex marriage. Buchanan has stated in the past his strong support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed in 1996. That law declares that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage.
***While the Legislature debates election reform in the final weeks of Session, candidates are required to file their Q1 finance reports to the Division of Elections by midnight, April 10. Go to On 3 Public Relations for the complete list of filed candidates, their contributions, expenditures, and cash-on-hand.***
GOV. SCOTT KILLS HIGHER CONTRIBUTION LIMITS via the Tampa Tribune
Efforts to raise campaign contribution limit could be dead for this year after Gov. Scott’s office said today he is unlikely to approve any increase.
The push to raise limits is being made primarily in the House, which passed a bill (HB 569) that would raise the campaign contribution limit from $500 to $5,000 for statewide candidates and from $500 to $3,000 for legislative candidates.
A Senate bill (SB 1382) would raise the contribution limit to $3,000 for statewide candidates but keep it $500 for legislative candidates.
But Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said that the governor “can’t imagine signing a bill” that would raise contributions by any amount, and the sponsor of the Senate bill, Jack Latvala says he agrees with the governor.
“I have never had a lot of interest or stomach for the idea of raising individual contribution limits,” said Latvala adding that they only reason he has proposing increases is out of a spirit of compromise with the House. “I understand where the governor is coming from and I support his position.”
SCOTT WAITING TO SEE HEALTH EXPANSION PLAN
Meeting with The Palm Beach Post editorial board, Gov. Scott on Monday stood behind his decision in February to support an expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“It’s the law of the land,” Scott said in a video posted online by the newspaper. “While the federal government is going to pay 100 percent (of the expansion cost), I can’t in good conscience deny people that don’t have health care access.”
But House and Senate Republicans have rejected expanding Medicaid and are trying to agree on another approach to offer health services to low-income people. One Senate plan would use federal money to pay for private health-insurance coverage; another would use state money to help subsidize services. The House has not proposed a plan.
Scott said he would have to wait and see whether details of a legislative plan meet his “parameters,” which include using federal funding. “It seems like there’s a new plan constantly coming out,” he said.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a jobs announcement at AT&T South Florida Headquarters Building. 10:00 a.m.
TEXAS GOV. RICK PERRY SAYS FLORIDA WOULD BE ‘FOOLISH’ TO OUST SCOTT IN 2014 via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post
“Floridians would be foolish to remove a guy with his leadership and his record as we go into the next election cycle,” Perry told a luncheon crowd of about 400 at the Palm Beach Strategic Forum at the county convention center.
Perry and Scott are holding forth on “governing for lasting economic growth” and their friendly economic rivalry.
Scott said he has imitated Perry in his low-tax, low-regulation strategies in trying to attract business to Florida. “The things that we’re trying to do, Gov. Perry’s been doing,” Scott said.
THRASHER FOR LG? MACNAMARA SUGGESTS YES via Gary Fineout
While there has been a fair amount of radio silence regarding a successor to Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll one former top aide to Gov. Scott has someone he thinks deserves consideration.
Steve MacNamara, former chief of staff to Scott, in March sent an email to his former boss touting State Sen. John Thrasher as a potential candidate.
In the email MacNamara says at the very least it could help generate some good will for Scott if Thrasher at least made the short list. MacNamara was chief of staff for Thrasher back when he was House speaker. He also jokes that he’s not interested in the job.
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DUNBAR AUTHORS COLUMN ON FLORIDA’S COMPLEX GAMING MARKET via contributor Karen Cyphers
Attorney and lobbyist Marc Dunbar authored a comprehensive column on Florida’s political, legal and regulatory environment surrounding gaming issues in Casino Enterprise Management magazine, and offered a series of recommendations for those engaging in this complex fray. Here is a highlight from Dunbar’s column, titled “Florida: A Market Preparing for the Future”:
“The $64,000 question now for Florida is, can it get its act together and make lemonade from the basket of lemons that is the Florida gambling marketplace? Leading the charge in this effort are two seasoned politicians. Sen. Garrett Richter, the president pro tempore of the Florida Senate, and Rep. Rob Schenk, the powerful rules chairman of the Florida House of Representatives, have been tasked with the herculean task of cleaning up the mess and charting a course for Florida’s future as a formidable gambling state.”
Dunbar’s recommendations include:
1. Watch the Seminole tribe
2. Stay away from a battle with Florida’s non-gaming powerhouses
3. Pari-mutuels will be in the mix if they can get on the same page
4. Those without a flag have a tough road
5. Ignore those heralding “Pie in the Sky” strategies
6. Slot manufacturers, gaming equipment suppliers and other industry vendors need to engage
The University of Florida’s Center for Public Issues Education found that while more than half of the survey respondents said college is too expensive and 20 percent expect costs to increase, 77 percent of respondents with a college degree said higher education is a good investment and 85 percent believe a degree will continue to pay off financially.
REPORT: BRIGHT FUTURES CHANGE WILL HURT MINORITIES via the Gainesville Sun
An upcoming change in guidelines for Bright Futures scholarships will disproportionately shut out minority students from the popular program.
The change, which takes effect July 1, will require graduating high-school seniors to earn scores of 1170 or better on the SAT or 26 or better on the ACT to qualify for Bright Futures. The Sun story was based on an analysis conducted by the University of South Florida. That analysis showed the new standards would prevent thousands of students from getting the scholarships.
“If left alone it’s going to be devastating, particularly on certain racial and ethnic groups, and unevenly distributed across the state universities,” Robert Spatig, USF assistant vice president of admissions recruitment and enrollment planning, told the Sun. “And it’s not going to go to those performing the best in high school, just those who perform best on the ACT or SAT.”
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DAYTONA SPEEDWAY TAX DEAL GETS SENATE COMMITTEE GREEN LIGHT via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida
The race against the legislative clock is on for Daytona International Speedway and other sports venues seeking state sales tax dollars.
A measure (SB 1394) that could land more than $60 million in sales tax rebates for the speedway was unanimously supported by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Monday.
Officials for the racetrack said the money is needed to help the complex – which annually hosts what is considered NASCAR’s most prestigious race – “remain relevant.”
Still, committee Chairwoman Sen. Nancy Detert cautioned that the speedway may be “late to the party” against the other ventures and as a ranking system for stadium sales tax rebates is also in the legislative pipeline.
With four weeks remaining in the session, the bill has three additional committee stops – the Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee and the Appropriations and Rules committees. Meanwhile, the House companion (HB 1049) has only been heard in one committee, the Finance and Tax Subcommittee.
But backers of the proposal, out in force at the committee meeting Monday, remain confident the measure can weave through the legislative traffic.
“We’ve got time, the session moves, things happen,” said the measure’s sponsor Sen. Dorothy Hukill.
POST-EASTER BUNNY RELIEF by Dara Kam of the Palm Beach Post
For decades, it was against Florida law to dye animals, including bunnies, chicks and ducklings. The law was intended to put an end to pink peeps (and other baby fowl) at one time sold for Easter basket treats but then grew up into unwanted barnyard birds.
The law, however, also got in the way of pet groomers who wanted to dye dogs for parades and competitions. So the legislature did away with the law last year, prompting protests from animal rights organizations and some Democratic lawmakers.
Now Sen. Maria Sachs is backing a move to repeal the repeal of the law and once again make it illegal to dye animals or sell colorized creatures. Sachs’ one-time opponent, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, included the dog-dying amendment in an omnibus agriculture bill this year.
Sachs garnered the groomer’s support by adding an exception that would allow pet owners to pamper their pets with special colors. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved the measure (SB 650) unanimously this morning, and a similar proposal (851), with the support of several GOP members, is ready for a House vote.
TXT BILL 2 SEN FLOOR via the News Service of Florida
A bill that would ban texting while driving is headed to the Senate floor after clearing its last committee stop unanimously. The measure (SB 52) was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, bringing a years-long debate closer to an end. “Hopefully, we’ve gone beyond public support into public frustration that we haven’t passed something,” said Sen. Nancy Detert, the bill’s sponsor. “I think this is the year.” The House companion (HB 13) is also ready for the floor.
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Remedy, a coalition led by the Florida Hospital Association, will hold a press conference to discuss child coverage gaps and the importance of extending health insurance to more than one million low-income, working Floridians. 10:30 a.m., front steps of Old Capitol.
BAKER, PUTNAM, ATWATER AND OTHERS HEADLINE THURSDAY PRAYER BREAKFAST via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition will hold its annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast this Thursday in Tallahassee, featuring an esteemed lineup of lawmakers and advocates to layout out its priorities for 2013 and 2014. Speakers include former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Sen. Anitere Flores, Rep. Dennis Baxley, former Rep. Rachel Burgin, author Bob Williamson, and Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed.
The Prayer Breakfast will take place from 7:30-9:00 a.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Tallahassee. Tickets are $20.14. Registration and more information are available at www.
CATTLEMEN VS. HUNTERS IMPERILS STATE LANDS BILL via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
A bill that could encourage agricultural landowners to shift their activities onto state lands in exchange for agreeing not to develop their own land is drawing fire from environmental groups and hunters alike.
The bill (SB 466/HB 33), sponsored by Rep. Jimmie Smith would create a process for large landowners to seek to take over state conservation lands the government decides it doesn’t need. The measure has been pushed by cattle ranches, citrus growers, business groups such as Associated Industries of Florida and even some environmental groups.
Smith has said he was pushing the bill at the behest of Citrus County cattle ranchers who want to use state lands adjacent to their property.
But environmental groups, the state Department of Environmental Protection, and others have expressed heartburn about the bill — and Allied Sportsmen’s Associations of Florida added its voice to the criticism Monday before the bill was postponed in the House’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee.
Critics say the Florida Cabinet already has the power to allow that, and the bill could encourage expansion of farming operations onto lands taxpayers purchased for conservation.
The hunting group, along with others such as the Florida Wildlife Federation, warned Monday they were concerned the bill would reduce hunters’ access to wildlife management areas where the public has access. While Florida has a policy of not reducing hunting lands, it is not always enforced.
CONFERENCE CALL: With the Senate Rules Committee addressing election reform Tuesday morning, the League of Women Voters of Florida will present a media call update Tuesday afternoon on the status of current legislation and what’s still needed to finally fix Florida’s electoral dysfunction and become a national leader. Speakers will address bills making their way through Florida’s Legislature, as well as national perspectives and trends in election reform. To participate: Call 605-475-4875, use access code 643895#
LAWMAKERS EYE ‘BLIND TRUST’ IN ETHICS REFORM BILL via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
Tucked into a bill hailed by Senate leaders as the “most sweeping ethics reform” in decades is a provision that could shield elected officials from disclosing conflicts of interest or questionable assets.
Under SB 2, which passed the Senate on the first day of the legislative session, any public official who wants to avoid disclosing embarrassing financial information on their financial disclosure forms could create a blind trust to hold their assets.
“This really would be a wolf in sheep’s clothing,’’ said Phil Claypool, the former director of the Florida Ethics Commission who retired last year. “The whole idea is to protect both the public official and the public from conflicts of interest” but under the Senate bill “you’ve just got room for all kinds of mischief.’’
The Senate bill — for the first time in Florida — provides for “blind trusts” for elected officials and was promoted as a way to help public officials “avoid potential conflicts of interest” by allowing them to hand off responsibility for investing their assets to a trustee. The idea is that an elected official would be “blind” to what he owned because the trustee would be banned from disclosing how the assets are invested.
LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS via The News Service of Florida
In the House
Trans Budget: Move over if going slow in the left lane: A wide ranging bill (HB 7215) going before Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee would: require a motorist traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic – when there are two or more lanes flowing in the same direction – to move into the far right when overtaken by a faster driver; create a special license plate for Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield that would not come with the additional administrative charge normally applied to specialty tags; authorize administrative driver license suspension hearings to be held over the phone; and require anyone who used a bad check to get a driver license, identification card, fuel-use decal or vehicle registration to settle the entire debt before being allowed to make another transaction with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle. Another bill (HB 7127) that lumps together a number of issues sets aside $15 million for Space Florida spaceport projects; allows the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority to enter into 99 year leases; and broadens the eligibility for intercity bus companies to compete for federal and state funding. The committee also is to hear a proposal (HB 71) allowing for the conversion of low-speed vehicles to golf carts. 8 a.m., 102 House Office Building.
House HHS: Drug database, intellectual disabilities to be heard: The House Health & Human Services Committee is scheduled to take up a bill (HB 831) that would increase requirements for doctors to consult a database before prescribing controlled substances. Sponsor Mike Fasano angrily tabled the measure Thursday after an amendment was approved that he thought weakened the bill. The committee also will consider a bill (HB 1119) that would eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from state laws. Advocates say those terms should be replaced by “intellectual disability” and “intellectually disabled.” 10:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building.
Tallahassee Civic Center bill: The House Local and Federal Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning takes up legislation (HB 1285) that would transfer ownership of the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center to Florida State University, and make its official name the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. It also directs the state beverage agency to issue a beverage license for the arena. 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
House ethics legislation in state affairs: The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday takes up one of its ethics bills (HB 7131), which bans certain officials from getting a cushy state or local job under certain conditions, prohibits the speaker of the House and president of the Senate from lobbying state agencies for two years after leaving office, requires ethics training of elected officials, requires public posting of financial disclosures, and makes other changes. 2:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
In the Senate
The Senate Rules Committee has a monster agenda – hoping to fly through 29 bills during its three hour meeting. On the agenda are SB 1382, which trades a ban on “committees of continuous existence for a higher individual campaign contribution limit, and the Senate’s elections bill (SB 600), which would give county supervisors the ability to offer as many as 14 days of early voting and allow more early voting sites, a nod to complaints about the process last year. Also, a smooth, but subtle and slightly earthy bill (SB 658) that would allow distributors to make and sell “wine kegs” or large containers of wine continues to move with brut force through the process and will get a hearing by the committee. The committee also takes up a bill (SB 544) that creates a new exemption to the gift ban, and a measure (SB 904) that would create the Florida Accredited Courses and Tests (FACTs) Initiative to give students more choice about what courses they take in school, making it easier for them to use MOOCs or “massive open online courses,” for example. 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
B&I: No-fault repeal, Gilway confirmation hearing part two: Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway, who was supported by the Ethics and Elections Committee on April 1, will have a second confirmation hearing, this time before the Banking and Insurance Committee. Also before the panel is a committee proposal (SB 7152) to consider replacing the state’s decades-old Personal Injury Protection auto insurance system with bodily harm as the minimum coverage. Lawmakers last year tried to tackle fraud in the no-fault system, but the changes ran up against a Tallahassee circuit court judge, who last month blocked, at least temporarily, part of the law. The committee also will review a number of bills, from a proposal (SB 144) that gives insurers one year, down from 30 months, to file for a claim against a licensed psychologist for overpayment, to a requirement (SB1498) for insurers to pay for the stabilizing a structure for any confirmed sinkhole loss. 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Health Policy: Workers comp drugs up for debate: The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider a bill (SB 662) that is part of a long-running fight about the costs of drugs dispensed by doctors to workers-compensation insurance patients. Business and insurance groups have lobbied in recent years to restrict the costs but have run into opposition. Also, the committee will take up a proposal (SB 1384) that could make it harder to seek punitive damages in lawsuits against nursing homes. 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
Security alarms, unlicensed contractors in Regulated Industries: Proposals are before Senate Regulated Industries that would give a contractor 21 days to advise the local law enforcement that a low-voltage alarm system has been installed (SB 1442), and a wide ranging measure (SB 1442) that, among other things, would increase the amount municipalities and counties can impose on unlicensed contractors from $500 to $2,000. 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
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FIGHTING BEGINS FOR PANHANDLE SENATE SEAT OPEN IN 2016 by Jeff Henderson of the Sunshine State News
It might be a long way off, but two Republican members of the Florida House are already positioning themselves in a contest for a state Senate seat that comes open in 2016.
Senate President Don Gaetz will face term limits in 2016. His son Rep. Matt Gaetz has made no secret that he intends to run for the seat which represents parts of the Panhandle. But there’s a Republican candidate who has already filed for 2016 — Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. Patronis faces term limits in the House in 2014, while Gaetz’s time would not be up until 2018.
This week, Gaetz took to Twitter to swat at Patronis’ leadership of the Economic Affairs Committee. “Why didn’t my bud @jimmypatronis use his chairmanship to stop the sending of 290 million to the Miami Dolphins?” demanded Gaetz on Wednesday before adding “notconservative” as a hash tag.
This isn’t the first time that Gaetz, one of the more adept members of the Legislature in using social media, has taken aim at Patronis on Twitter. Back in January, Gaetz slammed Patronis for first backing Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination in the 2010 U.S. Senate race.
While generally ignoring Gaetz for the moment, Patronis is playing up his conservatism, including a recent lifetime membership in the NRA. Patronis backers also point to their candidate’s deep ties with the Panhandle and his active community presence.
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4TH FLOOR FILES: The latest installment of “4th Floor Files” features Ron LaFace of Capital City Consulting. Ron was recently crowned a co-champion of TallyMadness — the online voting competition to determine Florida’s best lobbyist. Here’s the file on Ron.
ON SEERSUCKER DAY, DROPPING SOME TEXTILE SCIENCE via contributor Karen Cyphers
Today marks the Capitol’s annual “Seersucker Day” where politicos gather to conduct the state’s business in this traditional crinkle-striped garb of the South — a tradition perhaps more apropos in years with predictably warmer March weather.
Seersucker’s popularity is as much about its science as its style. The textile is created using a method called “slack-tension weave”, where the yarn weave in one direction is tight while it is loose in the other. This creates a puckered, wrinkled look, and more importantly, creates airspace between the body and the clothing, maximizing heat dissipation and air circulation. Even better, it is unnecessary to iron seersucker fabrics; and generally, they are safe in the dryer. Here’s some more mint for the proverbial julip: seersucker derives its name from the Persian words for “milk and sugar” — ksheer aur shakkar; and it was once considered a breach of protocol to appear before the US president in such a suit.
“There has been great bipartisan support for the custom each year we’ve done it,” Rep. Jimmy Patronis said. “It is collegial, and ties to a history where seersucker was worn as a way to get through long days working in the heat before air conditioning.”
Expect seersucker to get a fair showing this year, with Patronis leading the way, and with the Realtors’ block party following suit… literally.
TWEET, TWEET: @craigtimes: You can’t talk about seersucker suits & Southern pols without talking about Haspel of New Orleans.
REALTORS DAYS via The Florida Current
The Great American Realtor Days events sponsored by Florida Realtors take place today and Wednesday including a Taste of Florida Bock Party on Adams Street on Tuesday, and a Legislative Day and a Rally for Homeownership on Wednesday.
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MOST POLITICIANS SURVIVE SCANDALS via Scott Bassinger
Bassinger finds that of the more than 250 members of the House of Representatives have been involved in various scandals since Watergate, roughly 40% did not “survive” their scandal.
“Incumbents who stood for reelection lost 5 percent of the general election vote share, on average, but the electoral repercussions vary across types of scandals and could be magnified in the presence of a quality challenger. A scandal-tainted incumbent defending his or her seat does not necessarily fare better than an untainted open-seat candidate, a finding that provides a justification for stronger ethics rules.”
RACIAL MINORITIES WAIT LONGER TO VOTE via MIT professor Charles Stewart
African Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote in the last presidential election, Hispanics waited 19 minutes and whites waited just 12 minutes.
“While there are other individual-level demographic difference present in the responses, none stands out as much as race. For instance, the average wait time among those with household incomes less than $30,000 was 12 minutes, compared to 14 minutes for those in households with incomes greater than $100,000. Strong Democrats waited an average of 16 minutes, compared to an average of 11 minutes for strong Republicans. Respondents who reported they had an interest in news and public affairs ‘most of the time’ waited an average of 13.2 minutes, compared to 12.8 minutes among those who had ‘hardly any’ interest.”