A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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OBAMA VISITS JERSEY SHORE, ATLANTIC CITY BOARDWALK WITH CHRISTIE
President Obama traveled to New Jersey today to tour areas affected by superstorm Sandy, including a stop at the Atlantic City boardwalk, the Associated Press reports. While Christie has praised Atlantic City’s swift recovery, he acknowledged that several other towns have not fared as well. The visit allows the Pelection campaign and Obama spars with congressional Republicans.
OBAMA PROCEEDING WITH JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS
President Obama this week could nominate three experienced judges to fill slots on the 11-member U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but The New York Times reports that the selections likely will meet Republican opposition and could lead to a broader tussle over Senate rules. The potential nominees are Georgetown law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard and D.C. attorneys David C. Frederick and Patricia Ann Millett.
NEW IRS CHIEF WILL HAVE HEARING MONDAY
The newly installed acting IRS commissioner will appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee next week. Danny Werfel will appear before the subcommittee that deals with financial services to discuss how upcoming appropriations bills can stop the targeting of conservative groups from happening again.
SUBJECT CHANGES FOR WHITE HOUSE
“The good news for any White House or campaign under siege is that, eventually, the attention always turns to something else,” notes First Read. And that appears to be true for the two-week focus on the IRS/Benghazi/leak controversies that had been rocking President Obama and his administration.”
“Before the long Memorial Day weekend, the subject already turned to the president’s highly scrutinized national security speech and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s passage of the bipartisan immigration legislation. Then over the weekend, Obama traveled to Oklahoma to deliver remarks on the tornado that devastated the community there. And today, he heads to New Jersey to speak on the state’s recovery after Hurricane Sandy.”
TRUMP RESEARCHING 2016 RUN
Donald Trump has spent more than $1 million on “electoral research” for a potential presidential run in 2016, the New York Post reports.
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FLORIDA GOP LAUNCHES NEW ROUND OF ATTACKS ON CRIST via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post
Fifteen months before Democrats choose a nominee to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican Party of Florida has launched attacks on undeclared Democratic frontrunner Charlie Crist.
The “This Date In CRIST-ory” campaign features a Twitter account, Tumblr page and YouTube videos that focus on “failures and flip flops” from Crist’s not-too-distant Republican past.
The first installment highlights Crist’s 2009 support as a Republican governor for more than $2 billion in tax and fee increases after pledging not to increase taxes. The tax and fee hikes — which included $1 billion from higher driver license and other motor vehicle fees and another $1 billion from a cigarettetax increase — were approved by the Republican-controlled legislature that year.
TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: RPOF attack on Crist for 2009 budget deal that included taxes/fees also hits GOP lawmakers who voted for it inc. @willweatherford
ONCE AGAIN, BILL NELSON DENIES HE WANTS TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR via Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing
Despite his protestations to the contrary, Bill Nelson continues to be floated as a possible Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2014. His latest declaration that he does not want to run to be the state’s chief executive came during a session with Tampa reporters at the conclusion of a press event he held at his district office on Tuesday morning.
“I have no plans to run for governor,” he stated. “I have no intention of running for governor.”
I interrupted Nelson to repeat Democratic Party strategist Screven Watson’s quote that Nelson said, “No, but not hell no.” Will you, I asked the senator, say “hell no” to these rumors?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Well, you want me to declare that I’m not running for governor when in fact I’ve never declared I’m running for governor.” — Senator Bill Nelson
SCOTT RELYING ON IMPROVING JOBS NUMBERS AS 2014 APPROACHES via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Scott left little doubt in a speech here that improving state unemployment numbers and gains in education are going to be essential as he begins to ramp up for his 2014 re-election.
Speaking to about 300 at the South Sarasota Republican Club, Scott reminded the crowd of how bad the economic situation was when he took over and where the state is now. At the center of the rebound he said is the unemployment rate, which his dropped from 11.1 percent to 7.2 percent.
“We’re doing the right things,” Scott said. “Jobs are coming back. Education is getting better.”
Scott said the state is almost to the halfway mark of his key 2010 campaign promise to create 700,000 new jobs in seven years.
But Scott is clearly not content on just pointing to the job gains. He also spent considerable time in his 20 minute speech talking about improving the state school systems. Scott highlighted the state’s efforts to end teacher tenure and institute merit pay. In addition, he said education funding in the state has gone up in each of the last two years, after he signed a budget that cut school funding in his first year in office.
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ENTERPRISE FLORIDA SHAKES UP COMMUNICATIONS STAFF via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
Following a string of bad publicity, the public-private partnership Enterprise Florida is shaking up its communications staff by shedding two positions in its Orlando office and moving the jobs to Tallahassee.
Melissa Medley, chief marketing officer for the business-financed job-creation entity, confirmed one of the positions in its Orlando headquarters that was eliminated was that of longtime EFI spokesperson Stuart Doyle.
“I am reorganizing the way we are doing communications,” Medley said Tuesday. She added the organization planned to hire new media relations staff in Tallahassee, where the bulk of the reporters covering the agency as well as Gov. Scott’s economic development agenda are based.
SCOTT SIGNS EVERGLADES BILL via the News Service of Florida
Scott on Tuesday signed a measure (HB 7065) intended to maintain a tax that helps pay for cleaning water that runs off from South Florida farms into the Everglades.
“This is a long term commitment, we have a long term plan and this is going to do the right thing for the Everglades,” Scott said after signing the bill at Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach.
The measure provides $32 million a year, through a tax on growers along the northern edge of the Everglades, as part of Scott’s $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan. Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said the bill “protects the 1993 Statement of Principles that has guided Florida’s restoration efforts for two decades and provides funding for construction projects to ensure water quality standards in the Everglades are finally achieved.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will celebrate $36 million in funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver waiting list. 9:00 a.m. Pine Castle, 4911 Spring Park Road, Jacksonville.
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JEB TO HEADLINE MACKINAC POLICY CONFERENCE ON WEDNESDAY via contributor Karen Cyphers
Jeb Bush will deliver a keynote address to the Mackinac Policy Conference on Wednesday afternoon, providing his signature candid take on a range of issues including education, immigration reform, and the political and cultural changes needed to strengthen the country’s leadership. This year the conference will focus on national experts and innovative change-makers– making Bush’s headline spot an appropriate fit. Bush will be interviewed by Daniel Howes, business columnist and associate business editor for The Detroit News, and will follow an introductory address by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder is considered a kindred spirit to Bush in that the two have a love of policy that exceeds politics. Bush has only increased his reputation as a policy wonk and substantive issue driver since leaving the Florida’s governor’s office in 2006; and has gained attention for his willingness to deliver strong medicine to fellow conservatives in the process. The question of whether Bush is gearing up for a national run is not lost on anyone, including Todd Spangler who authored a Saturday column on Bush’s Mackinac appearance.
According to University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus, the consensus is that Bush will “do what he thinks is best for the party to win back the White House” even if that means sitting out as he has done before. While his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush feels that Jeb is “by far the best qualified man,” she isn’t convinced he should run, saying, “It’s a great country, there are a lot of great families… We’ve had enough Bushes.” Indeed, Jeb’s last name may be the only thing holding him back.
LIZBETH BENACQUISTO HOLDING OPEN HOUSE FOLLOWING SELECTION TO NATIONAL COMMITTEE via contributor Karen Cyphers
Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto is holding an open house at her legislative office in Fort Myers on Wednesday at 3 pm, providing residents a chance to speak with her one-on-one about policy changes made during legislative session… or to congratulate her on being selected to the advisory board of the “Right Women, Right Now” initiative. The Republican State Leadership Committee launched the RWRN project to identify, recruit, support and elect new women candidates to state offices across the country, and is co-chaired by Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi. This year, Benacquisto led efforts to honor fallen men and women in uniform, permit cancer patients to access oral chemotherapy drugs as easily as intravenous ones, create more effective protections on college campuses, and increase government agency transparency in contracting. You can visit with Benacquisto on Wednesday between 3 and 5 pm at 1926 Victoria Ave., Second Floor, Fort Myers.
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APPOINTED: Judge Frederic Rand Wallis to the Fifth District Court of Appeal.
JUDGE GIVES FIRM A DAY TO RELEASE REDISTRICTING DOCUMENTS
A company hired by the state to calculate demographics and other statistics as congressional and legislative maps were redrawn last year has until Wednesday to turn over information that was due April 22. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Tuesday directed attorneys for Gainesville-based Data Targeting to give the Fair Districts coalition all non-confidential documents, while providing him with any documents that the company considers to involve personal information or to hold potential trade secrets.
Lewis said he would give the company “some kind of window” but added that he was “not real happy.”
Lewis said he expects to decide Friday on the relevance of the documents the company considers confidential. The two sides continue to go through the discovery phase in advance of a trial over the congressional redistricting plan approved by lawmakers. The coalition, challenging the plan under the state’s voter-approved anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards, contends that it needs the information to try to build a case that lawmakers improperly injected politics into the crafting of the 27 congressional districts. The 1st District Court of Appeal on May 22 struck down an order from Lewis that would have required lawmakers to testify about “objective” facts about the redistricting process. The ruling also limits what kinds of documents the Legislature will have to turn over.
Attorney Kent Safriet, representing Data Targeting, said the company held on to documents, in part, because of the potentially sensitive nature of the information. “Prior documents have been released to the media within 24 hours of being produced. My guess is that is what is going to happen,” Safriet said. “These documents contain proprietary, sensitive business information. We don’t want them out there.”
Attorney Adam Schachter, representing the coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters of Florida, requested Data Targeting be found in contempt and fined for failing to follow Lewis’ April 17 order to turn over the requested documents by April 22.
LEAGUE OF CITIES: POLICE, FIREFIGHTER HIRING UP via the News Service of Florida
An uptick in the number of municipal police officers and firefighters is a sign of slightly better economic times for most of the state’s towns and cities, according to the Florida League of Cities. The organization’s inaugural “State of the Cities” report, released Tuesday, said overall staffing levels for firefighters grew from 8,826 in 2011 to 9,488 last year, while police saw a year-to-year increase from 13,894 to 14,907. “Our cities were particularly hard-hit by unemployment and a beleaguered real estate market, so it’s good to see that overall economic gains are working their way to the local level,” Florida League of Cities President and Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño said in a release.
The report also found that 56 percent of the state’s cities and towns offer economic development incentives, trying to lure new businesses through expedited permitting, favorable land development regulations and tax incentives.
>>>Florida Cabinet aides are scheduled to meet 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Cabinet room of The Capitol to discuss issues for next week’s Cabinet meeting.
>>>The Public Service Commission will hold an informal meeting to discuss the Nuclear Cost Recovery clause involving Florida Power & Light Co. and Progress Energy Florida.
STUDY SHOWS FLORIDA’S BIKE HELMET LAW (AND MY MOTHER) GOT IT RIGHT by contributor Karen Cyphers
I was the sole 12-year-old wearing a helmet on my 1-mile bike ride to middle school, and there was no shortage of taunts thrown my way, and on one occasion, eggs. So here is my retrospective “see I told you so”, and fodder for when I insist the same rule upon my kids as they learn to ride: a study just released in the American Journal of Pediatrics suggests states with mandatory bicycle helmet laws for kids have significantly lower rates of fatality and injury. Florida passed its bicycle helmet law in 1997, but allowed counties to opt out. Initially three counties declined the law, but have since joined the rest of the state in requiring helmets on youth riders. Since its passage, bicycle deaths and injuries have fallen, particularly in the age group covered by the law. For example, in Hillsborough County, six years after the law’s implementation the region saw significantly greater helmet use among children, and a significant decline in injuries compared to pre-law years. These results counter two popular arguments by helmet haters: first, that wearing a helmet might prevent death but not severely debilitating injuries; and second, that people wearing helmets gain a false sense of security and therefore put themselves at greater risk. The decline in injuries following Florida’s helmet laws suggests just the opposite. So for the adults out there who think helmets are dorky, or the kids who just want something cool, visit www.nutcase.com and pick one that suits your style. You (and your mom) won’t be disappointed.
THREE FLORIDA BEACHES MAKE TOP 10 LIST
Dr. Beach, otherwise known as Dr. Stephen Leatherman, professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, has been rating our nation’s beaches since 1989 when he received an unexpected media inquiry to offer up the top 10 US beaches. The list was published, but few people were satisfied. Regional media and tourism outlets asked why they were not on the list and asked what criteria had been used to make the judgments. Leatherman developed 50 criteria with which to rate 650 of the nation’s major public recreational beaches. It took two years to complete the survey, which was released Memorial Day weekend in 1991. The 2013 list includes three Florida beaches within the Top 10: St. George Island State Park on the Florida panhandle at #3; Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs at #6; and Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne at #7. Both St. George Island and Cape Florida are state parks, run by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.
The overall winner, Main Beach at East Hampton on Long Island, was awarded for its safety and cleanliness – as well as its swift recovery following erosion due to Super Storm Sandy.
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JEFF MILLER ENDORSES MIKE HILL IN HD 2 via Sunshine State News
In news that won’t come as a shock to anyone, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller has endorsed Republican candidate Mike Hill in the special election for House District 2.
“I’m proud to endorse Mike Hill in the special election on June 11 and urge all the voters of Florida House District 2 to support him,” Miller, whose congressional district includes the territory covered by HD 2 (parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties). “As a veteran, small business owner, and devoted husband and father, Mike understands that we need more freedom to prosper, not more government. I am confident that Mike will be a strong champion for Northwest Florida. We need Mike Hill in the Florida House.”
JOINT FUNDRAISER FOR FITZENHAGEN AND RASCHEIN ON JUNE 20
The Republican Part of Florida is hosting a re-election fundraising reception for two of its rising stars: Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen and Rep. Holly Raschein. Join them on Thursday, June 20, in Tallahassee at the Governors Club Library from 5:00 to 7:00. Fizenhagen and Raschein were both elected in 2012 and represents parts of Lee County, and Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, respectively.
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FLORIDA BAR MEETING
The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors Meeting is Wednesday through Friday at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. It begins 2 p.m. Wednesday with new member orientation.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
James Kuebler: Titan America
Trey Traviesa: Shikun & Binui
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CAN’T WAIT TO READ: Political strategist Roger Stone has a controversial book out this fall, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Susan Glickman.
NO EASY LEGEND IN THE POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY OF CORRUPTION by contributor Karen Cyphers
Another study has been released, attempting to map out the political geography of corruption — namely, the finding that states with capitals located away from major population centers have higher rates of public corruption convictions. It is easy to note Tallahassee’s more remote locale and Florida’s ranking as #1 in federal corruption convictions from 2000-2010, but the causation line between the two points may not be so easy to draw. Those who hold to the isolation-breeds-corruption theory believe that when political business occurs farther away from the population base, fewer eyes are watching — both among the public and the press — and this leads to more shady dealings. Yet this argument assumes that shady political deals are made in or at the capital — an assumption that I do not feel holds considering the ease of communications from afar, and the fact that the legislature is only in session part of the year, leading members to interact in large measure from their home districts regardless.
Perhaps the distance factor matters not when members are in Tallahassee, away from their districts, but when they are home, away from the watchful eyes of Tallahassee. Away from Florida’s able and attentive capital press corps; away from professional staffs. It is a small distinction, but an important one. Then, think about political corruption at the local level: certainly no shortage there, and it would seem — at least anecdotally — that densely populated cities see proportionally more of it than rural ones. Think Miami. Chicago. Would moving Springfield’s infrastructure to Chicago fix that mess? Or Tallahassee to Miami? Doubtful. I’m inclined to think that states with remote capitals share some other characteristic that makes corruption more likely.