A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
BORDER SECURITY BRAWL CROWDS IMMIGRATION BILL’S FUTURE via Chris Frates of National Journal
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. John Cornyn said that he’s been talking to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer about his amendment to increase border security reasoning that “if [Democrats] had 60 votes to pass the bill out of the Senate, they probably wouldn’t be talking to me.”
Today, Schumer’s camp pushed back — hard, essentially calling Cornyn a liar. In a Talking Points Memo story, a source in Schumer’s camp said: “Cornyn’s characterization is false.”
Republicans have already begun conditioning their support of the bill on Cornyn’s amendment being part of it. So if Schumer’s not negotiating with the GOP flag bearer on a key Republican demand, it makes getting to 60 that much harder and almost certainly puts Schumer’s predicted 70-vote passage out of reach.
Unless, that is, Schumer gets another dance partner.
LEAHY INTRODUCES SAME-SEX SPOUSE AMENDMENT TO IMMIGRATION BILL
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy filed an amendment to the “Gang of Eight’s” comprehensive immigration-reform bill that would allow gay U.S. citizens to petition for permanent residency for their same-sex spouses. “Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do,” Leahy said in a statement. “I withheld my anti-discrimination amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup. As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on.”
HERITAGE USES TAX-EXEMPT DONATIONS TO BLAST RUBIO ON IMMIGRATION via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Heritage Foundation isn’t cool with Sen. Marco Rubio’s stand on immigration — particularly, what they consider to be his willingness to offer amnesty prior to border security. In response, Heritage is spending $100,000 for an online ad campaign intended to blast Rubio and stop immigration reform, and is doing so through their main 501(c)(3) which is funded using tax-exempt, anonymous donations. Were Heritage to have funded this ad campaign through its political action affiliate “Heritage Action for America” — whose donors don’t get a tax deduction — few eyebrows could be raised at the basis for their position or their means of expressing it. To writer Josh Barro of Business Insider, the Heritage ad reflects a failure of our current tax codes and the “ongoing debasement of think tanks”. He cites a piece by Tevi Troy for National Affairs explaining the trend in which groups that are supposed to be engaged in policy research are increasingly looking like “tax-advantaged vehicles for political activism.”
RIDICULOUS COLUMN OF THE DAY: “Marco Rubio is dead to me” via Selwyn Duke of American Thinker
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rubio will address the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. 1 p.m.
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CRIST TO RALLY DEMOCRATS IN SCOTT’S HOMETOWN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Crist’s next step in his effort to to connect with grass-roots Democrats will be on Saturday morning — in Gov. Rick Scott’s hometown of Naples.
Crist is the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Democratic Women’s Club of Collier County. The club’s web site describes Crist as “Very charismatic and exciting,” and Crist’s face is juxtaposed next to one of Scott with him saying in a cartoon-line balloon: “Why is everybody always pickin’ on me?”
The former Republican governor turned Independent Senate candidate turned Democrat will then head east on Alligator Alley and attend the Florida Democrats’ annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Hollywood on Saturday night.
MOUTHFUL OF A HEADLINE: “As He Pushes Charlie Crist, Dan Gelber Is A Malcolm Wilson Lookalike” via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News
RPOF’S LENNY CURRY: MAYBE I’LL RENT NAN RICH A ROOM via William March of the Tampa Tribune
Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry says he’s so concerned that Democratic candidate for governor Nan Rich should get her message out that he’ll check with his staff about renting a room where she can make a speech at a GOP meeting.
Curry has been using Rich as a cudgel to bash the state Democratic Party and its chairwoman, Allison Tant, who won’t provide Rich a speaking spot at this weekend’s state party Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner. Tant she doesn’t want to open the floor to candidates so the program won’t get too long.
… Curry brought the subject up in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. Asked why he’s so concerned about Rich, he said, “I’m perplexed … she is a respected liberal Democrat that has been a state senator.”
Does that mean he’d be willing to let Rich speak at a state Republican Party meeting?
“Our rules prohibit us from extending invitations to non-Republicans,” he demurred. “If my rules didn’t prohibit it, I’d be happy to.”
SCOTT TAKES ANOTHER JAB AT NELSON via Fresh Squeezed Politics
The Governor’s Office is continuing to make political hay over the federal sequestration’s effect on National Guard troops.
Gov. Rick Scott had asked Florida’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, to head off automatic budget cuts forcing National Guard troops onto furloughs. Scott said their reduced ranks could hurt the state’s hurricane response.
Both basically said, sorry, nothing we can do.
Scott’s office then chose to engage Nelson, still seen as a possible challenger to Scott’s re-election. On Wednesday, his staff released a letter to Nelson from state emergency management director Bryan Koon.
Among other things, Koon argues that “there’s a strong possibility that the federal government would not agree to pay Florida taxpayers for the additional two days guardsmen will have to activate in order to address the bottle neck of work resulting from furloughs.” He urges Nelson to get involved.
“It’s unfortunate that Senator Nelson refuses to take any action to fix the National Guard furloughs, which pose the same public safety risk as the FAA furloughs he asked the Obama Administration to stop a few weeks ago,” said Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers.
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BARBARA JENKINS AS NEXT LG?
Gov. Rick Scott’s short list for Florida’s next lieutenant governor includes a handful of impressive women, such as Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Dana Young, and one surprising name: registered Democrat and Orange County Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins. Sources shared Jenkins’ position on Scott’s pick list with the Orlando Sentinel, and Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette said he is aware of her interest in the job.
Despite differences in party registration, Scott and Jenkins have a lot in common, particularly through Scott’s efforts to boost teacher pay and public education funding. The two worked together on an education task force, and — according to the OS — “gush praise” for each other. In March, Scott invited Jenkins to attend his State of the State address in Tallahassee, in which he recognized Jenkins for her commitment to the teachers in her district and her dedication to student achievement. And in May, following Scott’s signing of the budget, Jenkins said, “Governor Rick Scott’s unwavering commitment to Florida teachers and students resulted in the states’ largest increase in education funding in recent history. His leadership is helping to move Florida’s education system in the right direction.”
GOV’S OFFICE DENIES THE SPECULATION
Melissa Sellers, Scott’s communications director: “Speculation about a new LG is just that. We are still reviewing the bills that came out of the legislative session and have not started the LG process.”
MY TAKE: WAIT A SEC, SCOTT HASN’T STARTED LOOKING YET FOR AN LG Full blog post here
I genuinely believe Scott can’t find anyone not named Doug Holder to be his LG. I don’t think Anitere Flores, Jack Latvala, John Thrasher or Dana Young really want the job because it would mostly entail serving as sauce for the goose next year when Scott has to run for re-election. I mean, would you really want to have to defend full-time the most unpopular governor in the country?
That’s why Scott has had to look for an unorthodox pick like Jenkins.
TWEET, TWEET: @asharock: Nothing says conservative Republican like picking a Democrat to be your running mate?
SCOTT SIGNS BILL GIVING RED-LIGHT RUNNERS MORE PUSHBACK via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
Scott signed into law Wednesday a measure that should give red-light cameras runners more incentive to challenge their tickets.
The legislation (HB 7125) requires counties, cities and towns with red-light cameras to designate a local hearing officer, similar to a code enforcement magistrate, by July 1 to review appeals.
The bill, part of a 226-page transportation package, also includes a provision that will make it more difficult for local governments to issue red-light tickets to drivers caught on camera taking a right on red.
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5 QUESTIONS FOR REP. MATT GAETZ here, including:
Q: Your Senate race looks as if it will be hard-fought. Why do you think you’ll win?
GAETZ: Well, three things are certain in Panhandle politics: The sun rises in the east, it sets in the west, and the most conservative candidate wins. I think that gives me a pretty good shot.
(Rep.) Jimmy Patronis is a good friend of mine; he’s just not a good conservative. And we’ll have the opportunity over the next three years to make our respective cases to the voters of Senate District 1, and I think I have the stronger record to run on.
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE FORMS KEEP TRIPPING UP POLS via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
The Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that five current and former legislators had failed to completely fill out their financial disclosures — but because they amended them since then, would face no further investigations.
The commission found that Sen. Maria Sachs failed to properly disclose a condo she owns, her legislative salary and her net worth on three years’ worth of state disclosure forms between 2008 and 2010. “However, because she filed amended disclosure forms, [the commission] will take no further action on the allegations unless Senator Sachs requests a hearing,” the ethics panel press release states.
The commission also found probable cause that Reps. Janet Adkins and Dennis Baxley and former Sens. Ronda Storms and Steve Wise filed “incomplete” disclosure forms, but will take no further action against them.
FLORIDA CHAMBER TO HOST GAETZ AND WEATHERFORD FOR ANNOUNCEMENT OF 2013 MOST VALUABLE LEGISLATOR
Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford will be featured speakers during the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s June Board of Directors meeting on Thursday in Pensacola, and will be on hand when the Florida Chamber announces and awards its 2013 Most Valuable Legislator. This is the business community’s premier legislative award honoring a single legislator for their outstanding legislative leadership on free enterprise issues. The meeting begins at 9 am at Gulf Power Auditorium in Pensacola.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Speaker Weatherford will hold a brief media availability with Representative-elect Mike Hill, who won the special election to replace the late Representative Clay Ford on Tuesday. 10:00 a.m. Lobby of Gulf Power Auditorium.
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EGLIN’S F-35 FIGHTER SQUADRON EXPANDS FLEET
Eglin Air Force Base has the largest fleet of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, with 25 aircraft in their Integrated Training Center, including two new Air Force F-35A variants. The expansion gives the 58th Fighter Squadron the ability to train more pilots and run more flights each day. So far, more than 30 pilots from Air Force, Marine and Navy teams have been trained on the F-35 at Elgin, utilizing full mission simulators and comprehensive curriculum. By the end of this year, about 72 pilots are slated to graduate F-35 transition pilot training — made possible by a growing fleet of well-maintained aircraft. By the time Eglin’s F-35 fleet grows to 35 aircraft, the base will graduate about 100 pilots and 2,100 maintainers yearly.
FLORIDA PROPERTIES STILL ‘LEAD’ THE NATION IN NEGATIVE EQUITY via contributor Karen Cyphers
In an analysis released today, approximately 850,000 more residential properties returned to a state of positive equity in the first quarter of 2013; however, about 20 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage are still in negative equity — with Nevada and Florida having the greatest ratio of properties still in the red. Nevada has about 45 percent of mortgaged properties in negative equity, followed by Florida at 38 percent. The top five states, also including Michigan, Arizona and Georgia, together account for one-third of negative equity in the United States.
“During the past year, 1.7 million borrowers have regained positive equity. We expect the pent-up supply that falling negative equity releases will moderate price gains in many of the fast-appreciating markets this spring.” said Dr. Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, who conducted the analysis. But maybe not so fast for Florida, home to many of the metro areas with the highest percent of negative equity properties. At the end of 2012, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area has the highest percent of underwater properties in the nation at 44 percent, followed by Miami-Kendall at 41 percent.
FLORIDA RANKS THIRD IN COUNTRY FOR HEALTH RECORDS PAYMENTS via contributor Karen Cyphers
Since 2011, the US government has been rewarding health care providers for the adoption of electronic health records, and according to data from the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, Florida health care providers have received the third highest amount paid to any state. To be eligible for these incentive payments, providers must demonstrate compliance with an ever-growing set of “meaningful use” criteria, such as being able to electronically order prescriptions or laboratory tests, collecting health information in a standard format, and tracking key clinical conditions. Reported in Wednesday’s Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida providers have received $977.6 million in incentive payments to date, second only to California and Texas. Approximately 19,900 payments have been made to Florida physicians with an average payment of $50,050.
To make the EHR compliance process feasible and efficient for physicians, the Florida Medical Association has focused attention on developing resources for health information technology (HIT). “The FMA has worked extensively to provide our 20,000 physician members with the information they need to build an EHR infrastructure into their practices,” said Timothy J. Stapleton, FMA EVP. “Our HIT Resource Center provides up to the minute information on issues like EHR incentives and health information exchanges. The more we can help physicians practice medicine, the more they can focus on their patients.”
LETTER OF THE DAY: INVESTING IN STUDENTS AND THE ECONOMY via Rebecca Waggett, an assistant professor of biology at The University of Tampa, in the Tampa Tribune
Dr. Rebecca Waggett writes, “As a faculty member at the University of Tampa, I have dedicated my life to advancing scientific knowledge for myself and my students. Having held the roles of both student and instructor, I have seen firsthand the difficulties presented to today’s educators in teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and sparking interest in the minds of their students. In our current state of technological advancement and economic growth, it is imperative that Florida produces graduates skilled in STEM areas to ensure that our state remains a leader in scientific and technologically-based industries…. Educators in the Tampa Bay area will have the opportunity to participate in the SM2 Summer Institute Series during the weeks of June 17-20 and June 24-27 at the University of Tampa’s main campus.. Working together, we can ensure this investment will pay off for our students and our state.”
STATE ADDED 17,440 PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS IN MAY
No summer slowdown here. Florida added 17,440 private sector jobs in May, second-highest in the country and nearly twice as many as the state had added in April, according to a report released Wednesday by payroll and employee benefits company ADP.
>>>Market analysts say Miami is king. High-priced vehicles make up a greater portion of overall new auto sales in Greater Miami than any other major market in the U.S.
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GLITCH IN NEW LAW TO ABOLISH CCES SETS UP A SUMMER DEADZONE FOR FUNDRAISERS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
Florida’s attempt to outlaw political slush funds has created a fundraising snafu that could inadvertently put political committees out of business for three months this summer…
The new law, which took effect May 1 (HB 569), prohibits Committees of Continuous Existence from accepting contributions after July 31, allows unlimited amounts of money in the defunct CCE to be transferred to a political committee, but it doesn’t allow political committees to accept contributions of more than $500 from any contributor until Nov. 1.
It’s the law of unintended consequences and it is giving political activists heartburn.
“Most of what happens between Aug. 1 and November is going to be dead time,’’ said John French, a Tallahassee lawyer and expert on elections law. “There’s a very Zen-like nature to this bill. It’s really unfortunate.”
GOP CROWD FORMING TO RUN FOR BAY COUNTY HOUSE SEAT via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News
In 2014, Rep. Jimmy Patronis will be term-limited, leaving his steadily Republican-leaning district representing parts of Bay County open. So far, three Republican candidates have filed to run for the seat while no Democrats have entered the race. Melissa Hagan filed to run back in February. Hagan has worked for more than a decade at Gulf Coast State College, eventually rising to her current post as director of development. She won the Mrs. Alaska United States and Mrs. Alaska America titles, placing in the top 10 in the Mrs. Florida America pageant and competing in the Mrs. America national pageant. Hagan has also been active in Republican politics, serving as Rick Scott’s Bay County chairwoman during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Also in the race is conservative Brian Rust who ran for Bay County Commission in 2012 and had already set up a webpage to run again for the same office in 2016. In the meantime, he has his eyes set on Tallahassee for 2014. A former broadcast journalist, Rust hosts a radio show in New York even though he has lived in Bay County for a number of years.
TOM LEE DRAWS AN OPPONENT IN SD 24 via the News Service of Florida
Lutz Democrat Scott Landry, Jr., filed paperwork this week as a first step toward challenging incumbent Republican Tom Lee in 2014 in Senate District 24, reports the News Service of Florida.
Lee, a former Senate president who returned to the Legislature last year after six years out of office, also has filed the paperwork that allows candidates to start raising money.
Lee collected $34,250 through March 31, the latest totals available.
District 24 includes parts of Hillsborough County.
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APPOINTED: Z. Floyd Crews, David Gensen and William C. McDaniel to the Collier County Housing Authority.
BOARD I WANT TO BE APPOINTED TO: Boating Advisory Council; Lester Ares, Todd Rebol, Christopher C. Shaffner, Dean Shuler, Kathleen Tripp, and April Price were appointed to it on Wednesday.
The weeks after the legislative session often see a flurry of personnel moves in the world of government and politics. Today, in a new, occasional series, we update you on who’s in the Departure Lounge.
First up is Kevin Derby. Loyal readers of Sunshine State News may have noticed this morning that Derby’s byline with the online media outlet is active again, meaning he’s no longer part of the communications and public affairs teamat the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber tells me Derby left the week after session, evidently to return to SSN. In August of 2012, Derby resigned his associate editor position with SSN to accept the Florida Chamber position. Well, you know what they say, you can take the reporter out of the newsroom, but you can’t take the newsroom out of the reporter (no, people don’t actually say that).
Next up in the Lounge is Pablo Diaz, who has left his position as Legislative Director with the National Federation of Independent Business/Florida. The former Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Party of Florida had joined the NFIB in January of 2012. Kristen Butler, a spokesperson for the NFIB says Diaz took a new job. No word yet on where he landed.
Reading through the latest lobbying registration forms, we noticed that do-gooder Ben Wilcox has withdrawn as a lobbyist for his own shop, The People’s Lobby Group, in addition to withdrawing as an advocate for The League of Women Voters of Florida.
If you know of any other politicos in the Departure Lounge, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Doug Bell, Pennington PA: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Al Cardenas, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Lockbay LLC
Tom Gallagher, Ralph Schwartz, Timothy Stanfield, Katherine Webb, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb: Computer Aid, Inc.
David Roberts, Akerman Senterfitt: International Game Technology
Lane Stephens, SCG Governmental Affairs: Florida Tarpon Anglers Association
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EMAIL I REGRET OPENING: “I’m writing because I’m a freelance TV blogger and I’ve been working on a project for Neil Patrick Harris’ birthday (which is coming up on June 15th). Since you’re NPH fans too, I thought you might be interested.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Senator David Simmons and one of Tallahassee’s best, Allison Carvajal.