A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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SUPREME COURT PUNTS ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
The Supreme Court has sent a Texas case on race-based college admissions back to a lower court for another look.
The court’s 7-1 decision Monday leaves unsettled many of the basic questions about the continued use of race as a factor in college admissions. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, says a federal appeals court needs to subject the University of Texas admission plan to the highest level of judicial scrutiny.
Decisions on marriage equality cases and the Voting Rights Act were not announced but could come later this week.
IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL ON ITS WAY TO 70 VOTES IN SENATE
Immigration reform has gotten a new burst of life as a growing number of Senate Republicans have embraced the 1,000-page-plus legislation, setting up President Obama for a big victory this week, The Hill reports.
The sudden surge in Republican support has been a pleasant surprise for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who urged the bill’s authors to focus on winning 60 votes — the minimum for passing it. Instead, Sens. Charles Schumer and John McCain, the leaders of the Gang of Eight, are marching toward 70 votes, a target intended to put maximum pressure on the House to act.
Of course, as National Journal suggests, the bill will likely die when it hits the House.
WHY IMMIGRATION REFORM WON’T PASS THIS YEAR via the National Journal
Nothing less than a miracle will get major immigration legislation through Congress this year, National Journal‘s Fawn Johnson writes. It’s not the Senate’s fault, not this time. But the House is slogging along on a piece-by-piece approach that does nothing but stretch out the debate until all that’s left are wisps of ideas on work visas, local police enforcement, and electronic verification of workers. Indeed, the House might not kill the bill outright, but the GOP players are passing the ball around until the clock runs out.
OBAMA CLIMATE SPEECH TODAY via Darren Goode with Alex Guillen of POLITICO
The President’s big rollout on climate change is unlikely to offer much solace for one large, vocal segment of his green base: the throngs of activists who have spent more than two years urging him to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. … Keystone has been conspicuously absent from the public and private previews of Obama’s Tuesday afternoon speech at Georgetown University – which will be closed to the public, limiting opportunities for hecklers.
… Despite speculation that Obama could use his climate push to blunt the outrage of his subsequent Keystone decision, the pipeline’s harshest opponents say they’re not interested in any such trade-offs.
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Marco Rubio will address the American Society of News Editors. 12:00 p.m. Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C.
RUBIO FEATURED IN PRO-IMMIGRATION AD FROM U.S. CHAMBER
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a new ad buy in support of immigration reform on Monday, featuring “conservative leaders” talking about the issue and calling for an end to “de facto amnesty.”
The ad buy comes as immigration reform enters a crucial week, with final votes expected toward the end of the week.
The spot features “Gang of Eight” member Sen. Marco Rubio talking about the need for reform, along with brief clips of Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Rand Paul.
Check out the ad here.
RUBIO LESS POPULAR AMONG REPUBLICANS IN NATIONAL POLL via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News
A Rasmussen Reports poll released on Monday finds 58 pecent of Republicans across the nation have a favorable view of Rubio — down from 68 percent in a Rasmussen poll from May. Rubio is seen as unfavorable by 16 percent of Republicans while 25 percent are undecided.
STORY I’M NOT WRITING ABOUT: “Rubio weighs in on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West naming their new baby “North”
***Did the State of Florida really rubber-stamp phony horse racing just after it outlawed Internet Cafes? Just days after receiving threatening letters from Gretna Racing LLC ownership—the very same lawyers who had litigated on their behalf—the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering authorized that facility this month to open yet again for gambling on “flag drops”—a contrived event that runs afoul of American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) regulations. “If everyone makes up their own rules as they go along, Florida loses the economic impact of a massive job-producing industry,” the AQHA’s Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association explained. Last year, former Division Director Milton Champion testified under oath that he felt the licensing of barrel racing as a pari-mutuel event was “a joke” and “an embarrassment” to the State of Florida. Champion was dismissed from his position in 2011 shortly after he refused to license “pari-mutuel barrel racing” at Gretna—an activity that was ultimately deemed to be illegal in a May 6, 2013 court ruling.***
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BEVY OF GOP NAMES BOUNCING AROUND AS POTENTIAL DISTRICT 18 CONTENDERS via Jonathan Mattise of the TCPalm
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy isn’t halfway through his freshman stint on Capitol Hill, and a bevy of Republicans already think they are better suited to do his job. Nine names are bouncing around as potential contenders for the Jupiter Democrat’s District 18 seat, though the August 2014 primary is more than a year away. This is who might run for one of the most sought-after seats in the nation:
Former Florida Rep. Carl Domino said he’s “highly likely” to get back into the mix. Calvin Turnquest said “it’s no longer if, but it’s when” he will join the race and Beverly Hires said she just needs to open her campaign account. Former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner can raise the millions this race will demand, but he lives outside the district, which isn’t technically required but could open him to criticism. Since Murphy moved from Broward County to Jupiter to run in District 18, some Republican operatives think he can’t call out Hasner for being an outsider. State Rep. Gayle Harrell has represented parts of St. Lucie and Martin in Tallahassee for 13 years and is on the fence. St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery, who also could be in the mix, hasn’t committed to running yet either. Alan Schlesinger has plenty of political experience from his time in Connecticut, but he’s not as well known on the Treasure Coast. He lost against independent Joe Lieberman for U.S. Senate in Connecticut. Hobe Sound home health care businessman Gary Uber rounds out the prospective challengers.
Two major Republican figures — state Sen. Joe Negron and St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Ken Pruitt — have said they’re not getting in the mix.
CONSERVATIVE DONORS – AND THEIR CHECKBOOKS — STILL SORE FROM 2012 ELECTION LOSS
“Seven months after the 2012 election, a lingering hangover among conservative donors has stalled efforts by right-leaning independent groups to fill their coffers,”The Washington Post reports. Donor fatigue is making fundraising more challenging for conservative operatives, but the phenomenon is not limited to just the political right: Organizing for Action, launched by former Obama advisers, has halved a $50 million goal for its first year, the paper reports.
POLL: BROAD SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC FINANCING
Half of Americans would support government-funded federal campaigns, a new poll finds. According to a new Gallup poll, 50 percent of Americans say they would support a law banning campaign contributions from individuals and groups, which would instead have government fund federal campaigns; 44 percent said they would oppose such an initiative. Americans also overwhelmingly support limiting congressional campaign contributions, the poll found: Seventy-nine percent said they would support such limits; 19 percent said they would not.
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FLORIDA CHAMBER POLL: MORE FLORIDIANS THINK FLORIDA IS HEADED IN RIGHT DIRECTION
More Floridians are feeling confident that Florida is headed in the right direction and are giving credit to Governor Rick Scott, according to a new poll released today by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.The poll conducted for the Florida Chamber, finds that 45 percent of likely Florida voters believe the state is headed in the right direction, an increase from a similar poll taken earlier this year which found that 36 percent of likely voters thought Florida was on the right track. Governor Scott’s job approval rating has risen to 54 percent, up from 47 in March, and Floridians credit Governor Scott by nearly two-to-one (42 percent to 23 percent) over President Barack Obama for the state’s improved right track direction.
Also in this poll: Floridians overwhelmingly feel that trial lawyers benefit more from a lawsuit than the injured party (63% trial lawyers, 6% injured party, and 23% equally). Even more certain are sentiments that trial lawyers are more concerned about making money (79%) than protecting the rights of people (9%), or both (5%).
TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: Chamber poll that has Scott up higher than Q poll also contends 1/3 polled believe the # of lawsuits filed in Fla is a “serious problem.”
SUGAR ADDS TO ‘LET’S GET TO WORK’ WHILE SCOTT OVERSEAS via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida
While Gov. Rick Scott was in Paris last week, his re-election team pulled in nearly $700,000, with a large part of the harvest coming from U.S. Sugar Corp.
The “Let’s Get to Work” political committee posted $695,447 in contributions from 91 sources during the time Scott was highlighting the state to foreign aviation interests as part of Enterprise Florida’s June 14 to June 21 trade mission to the Paris Air Show.
… $127,750 came from health-care interests, and $308,798 from individuals and groups tied to real estate, development, banking, consulting and legal interests.
The Florida Realtors PAC dropped $75,000 into the campaign coffers, FCCI Services of Sarasota was good for $50,000, and St. Petersburg designer Ronald Wanek, Arcadia consultants KT Brightwaters LLC, the Campaign Account of Carlton Fields, Palm Beach developer Howard Leach and St. Petersburg developer Mel Sembler each gave $25,000.
U.S. Sugar, one of the major agricultural businesses in the Everglades Agricultural Area, planted $100,000 into the account.
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APPOINTED: Gov. Scott announced the reappointments of Marla Glover and Susan Mullican to the Governor’s Mansion Commission.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will sign SB 1410, Fire Safety and Prevention. The Governor will also be available to the media following the bill signing in his office. 11:30 a.m. Capitol.
SCOTT ASKS FULL COURT TO TAKE DRUG TESTING CASE via the News Service of Florida
Gov. Scott has asked the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider the constitutionality of his controversial plan to require drug testing for state workers.
The Scott administration last week filed a motion seeking a hearing before the full court, a move that came about three weeks after a three-judge panel issued a ruling that indicated the state likely could not do across-the-board testing of employees. The three-judge panel, however, said the state might be able to justify testing for some workers, such as those who carry weapons or operate heavy machinery. It also said the case should go back to U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, with the state having to show a need for drug testing by job category.
But in the motion filed last week, the Scott administration argued that the three-judge panel’s ruling did not follow previous court decisions. “If a job applicant objects to drug testing, he or she is free to decline the job offer and no search occurs,” the motion said. “If an employee objects to testing, he or she is free to find other employment and no search occurs. But when the affected parties willingly consent to the drug test, the test is not an unreasonable search.”
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DEUTSCHE BANK TO ADD 300 JOBS IN JACKSONVILLE
Deutsche Bank on Monday formally announced plans to add 300 jobs over the next three years in Jacksonville. The expansion plans — by the Germany-based bank that already employs more than 1,300 in northeast Florida — could be eligible for up to $2.1 million in state and local incentives. In April, Jacksonville officials approved $360,000 from a targeted industries grant program and $140,000 in property taxes breaks for Deutsche Bank. In return, the company proposed spending $10 million to renovate and expand the space its leases in Meridian Park.
The city incentives were to be linked with up to $1.4 million from the state’s Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program, according to The Florida Times-Union. A spokesman for Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private job development agency, responded Monday that details of the project remain confidential. Gov. Rick Scott, asked while appearing Monday afternoon on Fox News if Florida did anything to entice Deutsche Bank’s decision making, said “no” and then turned to Florida’s lack of an income tax, efforts to reduce business taxes and the education of the state’s workforce. The new employment numbers by Deutsche Bank could have been higher. The Jacksonville Business Journal reported Monday that Deutsche Bank is adding 431 high-paying jobs to its Cary, N.C., operation, having selected the Research Triangle area over northeast Florida because of the recruiting potential.
FLORIDA RANKS 38TH IN NATION FOR CHILD WELL-BEING ACCORDING TO NEW REPORT via contributor Karen Cyphers
Florida ranks 38th in the nation for overall child well-being according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, considering a spectrum of markers such as low-birthweight babies, child and teen deaths, high school graduation rates, and child poverty. The study, titled the Kids County Data Book, derived a composite index for overall well-being on four factors: economic, education, health, and family and community.
HOW LIZBETH BENACQUSTIO IS SPENDING HER SUMMERVACATION Full blog post here
To Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, being away from family is the most difficult part of session. But for the second-term State Senator, the rest of the process seems to come unusually naturally: she took on challenging, important issues this year and worked for the successful passage of each one of them.
To Benacquisto, her greatest legislative accomplishment was passing the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act which helps cancer patients receive access to life saving oral medications — but she is quick to share credit, acknowledging that the measure went through with the “help of a lot of good friends and colleagues”, and sharing that her biggest surprise of session was the ability of the Freshman class of the Senate to “hit the ground running and handle very complex legislation.”
Benacquisto won’t be spending much time away from her office this summer — even planning to reach out to constituents using “tele-town halls” and a “mobile office” day in July, with the goal to have substantive policy conversations with her district to bring their voices back up to Tallahassee when she returns for committee weeks in September.
“Some of the time will be spent meeting with the folks of District 30 so that I continue to learn about the priorities and concerns of the people that I have the honor of representing, ” Benacquisto writes, “and some of the time will be spent making sure that the resources are there to help return my good friends to the Florida Senate next year.”
Indeed, campaigns are no stranger to Benacquisto. Due to redistricting, this is her third Senate campaign in just four years.
Also on her calendar, though, is spending time with her family and son before he leaves for college at Washington and Lee this fall; as well as finishing the book “Panama Fever” by Matthew Parker, about the building of the Panama Canal.
When Benacquisto returns for the 2014 session, expect her to once again be a champion of her — and leadership — priorities, such as improving the small business climate and improving our education system for Florida’s students.
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BLUE CROSS TO TAKE THE FIELD… MAYBE THE WHOLE FIELD Full post here via contributor Karen Cyphers
Blue Cross and Blue Shield is hoping to capture the lion’s share of new health plan enrollees through state and federal exchanges under Obamacare, and will succeed at least in part due to the growing reluctance of other major insurers to jump in. According to a Friday report by Kaiser Health News, chiefs of the country’s largest and third largest insurers, UnitedHealth Group and Aetna, declined to participate in a closed White House meeting in April where President Obama discussed exchange implementation with health plan CEOs.
Insurers fear that sick clients will sign up first, bringing disproportionately high claims in the early years — a fear that is justified based on costs that dramatically exceeded expectations within the temporary “high risk pools” established under Obamacare to cover the chronically ill until 2014. Health plan reluctance is also due to concerns over technology, according to insurance consultant Robert Laszewski, as well as the fear that Democrats will blame insurers if the government-run exchanges suffer technical failure or run into other problems. To Laszewski, this hesitance is sudden, and contrary to what everybody — including the companies — assumed would be active participation in a lot of exchanges.
Enter Blue Cross, the loose federation of nonprofit and for-profit health plans, who already cover the most members of any plan in a large majority of states. To protect this turf and to capture as many healthy customers as possible, the Blues are getting aggressive. Not only will they offer plans in nearly all state exchanges, but they are taking on the role of advocate and cheerleader for exchanges themselves, working within communities to spread marketing and awareness materials to prospective clients.
DOLPHINS OWNER STAYS ON TANTRUM ROAD, CREATES PAC via contributor Karen Cyphers
On May 5, Marc Caputo penned an autopsy on the failed Miami Dolphins stadium bill and owner Stephen Ross’ foibles and tantrums, and included a line that became all the more relevant today: “If Ross wants another shot, he needs to apologize to Weatherford and the House.”
But apologize Ross won’t.
Instead, he’s putting cash behind his derisions, creating a political action committee to aid Rick Scott’s reelection and “go after incumbents” throughout Florida with a “nonpartisan” focus on primaries around the state (subtext: Weatherford). Ross foreshadowed this when he sent out a threatening statement suggesting that the decision to can stadium upgrade subsidies would “follow Speaker Weatherford for years to come” and laid down that he would be looking to play “an important role in fixing the dysfunction in Tallahassee…” This didn’t faze Weatherford — at least when he spoke with Caputo; nor did it do anything but install greater contempt among his Miami allies such as Sen. Anitere Flories, who responded: “Well, there are other billionaires.” Well said.
FLORIDA ASSOC. OF COUNTIES ANNUAL CONFERENCE KICKS-OFF
The Florida Association of Counties holds its 2013 annual conference and educational exposition in Tampa. There will be a pre-conference workshop Tuesday on growth management featuring presenter Gene Boles, senior fellow and project coordinator for the Center for Building Better Communities at the University of Florida.
On Wednesday, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad will be the luncheon speaker.
The conference will be held at the Marriott Tampa Waterside. The agenda and registration form can be found here.