A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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OBAMACARE: 99 DAYS TO GO, 99 TASKS AND COUNTING via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is 99 days away from implementation, and according to the Washington Post, there are 99 things that must happen between today and that time — among them, #49, the federal government must launch a exchange in Florida. Yet surprisingly few Americans are aware of the current status of the health care law.
As of mid-April, only 59 percent of Americans surveyed knew that Obamacare is the law of the land and is being implemented; while 12 percent believed it had been repealed by Congress, and 7 percent believed it was overturned by the Supreme Court. That said, as already discussed on Saint Petersblog, just 35 percent of Americans view Obamacare favorably, and 43 percent unfavorably — the most negative view on the law since October 2011. See full post for summary of the 99 tasks.
OBAMA OUTLINES NEW PLAN TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE…
Obama announced a wide-ranging plan to protect the nation from the effects of climate change and lead the international community on climate talks.
Speaking to a crowd at Georgetown University, Obama urged immediate action to protect the young and future generations, saying “the decisions we make now will have a profound impact on the world you inherit.” Obama’s plan aims to launch “the first-ever regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by new and existing power plants” and “will boost renewable energy production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards, and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures.”
…WON’T APPROVE KEYSTONE UNLESS IT PASSES NEW TEST
Obama told hundreds of climate change advocates on Tuesday that he will not approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline if it “significantly exacerbated the problem of carbon pollution,” a move that’s expected to excite environmental activists.
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MARCO RUBIO TO MAKE DECISION ON PRESIDENTIAL RUN IN LATE 2014
Rubio says he faces a decision next year: Does he run for another Senate term? Run for president in 2016? Or take a pass on both?
That’s what the Florida Republican said Tuesday in response to a question about his presidential prospects at the American Society of News Editors conference in Washington.
“I know you’re not going to believe me when I tell you this, I really don’t think about that right now,” Rubio said when asked about his 2016 plans. “I’ll make that decision at that time based on a lot of different factors.”
His timetable calls for a decision “at some point late in 2014.”
Rubio continued: “Anytime you start thinking about what you’re going to run for next, it begins to influence how you behave, the decisions you make, the issues you take on, the stances that you adopt.”
… LAUNCHES FLIPBOARD, VINE APPS …
Rubio became the first senator to launch his official Flipboard account. Flipboard is a mobile app which allows people to easily discover and share content on issues they care about. Rubio also recently launched his Vine, a mobile app for sharing short, looping videos.
These accounts offer new ways for constituents to stay informed and engaged with what Rubio is doing in Washington and around Florida. Through Rubio’s new Flipboard account, constituents can read about some of his favorite topics and stay updated on the immigration debate and efforts to grow our economy and expand opportunity. You can also check out Rubio’s first Vine, a behind the scenes look at an interview he was doing with FOX News.
“I am excited about the new additions to our social media portfolio. Staying engaged and hearing feedback from my constituents is important to me,” said Rubio. “Whether it is my weekly mailbox videos where I answer letters and emails from constituents or reading suggestions to improve the immigration bill on our website, it reminds me – and my staff – of what is most important to folks in Florida. My office is always looking for new ways to engage with our constituents, and Flipboard and Vine provide Floridians with even more ways to stay connected to our office.”
… SAYS IMMIGRATION WORK NOT ABOUT POLITICS
“I haven’t really done this for the political purpose,” Rubio told the ASNE. “I have never ever said to anyone — and I will not say here today — that if we pass this bill, suddenly Republicans are going to get 55 percent of the Hispanic vote across the country. I do think we if deal with this issue it will allow us to talk about other issues.”
As more immigrants get involved in business, he said, they will be drawn to GOP messages about free enterprise and less government. “A lot of people who are trying to start businesses out of the spare bedroom of their home are Americans of Hispanic descent. So I think we have a good opportunity to speak to people about that.
“I would not look to how people feel today politically and say that’s how they’re going to feel 10 or 15 years from now. America changes immigrants. And people will change, especially once they begin to become fully enveloped in the American economic experience.”
***In a strongly-worded news release issued June 24, 2013, “No Casinos,” a prominent anti-gambling advocacy group, noted that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has essentially “thumbed its nose” at the judge who issued a recent court ruling that phony horse racing is illegal in Florida. Just days after the court ruling that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” and any such contrived events are afoul of Florida law, the Division issued yet another such license to Gretna Racing, LLC, after its ownership—the very same attorneys who had represented the Division in the case—had sent threatening letters to Florida regulators. “The Division is siding with those who want to cleverly skirt the laws – rather than enforcing the full letter and spirit of those laws,” said No Casinos President John Sowinski. “It is time for Secretary Lawson to step in and cancel these licenses before this leads to another un-checked proliferation of gambling like we saw for too long with Internet Cafés.”***
U.S. SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN PART OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT
A divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act that applies to five Florida counties, saying that the formula Congress created to single out so-called “covered jurisdictions” is antiquated. reports the News Service of Florida.
That formula, based on data from the 1960s and 1970s, is used to decide which parts of the country must submit almost any changes in voting laws or practices to the federal government for approval. “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 5-4 majority, which included the more-conservative members of the high court.
But in a dissent joined by the more-liberal members of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the section of the law struck down was crafted specifically to make sure that discriminatory voting laws never returned to areas of the country that had used them to bar minorities from participating in elections. “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” she wrote. Supporters of the law seized on the ruling’s suggestion that Congress might be able to rewrite the formula determining covered jurisdictions to make it constitutional.
“The ball is now in Congress’s court to act as quickly as possible to ensure the federal government has the tools it needs to protect the vote in places — like Florida — that have worked so hard to frustrate the fundamental right of their citizens to vote,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said the ruling would make it easier for Florida to change its voting laws. “It will streamline the changes made in the elections process and reduce costs,” he said.
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF FLORIDA RESPONDS TO SUPREME COURT DECISION ON VOTING RIGHTS ACT
“It should be disturbing to every Florida voter that the Supreme Court seems not to have noticed what happened in Florida over the last two years, where we have battled the legislature’s partisan manipulation of our voting rights,” said Deirdre Macnab, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Today’s decision undermines 40 years of fundamental protections against discriminatory voting laws and the League urges Congress to act quickly to restore the Voting Rights Act.”
TWEET, TWEET: @JaredHalpern: The Voting Rights Act was renewed in 2006 by a 390-33 vote in the House and a 98-0 vote in the Senate.
SCOTUS TO ANNOUNCE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE RULINGS TODAY
Chief Justice Roberts announced that the Supreme Court will hand down its remaining decisions on Wednesday. Those still on the docket include Hollingsworth v. Perry, which deals with California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, and United States v. Windsor, which addresses the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly would like to thank the Members of the Florida Legislature and Governor Scott for another great Legislative Session. So far this year PA clients have received over $1 billion of new appropriation funds as well as state and local government contracts. Now they begin preparing for the next Legislative Session by traveling the state, from Pensacola to Key West, coordinating grassroots programs with their clients and Members of the Legislature as well as local governments. For over 20 years, the P A Team has successfully helped their clients through the legislative, state and local government process by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and grassroots programs. They “Cover Florida like the Sun”.***
5 QUESTIONS FOR LENNY CURRY here, including:
Q: Paula Dockery asked it: Are you afraid of Charlie Crist?
CURRY: No fear. We have a record to run on. Our record is one of: Since Rick Scott’s been governor, over 300,000 jobs created — the second-largest drop in unemployment in the state of Florida. There’s no reason to be afraid of anyone.
Particularly there’s no reason to be afraid of someone that on his watch lost about 800,000 jobs, that incurred about $5 billion in debt, and oh by the way, in 2010, when things got hot and we started to feel the heat of the economy, he decided he was going to bail out and try to move himself to Washington, D.C. So, no fear.
Q: The Florida Democratic Party has a long history of ineffectiveness and infighting. Do you see that changing under Allison Tant?
CURRY: No. (Laughs.) We just saw recently, with their annual dinner that they hosted a week or so ago, much infighting there.
One, we had state Rep. Jim Waldman tried to put forth rules that would penalize members of the Democratic Party that don’t vote in line 100 percent with leadership. That’s not very unified. And then they have one — the Democratic Party has one declared gubernatorial candidate for next year, a former state senator, and that’s Nan Rich, who is representative of the Democratic Party. She’s a progressive, she’s a liberal, and she’s proud of it. And they wouldn’t even give her five minutes to speak at their dinner.
RICK SCOTT STANDS SECURE WITH FLORIDA REPUBLICANS via Jeff Henderson of Sunshine State News
Despite grumblings from the right and threats of a primary challenge, Gov. Rick Scott is currently in good shape with Florida Republicans. Unlike most politicians in Florida, Scott did not spend years moving up the ranks and building a base with his party. Most Republican leaders supported then-Attorney General Bill McCollum over Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. After an ugly fight with heavy mudslinging on both sides, Scott beat McCollum 46 percent to 43 percent. Things were so bad that McCollum refused to endorse Scott in November. One of the more underreported stories in Florida politics since the 2010 election has been how Scott has made inroads with the Republican faithful since the fight against McCollum. Take the Quinnipiac poll that came out last week.
Scott did much better in it among Republicans than he did in a poll from Quinnipiac in December. In the December poll, 63 percent of Republicans approved of Scott. In the new poll, 72 percent of Republicans say they approve of the governor. Only 55 percent of Republicans viewed Scott as favorable in the December poll, but that number went up to 74 percent in the poll released last week. Back in December, 55 percent of Republicans thought Scott deserved a second term and 53 percent even said the governor should face a primary. Last week, 63 percent of Republicans said Scott should get a second term. As Scott heads into the next election, he has plenty of work to do and challenges to overcome. But Scott should be able to keep Republicans behind him, freeing him to battle Democrats for the independent vote in 2014.
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GRANDPA VS. JUNIOR: LAWSUITS START ROLLING AS SENIOR ARCADES FIGHT TO REOPEN
“If grandma and grandpa can’t gamble, neither should junior,” begins a column by Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post, detailing the seemingly inconsistent targeting or enforcement of new laws that strictly regulate senior arcades and outlaw games of chance, but allow operations such as Chuck E. Cheese to continue, business as usual. The Florida Arcade and Bingo Association is hoping that it can get corporate giants such as Dave & Busters, Disney, or Chuck E. Cheese to join them in efforts to overturn or redefine the measure, but sees a series of lawsuits as the only way to get there.
“We think when they come to the realization that the law does apply to them, they’ll be screaming bloody murder,” said Michael Wolf, attorney for the FABA, who filed suit against Boomers, a family entertainment company that has locations in Boca and Ft. Lauderdale. Lawsuits against other such companies will follow, he said. Under the new law, seniors playing games of chance cannot win anything worth more than 75 cents; yet similar games at entertainment arcades — such as pushing coins off of a ledge, which involves no skill — can result in some pretty serious reward: iPhones or an Xbox, for example. By slapping arcade giants with lawsuits that could feasibly result in forced compliance with a measure that was rushed into law, senior arcade proponents hope they will make new allies. What do you bet this tactic will work?
FLORIDIANS’ CONFIDENCE IN ECONOMY BUILDS, UF SURVEY FINDS
Florida’s consumer confidence keeps inching higher, rising one point from May to 82 this month — another post-recession high, according to a University of Florida survey. June is the fourth consecutive month to show a rise in the sentiment of Floridians.
Four of the five components measured in the survey went up, and one remained the same. Respondents’ overall opinion that they are better off financially now than a year ago rose three points to 70, while their belief that their personal finances will improve a year from now remained at 82. Their outlook for U.S. economic conditions over the coming year rose two points to 83. The survey-takers’ long-term view for the nation’s economic health over the next five years rose one point to 83. Finally, the survey shows that consensus of whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item such as a television went up two points to a post-recession high of 93. The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2; the highest is 150. Details of the June survey can be found at here.
MAJOR SHAREHOLDER SEEKS TO REPLACE HMA BOARD via The News Service of Florida
An investment fund that owns 14.6 percent of Health Management Associates’ common stock has launched an effort to replace the board of directors of the Naples-based hospital chain, reports the News Service of Florida.
In a lengthy letter to other shareholders Tuesday, Glenview Capital Management proposed replacing the HMA board with eight independent directors that it dubbed the “Fresh Alternative.” Glenview Capital Management also said HMA has “fallen short in their financial returns delivered to shareholders, their financial management and focus, our shared aspirational goals on regulatory compliance and the pursuit of a stable and effective leadership team.” HMA released a statement saying it had engaged Morgan Stanley to “assist with its ongoing consideration of strategic alternatives and opportunities available to HMA” and said its board would respond to Glenview Capital Management’s proposal in “due course.”
The investment fund’s move comes after a turbulent period for HMA, which operates hospitals in 15 states, with Florida its largest market. Among other things, the CBS show “60 Minutes” broadcast a story that focused on allegations HMA had pressured former employees and physicians to admit emergency-room patients to bring in more revenues.
Last month, Gary Newsome, the president and chief executive officer of HMA, announced he would retire to take a position with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
NEW FLORIDA SUPREME COURT CLERK HAS “TECHNOLOGICAL EXPERTISE”, ENJOYS CONDIMENTS
The Tampa Tribune describes the newest Florida Supreme Court clerk as “an attorney with technological expertise” who has defended death row inmates—and likes mayonnaise and pita chips.
Monday, Chief Justice Ricky Polston announced John A. Tomasino would succeed retiring Thomas D. Hall. Tomasino begins Nov. 1 as the state highest court’s clerk.
Tomasino, 45, is currently executive director for the Tallahassee-area Public Defender’s Office, supervising daily operations. As Supreme Court clerk, he will be “responsible for maintaining all case files and tracking the progress of all cases through the Supreme Court.”
According to the press release, Tomasino earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida in 1994 and a law degree from Florida State University in 1997. As for the pita chips, Tomasino began a food-related blog in 2011, but only went as far as posting a few photos of coffee, wine and condiments.
‘WORST CASE’ SURCHARGE STATEMENT, RATE HIKES ADVANCING AT CITIZENS via the News Service of Florida
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. policyholders will have to acknowledge a “worst case” liability when signing up or renewing policies under a legislative measure reluctantly accepted by Citizens board members Tuesday. Members of the Citizens board’s Actuarial and Underwriting Committee advanced the statement without change during a meeting at Miami Dade College.
The full Citizens board meets today, when the policy statement will be up for final approval along with new rates for policyholders that on average could be 6.9 percent or 8.8 percent higher.
The legislatively approved liability statement reads, “I understand that I can avoid the Citizens policyholder surcharge, which could be as high as 45 percent of my premium, by obtaining coverage from a private market insurer and that to be eligible for coverage by Citizens, I must first try to obtain private market coverage before applying for or renewing coverage with Citizens.”
Citizens Chairman Carlos Lacasa called the post-storm surcharge possibility a “remote,” “worst case” scenario. Others board members said the phrasing could be seen as a “scare tactic.” Meanwhile, the proposed rate changes would vary for policyholders depending on coverage and location. A 6.9 percent increase would create a $178 million increase in premiums. An 8.8 percent increase translates into $226 million more in premiums.
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5 QUESTIONS FOR REP. MIKE HILL here, including:
Q: As a black conservative, you’ll be in demand for leadership in the House — are you interested?
HILL: I do not know why simply because I am black and a conservative that I should be considered for leadership. I want to be considered for any position based solely on the content of my character, my commitment to conservative principles, and because I have the courage to not waver from providing good public policy in the face of special interests who might demand otherwise. If I am a leader among my fellow members, it should be because I have the character to stand firm on my values.
AFP-FL LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD ISSUES HIGH MARKS TO BRANDES, RODRIGUES AND OTHERS via contributor Karen Cyphers
Americans for Prosperity’s Florida chapter (APF-FL) released their 2013 Economic Freedom Scorecard, examining more than 3,000 votes from the 2013 legislative session on twenty different economic freedom issues. As many legislators received A+ scores as failing scores on the range of bills regarding lower taxes, government transparency and accountability, decreased regulatory burdens, school choice, and eliminating cronyism.
In addition to tallying votes, the AFP-FL gave additional “credits” to those who sponsored priority bills, using the same methodology to penalize bill sponsors of policies they oppose. Through this, State Sen. Jeff Brandes earned a 104% for his final AFP grade, including five points of credit for his bill sponsorships. This was the most credit granted to any legislator in either chamber. In the House, Ray Wesley Rodrigues earned two credits for bill sponsorship, ending session with the highest grade of 114%. Jeff Clemens was ranked lowest in the Senate with a 37%; and Mark Pafford in the House with 24%. In total, 53 legislators scored an A+, nine received As, 23 Bs, 12 Cs, 8 Ds, and 54 Fs.
HOW REP. JAMIE GRANT IS SPENDING HIS SUMMER VACATION Full blog post here
State Rep. Jamie Grant saw Medicaid expansion as the most significant choice the Legislature faced in 2013, and was proud of his work toward proposing an alternative plan that would protect Floridians from the federal governments takeover of the state’s budget. But it wasn’t easy.
“It is a highly emotional issue and a decision that will impact our state for a long time to come and the easy way out would have been easy to accept “free” money from the federal government,” Grant writes. “But taking the comfortable route would have done nothing to provide the best care possible for those who need it. We can do better than risking our state’s financial security on the federal government’s promise of free money.”
The 31-year-old attorney is tireless; and has great things to say about his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. After Sine Die, Grant returned home, caught up with his family, and got back to work — meeting with constituents and in his startup.
“I love being a part of a startup and look forward to the day that the Tampa Bay startup community develops from being emergent into a thriving startup community where innovation and disruption never stops. But the work never stops,” Grant writes.
When (or if) the Bay Area legislator stops working for a few, he’ll break away to see Iron Man 3, Gatsby, or White House Down; will take an annual family vacation in Carrolwood where his extended family convenes for a week; and hopes to get back to South Dakota for a few days of pheasant hunting and inshore fishing.
When committee weeks roll around again in September, Grant will be back to the Capitol, working on the open government initiative that he filed with Jeff Brandes last year — a measure that will remain his priority until it is passed.
***Applications are now being accepted for the 2013 Central Florida Political Leadership Institute. National political and public policy experts will lead the two and a half day program being held at the Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in Winter Park, October 24-26, 2013. If you live within the 7-county central Florida region and interested in learning more about what it takes to run an issues-based campaign for local, state or federal office, please apply for the 25-member class by August 9. Contact PLI Director Christina Johnson for more information.***
INGOGLIA WINS RAULERSON ENDORSEMENT, TRUMPED ONLY BY A BIGGER ANNOUNCEMENT
State Rep. Dan Raulerson has endorsed Blaise Ingoglia for State House District 35, becoming the sixth member of the Florida Legislature to do so. Raulerson joins State Senators Wilton Simpson and John Legg, and State Representatives Dennis Baxley, Marti Coley and Jimmie Smith in public support of Ingoglia’s campaign. Calling Raulerson a “fiscal hawk”, Ingoglia expressed his appreciation for the freshman representative’s support. Locally, Ingoglia has been endorsed by Hernando County Commission Chairman Dave Russell, Commissioners Nick Nicholson and Wayne Dukes, and School Board Member John Sweeney. But add one more name — the most important one — to the list of Ingoglia supporters: Julie Farrar. The two became engaged this weekend.
MAJOR FUNDRAISER FOR WILTON SIMPSON IN TAMPA TODAY via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times
It’s more than 17 months away, but if anyone wants to suit up for a political suicide mission, they would do fine to run against Sen. Wilton Simpson.
The rookie lawmaker, who was first elected in November, appears to be accumulating quite a war chest.
Through March, he’s raised $74,650 — despite no sign of opposition. On June 26, he plans to throw a fundraiser between 6 and 7:30 p.m. at the Oxford Exchange at 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa with a list of supporters that is essentially a catalog of the Republican power structure in Tallahassee.
Speaker Will Weatherford. Senate President Don Gaetz. Attorney General Pam Bondi. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner. Majority Leader Sen.Lizbeth Benacquisto. Senator Bill Galvano. Senator Jack Latvala. Senator Tom Lee. Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron. Senator John Thrasher. (What, no Sen. John Legg???)
“We’re hoping to get a good crowd,” said Simpson, 46, who also ran unopposed in 2012. He had a busy first session, sponsoring high-profile bills like an Everglades cleanup bill, which passed (and might be why Robert Coker of U.S. Sugar is on the host committee), and a pension reform bill, which didn’t.
NO TRUTH TO RUMOR FASANO WON’T RUN FOR RE-ELECTION IN 2014
The rumor du jour in Pasco County is that Representative Mike Fasano — not exactly the most staunch Republican in the House caucus — is building a new house out of his current district so that he can run for the County Commission in 2014, presumably for Pat Mulieri’s seat.
I asked Rep. Fasano if there was any truth to the rumor and he quickly knocked it down.
“Yes, I am building a home in Land O’ Lakes,” said Rep. Fasano. “However, I have no plans to move in to the home any time soon.”
Continued Fasano, “As a resident of Pasco County for almost 43 years I felt I needed to continue to own property in Pasco and continue to pay property taxes. As you know I had to move out of the home I owned where my mom and I lived in for many years so I could continue to serve in the Florida Legislature. And, as you know my mom passed away over 2 years ago and I did sell the home in December of last year. I am now renting a town house in West Pasco and very happy where I live and the elected office I hold.”
And what about Fasano not running for re-election in 2014?
“Right now, I look forward to serving in the Florida Legislature when my very good friend, Richard Corcoran will be Speaker of the Florida House.”
SHAWN HARRISON MEET-AND-GREET TONIGHT
Shawn Harrison, former State Representative and candidate for State House District 63, invites you to join him at the Hunters Green Country Club tonight for a campaign meet and greet. The event will last from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., during which Harrison will talk with friends about the upcoming campaign over food and drinks, and will thank his volunteers who came together last November in his support.
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APPOINTED: John Browning and Senator Jim Sebesta to the Florida Transportation Commission; Martin Garcia to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Bill Peebles, John Wayne Smith: Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the FMA”s Eric Carr and Republican strategist Ann Herberger