Sunburn for 6/5 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

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OBAMA NOMINATES THREE TO D.C. CIRCUIT COURT, BLASTS SENATE ‘OBSTRUCTION.’ 

President Obama announced nominations Tuesday to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (four current Supreme Court justices have served there),The New York Times reports, setting the stage for a confrontation with the Senate over their confirmation. Obama named Georgetown law professor Cornelia T.L. Pillard, federal District Judge Robert Wilkins, and D.C. attorney Patricia Ann Millett and challenged lawmakers to cease their “partisan obstruction.” Sen. Chuck Grassleysaid of the news, “It’s hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this court given the many vacant emergency seats across the country, unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda.”

RUBIO: IMMIGRATION MEASURE DOES NOT HAVE 60 VOTES

Rubio., a member of the “Gang of Eight” behind the comprehensive immigration-reform measure pending in the Senate, said on Fox and Friends Tuesday that the bill lacks the requisite 60 votes to defeat a filibuster.

“There’s a few reasons for it, but one of the things we’ve learned over the last few weeks through the open process that happened through the committee process and all the public input that we’ve gotten is how little confidence people have that the federal government will enforce the law,” Rubio said.

RUBIO OFFERS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT INVALIDATING PART OF ‘OBAMACARE‘ via Talking Points Memo

The text of the “Right To Refuse” amendment, according to Rubio’s office: “Congress shall make no law that imposes a tax on a failure to purchase goods or services.”

“ObamaCare is a disastrous policy that is not only destructive to job creation, it will also unleash the corrupt and scandal-ridden IRS on taxpayers simply for not buying health insurance,” Rubio said in a statement.

He invoked the Internal Revenue Scandal two more times in his press release, timed as Congress was set to hold another hearing into its improper targeting of conservative groups.

“We should put our faith in the American people to decide what goods and services they want to buy, not have Congress dictate it and have the IRS empowered to harass Americans to make sure they do it,” he said. “Let’s do everything we can to keep the IRS out of our health care and stop future congresses from forcing private citizens to spend their hard-earned money on products or services Washington is forcing on them.”

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BRILLIANT INFOGRAPHIC ON 2012 ELECTION

Mitt Romney is planning a three-day gathering next week in Utah, the first step in a planned reemergence on the national scene, the former Massachusetts governor told the Wall Street Journal’s Neil King Jr. on Friday.

Until now, Romney had been virtually nonexistent following his convincing loss at the hands of President Obama last November.

But, was Romney’s loss that convincing? Check out the math in this cool infographic courtesy of the Smart Media Group.

DEMOCRATS NO LONGER RUNNING AWAY FROM OBAMACARE via POLITICO 

Scarred by years of Republican attacks over Obamacare, with more in store next year, Democrats have settled on an unlikely strategy for the 2014 midterms: Bring it on.

Party strategists believe that embracing the polarizing law — especially its more popular elements — is smarter politics than fleeing from it in the House elections. The new tack is a marked shift from 2010, when Republicans pointed to Obamacare as Exhibit A of Big Government run amok on their way to seizing the House from Democrats.

RAND DOES THE MATH, BUT THE LOGIC OF MEDICAID EXPANSION STILL STRAINS TO ADD UP by contributor Karen Cyphers

Reported in this morning’s Wall Street Journal Wonkbook, the Rand corporation did the math on what kind of deal 14 states are getting when they opt out of new Medicaid funds. In short, a terrible deal – at least in the short term: states rejecting expansion will spend more of their own funds to leave millions more of their residents uninsured. Specifically, according to Rand, these 14 states including Florida will collective get $8.4 billion less in federal funding, have to spend $1 billion extra in state dollars for uncompensated care, and still end up with 3.6 million fewer insured residents.  “That’s a lot of self-inflicted pain to make a political point,” wrote Wonkbook’s Exra Klein and Evan Soltas, who speculate that this point will backfire on conservatives by once again changing the electorate.

But being political doesn’t make a point invalid. The Obama administration is asking states to trust that they will uphold their end of the funding bargain during a time when public trust of federal bureaucracy is … right about where it deserves to be.   And when the possibility remains that federal health regulations will again shift, leaving states on the hook to fund greatly expanded programs.   And when there have been only massively disheartening reports of what Obamacare looks like early in practice: skyrocketing costs and dangerously low funding.  So, to put the Rand findings another way: States rejecting new Medicaid funds may be paying more in the short term to keep a mediocre status quo, but are doing so to prevent the train wreck of care that comes with full compliance. A viable alternative still waits to be found, where states draw down federal funds with fewer strings, and with a plan that will ultimately deliver the political blow back to Washington where it belongs… if and when the “bargain” isn’t all it was set out to be.

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EMAIL OF THE DAY: “#FreeNanRich Goes National” from the Florida GOP

FIVE REASONS CHARLIE CRIST WILL NOT RUN FOR GOVERNOR via Terrence McCoy of Broward Palm Beach New Times

Five reasons why Charlie Crist “despite everything you’ve heard until now — will not run for governor.” #5, Charlie Crist is all alone: “Though years have passed… and Crist has lured some high-profile supporters — like Barack Obama — they aren’t exactly the most loyal because Crist, himself, hasn’t been loyal.” #4, His sweet deal with Morgan & Morgan: “Crist has it pretty good right now. He’s has a nice place along the bay in St. Pete, he has a high-paying job that allows him to exercise his high quota of pouts and brow furrows. This job allows Charlie Crist to live out his own caricature. If he ran for governor, he’d give up all of that…” #3, All the divorce drama: “As I recall the phrase ‘piece of shit’ came up often in conversation. and if Crist decides to run, it will again and again.” #2, Who the fuck is Charlie Crist, anyway?: ” Though he dismisses the myriad flip-flops — on gay marriage, on taxation, on health care reform — as an evolution of thinking, they speak to a much broader issue in his politics. Voters aren’t stupid.” And #1, He won’t win: “Those [unemployment] numbers are hard, and though Crist is undeniably more likable than Rick Scott, his economic performance has been substantially better…”

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SCOTT SIGNS MORTGAGE BILL WHILE BONDI TAKES SWIPE AT CALIFORNIA via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Gov. Scott signed a bill Tuesday shifting more of Florida’s national mortgage-settlement dollars into programs targeting the homeless, low-income college students and foreclosure-clogged courts.

The bill is the product of a yearlong standoff between lawmakers and Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office over how to spend the dollars Florida was awarded as part of the national multibillion-dollar foreclosure settlement.

The Legislature passed SB 1852 last month to spend $200 million from the settlement, diverting $41 million to courts and legal aid, $20 million for Habitat for Humanity and $10 million to domestic-violence centers across the state. About $5 million of that is intended to help courts develop more electronic means for processing foreclosure cases.

Another $50 million would go toward the state’s apartment incentive loan program with half going toward seniors. An apartment construction program would get another $10 million. And the state’s largest housing program, the State Housing Initiative Program that sends dollars to local governments, would land $40 million.

Lawmakers also diverted $9.1 million through the Take Stock in Children program to pay for dorms for low-income students taking part in the prepaid-college program.

… Bondi said Florida was making a wiser use of its cash than other states, singling out California where Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown used that state’s settlement dollars to go toward its budget shortfall.

“Jerry Brown took that money and put it right in to help California with their budget deficit,” Bondi said at the bill signing ceremony.

SCOTT STEPS INTO IMMIGRATION DEBATE WITH VETO via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Scott vetoed legislation that would have allowed children of undocumented immigrants to get Florida drivers’ licenses, a move likely to rattle the governor’s support within the state’s Hispanic community while bolstering his backing from conservative groups.

The measure (HB 235) had sailed easily through a Republican-controlled Legislature, which in previous years had opposed similar steps toward embracing children of those in the country illegally.

The House approved the bill this spring 115-2; the Senate 36-0, a sign to many that Florida Republicans were looking to distance themselves from the hardline themes of the 2012 elections.

Scott, however, said the bill’s reliance on a newly adopted policy of the Obama administration was alarming.

TWEET, TWEET: @FlaDems Just how bipartisan was the #dreamers bill @FLGovScott vetoed? Over 90% of legislators voted for it.

SCOTT TO SIGN ‘INFANTS BORN ALIVE’ BILL via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

Scott heads to the farthest reaches of the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday to sign a bill aimed at protecting newborns after attempted abortions.

Scott will sign the measure (HB 1129) at Florida Baptist Children’s Home in Cantonment, about 10 miles north of Pensacola on the Florida-Alabama border.

The bill entitles infants born alive after an attempted abortion “to the same rights, powers and privileges as any other child born alive in the course of natural birth.” It also requires health care practitioners to immediately take such children to a hospital.

SCOTT WON’T SAY IF HE SUPPORTS $52 MILLION DEAL FOR DONOR via the Buzz

Scott is not willing to say whether he supports the unprecedented deal or not. The recipient of the special deal, Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance, gave Scott’s reelection campaign $110,000 in March as it was negotiating the deal. Scott’s office said the governor did not influence state-run Citizens Property Insurance to act on behalf of his political contributor, but his spokespeople have also avoided saying whether Scott supports the deal itself. 

Here’s an excerpt from a press conference,  in which Scott avoids answering a reporter’s question about whether he supports the deal. 

VIA STROLLERS AND A RED WAGON, 11,000 PETITIONS ARRIVE AT SCOTT’S OFFICE via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Pushing a pair of strollers and pulling a red wagon, Central Florida women delivered 11,000 petition signatures Tuesday to Gov. Scott, calling on him to veto legislation that would block local governments from adopting mandatory sick time benefits for workers in the community.

Organize Now, MomsRising.org and the National Council of La Raza collected the petition names delivered Tuesday. The groups are fighting HB 655, sought by Walt Disney World, Darden Restaurants and state business associations, which would stop governments from requiring companies to provide sick time to employees.

Working women say the measure affects them most, since they are frequently forced to take time off to care for sick children or other family members. The measure hasn’t been sent to Scott yet by legislative leaders. The governor hasn’t said what he thinks of the proposal.

“There are plenty of existing laws that are different, city-by-city, county-by-county…and large corporations are able to deal with that every day with no problem,” said Stephanie Porta, with Organize Now. “We think the patchwork quilt argument is one that is made up to argue against this.”

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JUDGE DENIES INJUNCTION SOUGHT BY SENIOR ARCADES via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

U.S. District Judge James Cohn issued a 19-page order that denied a preliminary injunction sought by Boardwalk Brothers, Inc., and Play It Again FLA, LLC, which contended that the law was unconstitutional. In part, the arcades contended the law was vague and arbitrary and denied First Amendment rights of seniors who gather at the amusement arcades.

Cohn rejected those arguments and said the state had legitimate reasons for passing the law, which came after raids at Internet cafes that critics long contended were illegal gambling operations. While the law was aimed at Internet cafes, its restrictions also affected games offered at senior arcades — causing many to close.

“(The) state has a significant interest in proscribing the behavior regulated in the statute,” Cohn wrote. “Plaintiffs have failed to articulate any interest they have which overrides the state’s substantial interest in regulating gambling.”

The arcades filed the lawsuit in Broward County circuit court in April, about a week after Gov. Rick Scott signed the changes (HB 155) into law. The case was later moved to federal court, with the arcades taking issue with parts of the law that, for example, sought to bar “casino-style games in which the outcome is determined by factors unpredictable by the player or games in which the player may not control the outcome of the game through skill.”

REJECTING MEDICAID EXPANSION TO COST FLORIDA $66 MILLION TOWARD MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) issued a national report showing Medicaid is the most important source of funding for mental health services. The report, Medicaid Expansion and Mental Health Care, revealed up to 30 percent of currently uninsured adults who would receive health care coverage through state Medicaid expansions are individuals living with mental illness. The Florida legislature’s rejection of Medicaid expansion forces Florida to lose a total of $66 million in federal Medicaid funds over the next ten years and relinquishes the opportunity to save $1.2 million in uncompensated care costs.   Coverage would have allowed more than 244,000 Floridians with mental illness to access community mental health services, including identification of mental health problems. During the 2013 legislative session, the Senate proposed to use federal Medicaid dollars, made available under the Affordable Care Act, to expand the popular Florida Healthy Kids program.  The Florida Healthy Kids program would have offered vouchers to uninsured adults to purchase private health insurance, but the legislature passed a budget without the funding for Medicaid expansion.   

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DELNQUENT PROPERTY TAXES ADD TO ROUSON’S FINANCIAL WOES via the Tampa Bay Times

Once again, money is becoming a serious problem for State Rep. Darryl Rouson.

When it comes to his finances, Rouson has weathered more than a few storms. Over the years, he had to deal with family loans, a 2002 bankruptcy, owing more than $360,000 to the IRS, a well-documented struggle with addiction to crack and even a brief stint of homelessness.

Now, the Tampa Bay Times reports Rouson has three years of unpaid property taxes on a Tallahassee condominium he bought in 2010.

To add to Rouson’s financial woes, last month the representative from St. Petersburg left his high-paying job as an attorney for the Tampa-based mega law firm Morgan & Morgan. Founder John Morgan blames Rouson’s political career for the split with an organization that paid Rouson $565,000 annually. Morgan said Rouson needed to focus on politics.

Three years of back taxes “was an oversight,” Rouson told reporters from the Times, insisting, “Nobody’s trying to get over on somebody.”

Florida lawmakers are required to report any assets and liabilities annually that exceed $1,000. Neither the condominium nor the mortgage was on Rouson’s 2010 financial disclosure statement. The condo was on a 2011 financial disclosure, but not the mortgage.

The penalty for nondisclosure could include anything from a reprimand to removal from office. However, it is more common for violators to pay civil fines up to $10,000.

HOUSE DEMS CONSIDERING ‘CHRIS DOWRWORTH RULE’ AMID RUMORS THEY ARE TRYING TO OUST ROUSON via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

 

Rep. Jim Waldman is leading a committee of five House Democrats looking to rewrite party rules. The proposals will be discussed by caucus leaders during a Thursday conference call. Any formal rule change would be voted on by all 44 caucus members during a June 15 meeting at the party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Fort Lauderdale.

The Democrat’s rules change would clarify that the top House Democrat could call a meeting to vote on the next leader if that post becomes vacant.

Waldman said a vacancy can include a designated leader losing an election, leaving office, or simply deciding they no longer want to be leader.

… Waldman says he has “heard rumors” about a new leadership vote, but says they are “overblown.”

Minority Leader Perry Thurston downplayed the idea of a new leadership vote, but said any potential rules changes is on the table.

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IN RE-ELECTION BID, WILTON SIMPSON TAKING NO CHANCES 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.

REP. ED HOOPER COMMISSION CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISER SET FOR JUNE 24

19 friends and supporters of Rep. Ed Hooper invite you to a fundraiser in his honor as he initiates his race for Pinellas County Commission, District 2.  Join Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Sen. Jack Latvala, Council Members Doreen DiPolito and Jay Polglaze, and many others on Monday, June 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Island Way Grill in Clearwater.

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APPOINTED: Carl Causey as Interim Sheriff of Liberty County.

ACT FORMS FOR TAX REFORM via POLITICO Influence

A new tax coalition made up of more than two dozen Fortune 200 companies launched Tuesday. The Alliance for Competitive Taxation formed to advocate for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform. Members include Bank of America, Coca-Cola Company, Dell, FedEx Corporation, General Electric, JPMorgan Chase, Nike, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Verizon Communications, Wal-Mart and many others.

O’KEEFFE INKS FIRST TWO LOBBYING CLIENTS

James O’Keeffe’s new firm O’Keeffe Strategies has landed the Ford Motor Company and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers as clients. Both organizations are lobbying on transportation-related issues. O’Keeffe is a longtime veteran of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, where he most recently served as deputy chief of staff and senior economist. He’s also done stints at the Congressional Budget Office and the Budget Committee – working on transportation policies in both cases. He formed O’Keeffe Strategies in April to focus on transportation issues for clients.

PARTISANS CHEAP TALK TIL PAID TO STATE FACTS via contributor Karen Cyphers 

Next up in the poli sci files: partisans can’t agree on basic facts…. unless they are paid.  Researchers have demonstrated for years that peoples’ reporting of facts differs widely based on political affiliation. The classic example is that in 1988, Democrats were significantly less likely than Republicans to correctly answer whether inflation or unemployment went down under Reagan. Then, in the 90s, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to incorrectly state that WMDs were found in Iraq — particularly if they had just read an article expressing the contrary. The original understanding of these fact/knowledge gaps was that liberals and conservatives each focus exclusively on their own media sources and simply don’t accept facts that differ from their beliefs. Then another explanation emerged, suggesting that while partisans may know facts, they choose to say otherwise as a way of expressing their opinion about larger policy measures or partisan loyalty. In the words of Wall Street Journal’s Dylan Matthews, “Partisans aren’t closed off from reality, by this theory. They’re just lying.”

So a team of political scientists set out to test the partisan-lairs theory through two experiments in which they offered monetary reward for correct answers to factual questions.  When no rewards were offered, there was a huge partisan gap in accuracy. But when money was on the line the gap shrank by 55 percent. And when rewards were also offered for “don’t know” replies, the partisan gap narrowed by 80 percent.  The conclusion: small payments for correct and “don’t know” responses significantly reduce the gap between partisans when answering factual questions.  The authors conclude that false answers are mostly just cheap talk, not ignorance of facts, and are used to “signal a party affiliation.” In other words, Republicans and Democrats don’t really perceive different realities. They just talk like they do.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Kevin Cleary and Rep. Seth McKeel.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.