Sunburn for 6/6 — 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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IS OBAMA’S CHARM OFFENSIVE OVER? via Roll Call

President Obama “has pivoted back to playing hardball with Republicans after a spring spent attempting to woo Senate Republicans over collegial dinners and White House visits.”

With GOP lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol bringing him heat over a variety of administration missteps and scandals, the president seems to have made a calculated decision to go on offense on judges, on student loans and with fresh veto threats on appropriations bills.

SCANDALS PROMPT DOUBTS ABOUT OBAMA’S HONESTY

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds recent controversies surrounding the IRS and other government agencies “have sown doubts about the honesty of the Obama administration, but most people don’t hold the president personally responsible for the agency actions.”

“A majority of poll respondents, some 55%, said IRS scrutiny of conservative groups raised some level of doubt about the administration’s ‘overall honesty and integrity’… Moreover, a plurality of 43% in the poll said IRS scrutiny of conservative groups was part of a widespread effort by those in government, compared with 29% who saw it as a case of a few officials acting on their own.”

A new Bloomberg poll finds 47% of Americans say they don’t believe Obama on the IRS controversy, compared with 40% who say he is being truthful.

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ON IMMIGRATION REFORM, RUBIO IS NOT THE ISSUE via Matt Yglesias

The core issue remains what it’s long been—do House Republicans want to allow a comprehensive immigration reform bill to pass or don’t they?

This is a slightly separate question from whether they want to vote for such a bill. Obviously some House Republicans have to vote for an immigration bill for it to pass. But not all that many. What does have to happen for an immigration bill to pass is that it has to come to the floor of the House of Representatives. And that’s at the discretion of John Boehner, who is answerable first and foremost to his caucus. If his caucus has the sense that letting a bill go through is in its interest, then a bill has a fighting chance. If his caucus doesn’t, then a bill doesn’t.

And to be honest, it’s a bit hard to see why the caucus would.

RUBIO: OBAMACARE TAX PENALTY UNCONSTITUTIONAL 

Senator Rubio tells Newsmax TV that he proposed a constitutional amendment on Tuesday to negate Obamacare’s individual mandate because “we want to make it abundantly clear that it is unconstitutional.” 

“The Supreme Court ruled that under Obamacare, the individual mandate that basically says if you don’t buy health insurance, you’re going to be punished with a tax or a fine — they argued that it was legal,” the Florida Republican said. 

“That Congress could pass a law that basically makes you buy something by punishing you through a tax, that while they can’t force you to buy insurance, they can force you to pay a tax for not buying insurance.” 

In upholding Obamacare last year, the nation’s highest court ruled that the individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase health insurance starting in 2014 regardless of their ability, was constitutional under the government’s taxing authority.

HERALD EDITORIAL: ‘PROSECUTORS MUST NOT DILLY-DALLY’ IN INVESTIGATION OF JOE GARCIA BALLOT SCANDAL

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia says he’s angry — and was clueless — that his chief of staff was involved in a cockamamie absentee-ballot scheme during last year’s Democratic Party primary in Congressional District 26, which stretches from the Florida Keys north to Kendall.

His chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia (no relation to the congressman) has resigned, and a Miami-Dade state attorney’s office investigation continues. Prosecutors should pursue the truth purposefully and with due diligence. No dilly-dallying.

Voters whose choice in 2012 was between two political enemies — Mr. Garcia, the former head of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican who has his own troubles with campaign and tax laws — deserve to know exactly what went down in this race and to hold their elected representative accountable if it is found he played a role in this scheme. 

TAXPAYERS GROUP SAYS DENNIS ROSS WAS BIGGEST TAX-CUTTER IN CONGRESS via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Each year the NTUF ranks all members of Congress based on how much they would have saved or cost taxpayers when bills they sponsored or co-sponsored are analyzed.

If every bill he sponsored or co-sponsored was passed, the NTUF said Ross would have saved taxpayers over $608 billion. That was $10 billion more saved than the second highest finisher, Rep. Doug Lamborn.

The second biggest saver in Florida was U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican who represents all of Charlotte, and parts of Manatee, Hillsborough and Polk counties. Rooney would have saved $344 billion, according to the NTUF calculations. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan was 15th on the list from Florida.

Ross, who represents parts of Polk and Hillsborough counties, proposed 34 bills that would have increased federal spending, but had 57 bills that would have cut spending.

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GOP ADDS ALEX SINK TO TARGET LIST via William March of the Tampa Tribune

In a news release, the party suggests that Sink, as state chief financial officer from 2007 through 2010, was responsible for the effects of the national economic crash on Florida—along with Crist, who was then a Republican and governor.

The news release refers to Crist and Sink as “the captain and his first mate,” even though at the time, with Crist then a Republican, the two were political opponents and clashed several times over state budget issues.

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FLORIDA DEMS CONTINUE TO BRING HEAT ON SCOTT OVER DRIVER’S LICENSE VETO via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Several Orlando-area House and Senate Democrats gathered outside the county courthouse to blast the Republican governor for what they see as a backward step on immigration.

“This bill would have helped the diverse communities of Central Florida,” said Sen. Geraldine Thompson. “The governor missed an opportunity to embrace the Floridians of today.”

Sen. Darren Soto also said that Scott’s action was in sharp contrast to the approach of the Obama administration with its support for the so-called Dream Act aimed at creating an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented residents.

“The Dream Act driver’s license bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support,” Soto said, of the measure approved 115-2 in the House and 36-0 in the Senate. “It passed because we as a legislature understand these young Floridians receiving deferred action require a driver’s license to pursue the American Dream.

… Scott is likely to draw strongest support for his action from conservative groups already wary of federal efforts to ease sanctions against illegal immigrants. The 2012 elections, marked by the Republican Party’s struggle to attract minority voters, seemed to soften the GOP-ruled Legislature’s stance on the issue.

FOLLOW ON THE TWITTERS: @SHepworth — Susan Hepworth, the press secretary at the Republican Party of Florida

SCOTT SIGNS ROUSON’S ‘BONG BAN’ INTO LAW via the News Service of Florida

Stores selling certain hardware typically used for smoking marijuana have until July 1 to unload those items, reports the News Service of Florida.

Among about a dozen bills signed Wednesday by Gov. Scott was the “bong ban” bill (HB 49), which prohibits the sale of metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic smoking pipes, chillums or bongs. The bill allowed pipes to continue to be sold that are primarily made of briar, meerschaum, clay or corn cob, which are typically used to smoke tobacco. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, has said the bill wouldn’t eradicate pot smoking, but “we’re going to stop making it convenient.”

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JUVENILE BAIL CASE GOES TO SUPREME COURT

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case about whether a juvenile charged with attempted murder should have been entitled to pre-trial bail. The case stems from the 2010 Broward County arrest of Wayne Treacy, who was 15 at the time.

MAP OPPONENTS PUSH FORWARD ON LEGAL CHALLENGE via the News Service of Florida

Attorneys for critics of the state’s congressional redistricting process are pushing forward on two fronts, appealing a ruling that would shield lawmakers from talking about the drawing of the maps and asking a judge for additional penalties on a consulting firm that has already been found in contempt in the case.

In one filing dated Monday, those arguing that the maps run afoul of the state’s anti-gerrymandering redistricting standards asked for the Florida Supreme Court to take up the issue of whether lawmakers can be forced to testify in the case. A divided three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in May that the lawmakers are protected by legislative immunity.

Meanwhile, the groups also asked Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to impose fines on political consultant Pat Bainter and his Gainesville-based firm, Data Targeting, for failing to be more specific about which documents they are claiming are privileged based on other grounds, including whether the documents contain trade secrets. The motion, which points out that the so-called “non-parties” have already been found in contempt, also asks Lewis to waive all of the objections to giving up documents. “It has become readily apparent that the Non-Parties do not take this Court or its rulings seriously,” it says.

NEGRON WANTS ANOTHER $30 MILLION FOR EVERGLADES RESTORATION via Jonathan Mattise of the TC Palm

Budget chief Sen. Joe Negron said Wednesday he wants another $30 million for Everglades restoration in Florida’s 2014-15 budget, adding to the $70 million for the River of Grass in next year’s spending plan.

“Let’s go to $100 million, what do you think?” Negron said during a forum at The Press Journal.

At the same event on the Indian River Lagoon, Sen. Thad Altman promised to push for Florida Forever, the state’s land-buying preservation program, to reach its full funding level for the first time since 2008.

The program regularly received $300 million until 2009. Next year’s budget has $20 million with the ability to tap another $50 million from potential state land transfers. That amount was an improvement.

“That provides the revenue source to acquire those lands,” Altman said. “Most of the water that affects the lagoon comes off the land.”

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DOCKERY FOR MAYOR? via Bill Rufty of the Ledger 

Although she was in elective office for 16 years until last November, some political and business leaders in Lakeland apparently would like to see former state Sen. Paula Dockery  back in a campaign this year … for mayor of Lakeland .

While Mayor Gow Fields and his challenger City Commissioner Howard Wiggs slug it out for the Nov. 5 city election and argue over high attorney fees to keep a grand jury presentment from being made public, some especially in the Republican Party have said they’d like Dockery to consider joining the race.

When asked about all the talk, Dockery confirmed she has been asked to run for mayor, but said she is not going to run.

“I hope she changes her mind,”  a former Republican club official said.

LOOKS LIKE REP. EDDY GONZALEZ DOESN’T LIVE IN HIS DISTRICT via Political Cortadito

Once again, some lucky constituents have two, not one, elected fighting their battles in Tallahassee — while some unlucky schmucks have none.

State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, senior member and chair of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation, is still living in his old home, which was drawn into his colleague buddy’s district, even though Gonzalez was elected in a new number to which he said he was moving.

After redistricting last year put his home in another incumbent’s district, Gonzalez, who is termed out in 2014, “volunteered” to move out of his home at 7625 W 14th Ct. — where he represented District 102 in West Hialeah for the last six years — and into a relative’s East Hialeah house in District 111.

Well, he sorta had to volunteer — either that or run against his ally and campaign cigar supplier, State Rep. Jose “Cigar Czar” Oliva, after his property was included in the newly-redrawn District 110, which would have been uncomfortable, especially seeing as how everyone is pushing to make Oliva a future House Speaker.

PLAKON CAMPAIGN KICKOFF THURSDAY IN LONGWOOD

Scott Plakon invites you to his Campaign Kickoff on Thursday, June 6th. The gathering is sponsored by John and Valli Ritenour at the Alaqua Country Club from 6 – 8 pm, and has a Host Committee of 67 — a substantial showing of support for the once- and hopeful State Representative. Among Plakon’s hosts are colleagues Dean Cannon, Carey Baker, Chris Dorworth, Eric Eisnaugle, David Simmons, Bryan Nelson, Adam Hasner, Kurt Kelly, and many others. “Since I was first elected in 2008, I have worked hard to effectively represent our community and to be a consistent, strong voice for conservative values in the Florida House of Representatives,” writes Plakon. “But I need your help.” The Clubhouse is located at 2091 Alaqua Drive in Longwood. You can RSVP via facebook at www.facebook.com/scottplakon

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DALE BRILL LAUNCHES THINKSPOT via the News Service of Florida

Dale Brill, Michelle Dennard, Stephanie Gibbons, and Nancy Leikauf have launched Thinkspot Inc., an economic-development consulting firm. Brill formerly served as president of the Florida Chamber Foundation and as director of the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. Dennard and Gibbons most recently held positions in the state Department of Economic Opportunity, while Leikauf is a former executive vice president of the Florida Ports Council.

JASON ALTMIRE: FROM VOTING ‘NO’ ON OBAMACARE TO MAKING IT WORK

In 2010, then-US Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania voted against Obamacare despite intense pressure from his party to support it.  Today, Altmire is the senior vice president of public policy, government and community affairs for Florida Blue — a Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurer — whose job involves assisting folks in implementing the law.  Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico describes Altmire’s transformation as one where he is committed to seeing the law succeed for the benefit of those who gain coverage, despite the fact that he could not support final passage of the legislation as he felt it would fail to reduce costs. Today, Altmire’s job is to explain to people how these exchanges work and encourage them to enroll — actions that are backed heavily by insurers such as Florida Blue which stand to benefit from the mandate for individual coverage and rely on exchanges as the mechanism through which enrollment happens.  If only sick individuals utilize exchanges, insurers will “be stuck” with the most expensive patients.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Charlie Dudley, Patrick Maloy, Robert Reyes, Floridian Partners: Bentley Bay Retail, LLC

Cynthia Henderson: Crowne Consulting Group, Inc.

Charles Shaffer: Credit Suisse Asset Management, LLC

Derek Whitis: Bok Tower Gardens, The Nissen Group, Southeast Trophy Deer Association

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84-YEAR-OLD ZEPHYRHILLS WOMAN CLAIMS POWERBALL JACKPOT

An 84-year-old Zephyrhills woman on Wednesday claimed last month’s $590.5 million Powerball jackpot. Gloria C. Mackenzie, who arrived at the Florida Lottery’s Tallahassee office earlier in the day with her son Scott Mackenzie, a trusted family friend and legal and financial advisors, opted for the one-time lump sum payout of $370 million. The payout total is prior to taxes. The ticket was purchased at a Zephyrhills Publix.

DOES YOUR NAME REFLECT YOUR MOTHER’S POLITICS? via contributor Karen Cyphers

Ok, so if your friend names her newborn Reagan or Barack, you may not need to do much assuming about her political orientation.  But according to researchers at the University of Chicago, baby names do signal partisanship, even when the parents are not aware of it when making the choice.  They analyzed the names of all California babies born in 2004, accounting for the mother’s race and education, and — based on zip code — the partisan bias of the mother’s neighborhood.  They wanted to know if mothers living in red, blue or purple neighborhoods were systematically different from each other in how they named their child. They found that partisan differences in baby naming were most notable among better educated whites. 

The first difference they found was that educated whites living in more liberal neighborhoods chose “softer sounds” when naming both boys and girls — think Julian for a boy or Malia for a girl.  They were also more likely to choose esoteric or uncommon names, whereas conservatives are more likely to select more traditional names.  Esoteric names, they authors note, do not include phonemes of known names, such as “Jazzmyne for Jasmine”. Oliver argues that liberals — consciously or not — “signal cultural tastes and erudition when picking their child’s name”.  I guess the next matter to tackle is…. Does the popular elephant nursery decor end up on Republican registries more often?  These are the important questions of our day. 

GETTING LEGAL ON BLOGGERS AND JOURNALISTS 

Are bloggers journalists?  Or more to the point — what does it matter if there’s agreement on the answer?  In light this summer’s Federal Scandal No. 3, involving the US Justice Department improperly accessing the phone records of AP and Fox reporters, it might. This question has mattered before, in states such as Oregon, where one ‘investigative blogger’ was sued and not granted the same protections as print journalists. In that case, blogger Crystal Cox was told by US District Judge Marco Hernandez that in order to “qualify for basic First Amendment protections like state shield laws, freelance journalists have to meet a rather stiff set of criteria.”  These criteria may often be inapplicable, but it was with that thinking that Cox got handed a $2.5 million verdict.

The First Amendment applies to everyone but media shield laws are particularly important for journalists when it comes to the protection of sources. Wednesday,  US Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed reporters, asking whether bloggers should be a consideration as he drafts a bipartisan federal media shield law.  The Department of Justice hasn’t updated its guidelines about how it investigates reporters since the 1970s or ’80s, Graham said, in a Free Times report.  Forbes contributor David Coursey wrote regarding the Cox/blogging case, “This is an example of where journalism and pornography are both hard to define, but I know them when I see them.” And with that, to quote Jonah Goldberg, “Hello Mr. Holder!”

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the aforementioned Paula Dockery.

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.