A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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WHITE HOUSE DELAYS OBAMACARE EMPLOYER MANDATE
The Obama administration “will not penalize businesses that do not provide health insurance in 2014.
The Wall Street Journal notes the move “doesn’t involve the penalties that some individuals may pay starting in the 2014 tax year if they choose to go without health insurance.”
LET THE ALLEN WEST 2016 SPECULATION COMMENCE via Dave Royse of the News Service of Florida
There’s nothing new about discussions that former Republican Congressman Allen West might run for president. There’s already a lightly-visited Facebook page calling for the move, and West seemed to stoke the discussion during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show last month.
And now, you can add the always buzz-generating visit to an early primary state to the mix, according to WMUR in New Hampshire.
West will keynote the Nashua Republican Committee’s annual “Steak Out,” one of the major fundraising events in state politics. …
The event is sure to gain national attention not only because of West’s reputation, but also because it could be the beginning of a presidential campaign.
Of course, there are other reasons for politicians to visit the site of the nation’s first presidential primary. But when you throw in the speculation that West could have national ambitions, it’s hard to overlook the possibility that the trip could represent a hint to his thinking. And it’s almost certainly going to be seen as a hint to West’s hopeful fans.
SMART-READ: WHAT IF HILLARY DOESN’T RUN? via POLITICO
Democrats openly describe their surprise at seeing such consensus around a candidate so early. The hope of retaining the White House in an open-seat election is very real — and the letdown that will set in among Democratic activists and operatives will be very deep if Clinton takes a pass on a campaign, as she may well do.
She has said she has yet to make up her mind, but few in the party believe that. The Clintons’ ambition and the chance to make history as the first female president, they figure, will overpower any reticence about another grueling campaign or spending her golden years carrying the burdens of the world’s weightiest job.
But if they’re wrong, there is no obvious replacement. And the party would be looking at a mad scramble to fill the Clinton void.
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COLUMN: RUBIO’S PROBLEMS DON’T END WITH IMMIGRATION via Joe Henderson of the Tampa Tribune
Florida’s ambitious junior U.S. senator has some fences to mend – and I don’t mean the kind that are electrified and 10-feet high.
The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and other supporters form(ed) a human chain at Rubio’s office in Palm Beach Gardens (Tuesday) morning to protest his support for Social Security cuts to reduce the federal deficit.
Similar chain-ins are scheduled in 40 other cities around the country, but few states are as affected by this issue as Florida.
“We want him to understand that Social Security doesn’t have a darn thing to do with the deficit and seniors shouldn’t have to pay for it,” FLARA President Tony Fransetta said. “Two wars and runaway spending caused the deficit. These cuts would cause havoc with Social Security.”
HOW THE BILL IS PLAYING FOR RUBIO: Washington Post, “How Marco Rubio won on immigration – Marco Rubio made a giant gamble by going all-in on the immigration debate in the Senate. And he won — big time”… New York Times, “GOP groups offering cover for lawmakers on immigration – many of the most powerful and well-financed forces in the party are moving to provide cover for the Florida senator”… Daily Caller, “Oh, go ahead, destroy Marco Rubio – Rubio’s whole mission for the Gang of 8 was to anaesthetize the Right with charm and concern”… Town Hall, “Rubio’s immigration strategy worked brilliantly, but disappointed many – Rubio was the man Republicans hid behind.”
IMMIGRATION BILL COULD MEAN BILLIONS FOR FEDERAL CONTRACTORS. If Congress passes the sweeping immigration-reform bill passed last week by the Senate, it could lead to billions of dollars in additional federal contracts for some defense and tech companies, The Hill reports. Among the government purchases included in the legislation are four new drone aircraft and 15 Blackhawk helicopters, as well as surveillance systems and night-vision goggles. The bulk of the spending is part of the $38 billion border-security amendment added to the Senate bill in an effort to boost Republican support.
MOVEMENT TO ABANDON IMMIG. REFORM GROWS via Benjy Sarlin
If the 2012 election was a wakeup call for Republicans to address their relationship to Latino voters, the 2013 immigration debate is starting to resemble a chloroform-soaked rag.
After November’s stunning loss, an array of influential Republicans argued that immigration reform was the party’s best chance to claim Latino voters before they become permanent Democrats. But in a mere eight months, a counter-narrative has taken hold in conservative circles, nurtured by a shrewd group of anti-immigration lobbyists and Tea Party enthusiasts. The new argument sees immigration reform at best as a divisive distraction from the GOP’s real problem of countering ‘white flight’ from the polls. At worst, they view it as an electoral apocalypse, a seventh seal behind which lies an unbroken line of future Democratic presidents.
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DEMS EXPLOIT STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE HIKE AND AVOID REALITY OF WHAT IT IS REALLY ABOUT via contributor Karen Cyphers – full post here.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a web video targeting Rep. Steve Southerland and his Republican colleagues for how they believe their “dysfunction will hurt students and middle class families” following the doubling of certain student loan interest rates on Monday. The video is keyed up with students lamenting their impending debt and is high on the sympathy factor;
but it is clear that the DCCC didn’t tell these volunteers what the measure actually means, who will be affected, what the alternatives were, or the role of their own party in failing to reach a viable compromise.
One current student states that “if the bill doesn’t pass I’m going to be in really bad shape,” and another says, “I would need to get another full-time job to pay for classes.” But no current loan will be affected by these changes — and regardless, the impacts wouldn’t be felt while any student is still enrolled. Further, the rate hike only pertains to one specific class of loans, subsidized Stafford loans, and applies only to loans taken out in the future. But to the student who stated in the video that if rates don’t stay put, “I would have to question whether I could even stay in school,” it is clear that no context was offered, nor an explanation of what the difference between 3.4 and 6.8 percent means in the long-term.
“Even at 6.8 percent, students are getting a great deal,” writes Washington Post columnist Stephen Stromberg. “They are risky borrowers, and no private lender would ever front them money at anything like the rates the government is offering — not to mention the terms.”
Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed, broadly, that the best way to handle student loan interest rates is to link it to the rate at which government borrows so that student rates would float with everyone else’s and reflect economic reality. Despite general agreement, the parties haven’t settled on specifics, and some Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren insist that Congress continue to set interest rates by decree. Did the DCCC share that with the student who stated in their video how “disheartened” he was that “John Boehner and some of the other Republicans are really not budging”?
The students in the DCCC video bemoan that “we need a long term plan” and that “the Republican plan is not looking to the future.” But considering the scope of options and the larger context of the national debt and priorities in spending, the Republicans in this case seem to be sacrificing their popularity for the very thing these students claim to need: a plan for the future. But expect to hear more like this in the coming months as Gwen Graham sets her eyes on Southerland’s seat — a district that includes Florida State, Florida A&M, Tallahassee Community College, and Gulf Coast Community College.
PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Congressman who called Latinos “wetbacks” is fundraising for Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen campaign”
STORY I JUST CAN’T WRITE ABOUT: “Lady Gaga draws fire from Allen West on National Anthem”
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NAN RICH PLEDGES TO REPEAL GAY MARRIAGE BAN via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
Rich sent out a fund-raising appeal Tuesday pledging to erase Florida’s same-sex marriage ban.
Rich, who badly trails potential Democratic rivals Charlie Crist and Alex Sink in polls, targets Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s defense of the marriage ban in a blast email to supporters.
“The ink was barely dry on the Supreme Court’s decision before Gov. Scott announced he supports continuing Florida’s ban of same-sex marriage,” Rich said. “Well…I do not.
“As governor, I will work to pass a new constitutional amendment that will allow Florida to join the rapidly growing ranks of marriage equality states,” she said.
Equal Marriage Florida last week began work on gathering the more than 680,000 petition signatures needed for a proposed constitutional amendment erasing the gay marriage ban approved by voters only five years ago.
SCOTT VETOES THREE BILLS, ENDING CONSIDERATION OF LEGISLATION via the News Service of Florida
Gov. Scott on Tuesday vetoed three bills dealing with the authority of local water control districts, closing out his work on measures approved by the Legislature during its spring session. The measures vetoed by Scott included those involving the South Indian River Water Control District in Palm Beach County (HB 855), the Fellsmere Water Control District in Indian River County (HB 1009), and the East County Water Control District in Hendry and Lee counties (HB 1281). Scott said the bills gave the districts the ability to offer services or build facilities that should be handled by other entities.
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CHAMBER HONORS 29 LAWMAKERS AS DISTINGUISHED ADVOCATES
The Florida Chamber sure knows how to recognize its legislative champions. In May, the Chamber published grades earned by all 160 legislators on its Report Card, and in June named Rep. Larry Metz as the Chamber’s 2013 Most Valuable Legislator. Tuesday, the Chamber added to the accolades by recognizing 29 state lawmakers as Distinguished Advocates who have been pro-jobs champions. The nine Senators and 20 Representatives were credited by the Chamber with helping put Florida in position to become the “number one job creator in the nation” according to EVP David Hart, and who “have gone above and beyond in advocating pro-jobs priorities to make Florida more competitive.” Each of the 29 honored lawmakers exemplified leadership or sponsored Chamber-backed legislative priorities that were passed during the 2013 Session and signed into law by Gov. Scott.
DOES LEGISLATIVE PRIVILEGE APPLY TO LAWMAKERS DRAWING MAPS? SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union
The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that lawmakers don’t have to testify in a long-running redistricting lawsuit.
The First District Court of appeals had ruled that lawmakers did not have to give testimony because of “legislative privilege.” That provides legal protections to lawmakers while they are conducting legislative business.
A coalition of plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Attorneys for House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel and Senate President Don Gaetz of Niceville filed briefs June 21 arguing the court should not take up the appeal.
“Like the independence of the judiciary, the independence of the legislative branch from judicially compelled interrogation protects legislators from harassment and intimidation,” they wrote.
Justices disagreed, and in an order dated Tuesday accepted jurisdiction.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR SEN. DAVID SIMMONS, here, including:
Q: Were you surprised when Gov. Scott vetoed the alimony bill? Do you think he made a mistake?
SIMMONS: Oh, I don’t think he made a mistake. I think there were differences of opinion and he believed that there needed to be more work on this area.
While there were many good aspects of the alimony bill, there were portions of it that still had some rough edges as we were moving through the process. And while I voted for it, I voiced concerns to Sen. (Kelli) Stargel (the bill sponsor) about certain parts of it. It was one of those cases where I went ahead and said, “The good parts of it outweighed the bad.” But that’s sort of like beauty — it’s in the eye of the beholder. I think the governor felt that the bad outweighed the good.
I think it’s time to go back and look at it again and try to clean up some of the rough edges that were in that bill.
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FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT PLANS $822 MILLION ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECT via The News Service of Florida
Florida Power & Light plans to make $822 million in power-plant upgrades to comply with federal clean-air standards and will seek to recover costs from customers, according to a filing last week at the Florida Public Service Commission via the News Service of Florida.
The upgrades would help the utility meet a new federal nitrogen-dioxide emissions standard, which would particularly affect what are known as “peaking generating units” that operate at certain times to meet high electricity demands. The filing, dated Friday, says the project would involve installing efficient combustion turbines at plants in Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers.
Under state law, utilities can seek approval from the Public Service Commission to recover costs for such environmental-compliance projects. The filing says, in part, that “this environmental compliance project will result in the construction and operation of some of the cleanest and most efficient peaking units in Florida, while also providing significant public welfare benefits, including the creation of hundreds of jobs at peak construction.”
JIM KING MOST DESERVING OF “GREAT FLORIDIAN” AWARD FROM AMONG GOP CHOICES IN ONLINE POLL
In a poll of LobbyTools and Florida Current readers, the late Sen. Jim King was selected as one among four Republicans that respondents would like to receive a Great Floridian award. Receiving 57 percent of all votes, King was a moderate, pro-business Republican who served in the legislature from 1986 until his death in 2009. The other Republicans on the list included Mary Grizzle, the first female Republican elected to the Legislature and the longest serving member; Bill Cramer, the first Florida Republican elected to Congress; and David Bitner, a former legislator and popular RPOF chair who worked to reunite the party following the ousting and arrest of former party chair Jim Greer. Grizzle took 34 percent of the vote, and Bitner and Cramer each received 5 percent.
You can offer your input now on which Democrat is most fit for this award by choosing among Janet Reno – first female US Attorney General and State Attorney for Dade County; Carol Browner, director of White House Office on climate change and former DEP director; Bill Nelson, third term US Senator, former and Congressman, and astronaut; and Pete Peterson, Air Force veteran and Vietnam POW, professor, philanthropist and three-term congressman from Florida’s 2nd district. At the moment, Nelson, Peterson and Reno are tied each with 30 percent of the votes, and Browner lags at 10 percent.
PUBLIC NOTICES NOW HOUSED ONLINE
During the 2012 Legislative Session, the Florida Press Association (FPA) worked closely with Representative Ritch Workman to pass legislation with major self-imposed, technology-focused changes; reductions in costs; and improvements to the process and increased access. As a result, beginning today, July 1, 2013, Florida newspapers who carry public notices are required to post the notices on their individual websites. This is in addition to floridapublicnotices.com, an independent website operated by the FPA, where posting of public notices began last summer.
TIMES EDITORIAL: FOR 18-YEARS OLDS, A HELPFUL FOSTER OPTION
Rare is the high school senior who is ready at 18 years old to live on his or her own with no financial or emotional support. That is the abrupt deadline for exiting Florida foster care. But starting next year, a new state law that Gov. Rick Scott signed last month will bring some commonsense flexibility that will allow foster children to have a more normal transition to independence. That’s good for the children and for society, which has an interest in them becoming productive adults.
Under SB 1036, 18-year-olds who stay in school, start college or begin a job can stay with foster families or transition to some other kind of assistance through age 21. Just as significantly, the state won’t shut the door on those who opt to move on. They can return to foster care at any time up until 21 if they find they still need some help.
In April, Scott also signed into law HB 215, which gives greater discretion to foster parents to decide which extracurricular or social activities a child can participate in, rather than requiring approval from a caseworker. That will normalize foster care a bit as children no longer will have to wait for government approval before they attend a sleepover or play a sport.
Sen. Nancy Detert has called these efforts the most important she’s ever sponsored. Foster children, including the 1,000-plus who turn 18 each year, will undoubtedly agree.
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ALBRITTON, BOYD, CALDWELL AND BESHEARS FUNDRAISER SET FOR AUGUST 6
A four-member fundraiser is being held on Tuesday, August 6, on behalf of Ben Albritton, Jim Boyd, Matt Caldwell and Halsey Beshears. Hosted by Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli, Chairman Richard Corcoran, and Representative Jose Oliva, join them at the Governors Club Library Room from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
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FMA COMES OUT SWINGING
The Florida Medical Association blasted out this graphic out today, capitalizing on the Trial Bar’s announcement yesterday that the personal injury lawyers had filed 5 lawsuits against the FMA’s signature liability reform legislation. The legislation, 15 years in the making, passed during the 2013 session.
LOBBYIST JOHN CULBREATH REMEMBERED via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Friends gathered in the North Florida town of Monticello Monday afternoon to honor the life of John Culbreath, a former state House member who went on to a long career as a lobbyist for the thoroughbred racing industry in Tallahassee.
… At the First United Methodist Church in Monticello, the eulogy was delivered by Wilbur Brewton, Culbreath’s friend for more than three decades and also a racing lobbyist. Brewton described Culbreath as kind-hearted and with his wife, Barbara, meticulous in hosting lavish parties for lawmakers back when such entertainment was legal and commonplace in the state Capitol.
“Back then there was more of a kinder, gentler political climate,” Brewton recalled. “For most of us, entertainment functions were the norm up until about 10 years ago.”
The service offered a glimpse into the Legislature of decades past, when the atmosphere was less partisan. Former lawmakers at Culbreath’s service included former U.S. Rep. and state Rep. Allen Boyd of Monticello, former Sens. Dennis Jones of Treasure Island, Curt Kiser of Dunedin and Van Poole of Fort Lauderdale, and former Reps. Anne Mackenzie of Fort Lauderdale, Carl Ogden of Jacksonville, John Ryals of Brandon and James Ward of Fort Walton Beach. Culbreath’s daughter, Sherry, is married to Fred Dickinson, a lobbyist and former executive director of the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Traci Small, National Strategies: Citrix
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CAN’T WAIT TO READ: Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America by Dan Balz.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Hillsborough YD Sean Sorbie and to Society of the Tarpon Belt member Lisa Burke