Sunburn for 7/8 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

THE WEEK AHEAD

Congress returns on Monday: Immigration, student loan top congressional agenda. According to the AP: The rare cooperation on display in the Senate last month with passage of a bipartisan immigration bill could be wiped out immediately if Majority Leader Harry Reid, frustrated with minority Republicans’ delaying tactics on judges and nominations, tries to change the Senate rules by scrapping the three-fifths majority for a simple majority. … Two Cabinet-rank choices — Tom Perez as Labor secretary and Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency — could be approved by the Senate this month after a loud debate over administration policies.

State government and politics will start to perk up again after the July 4 holiday week, with Gov. Rick Scott going on the road to talk to the Republican faithful. Meanwhile, state candidates will have to disclose how much campaign cash they raised during the year’s second quarter.

The News Service of Florida has a comprehensive preview of the week here.

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ECONOMY PICKS UP STEAM

U.S. employers added 195,000 jobs in June, a sign of solid improvements in the labor market, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

The unemployment rate remained steady at 7.6%. 

But now for the really good news: We were quite wrong about job gains in April and May. Initial reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a jobs gain of 149,000 in April and 175,000 in May, reports the National Journal. In the latest reports, those numbers were revised upward to 199,000 in April and 195,000 in May. That’s a combined gain of 70,000 jobs from earlier reports. So, since April, it turns out that the economy has actually gained nearly 200,000 new jobs a month.

FOR OBAMA, DELAY IN HEALTH MANDATE UPS THE STAKES via Dan Balz of the Washington Post

[T]he decision to delay enforcement of the employer mandate for a year clearly heightens the stakes for the president and his allies to prove the critics wrong and demonstrate that they can make bigger government work. The setback for Obama’s signature domestic achievement also points to another problem for the White House. It could serve to reinforce perceptions of an administration that is beset by controversies, adrift and struggling to find its equilibrium. … ‘There have been a number of controversies that have gotten a lot of attention in the press, but if you step back and look at what the president has accomplished in the first six months, it’s pretty compelling,’ White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri said. She pointed to the fiscal cliff negotiations of December that resulted in raising taxes on wealthy Americans, to the Senate passage of immigration reform … to the president’s newest initiative on climate change. …

“Republicans have been planning to make the health-care law a centerpiece of their 2014 campaign … ‘The ads in swing races are being written as we speak,’ said Kevin Madden … Some Democrats saw the move as a hasty and unnecessary capitulation in the face of continuing GOP and business community criticism. Others saw it as a shrewd retreat that will buy time to deal with what has been a flood of complaints by businesses … Stephanie Cutter … noted that key portions of the law – the ban on [denying coverage based on] preexisting conditions, more affordable options for insurance through the exchanges and tax credits for middle-class families – will be in place by next year. … But as William Galston of the Brookings Institution pointed out, the employer mandate was supposed to be less challenging administratively than some other features of the bill.

GEORGE W. BUSH TO ENDORSE IMMIGRATION REFORM via the Dallas Morning News

George W. Bush will deliver opening remarks Wednesday at an citizenship ceremony and immigration forum at the Dallas presidential center bearing his name, where it’s expected he will talk about how immigration reform will be good for America.

It’s unclear whether the ex-president will stick to generalities during his remarks at the citizenship ceremony, or elevate the conversation with details about the super-sized immigration bill now being debated in Congress.

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ABORTION LEGISLATION CARRIED BY RUBIO WOULD BE DEAD ON ARRIVAL IN U.S. SENATE via the Washington Post‘s Juliet Eilperin and Sean Sullivan, with Rachel Weiner.

At the behest of antiabortion groups, Sen. Marco Rubio is considering becoming a lead sponsor of legislation that would ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization … The fact that he is mulling it over 1) is a reflection of the growing scope of the abortion debate nationally and 2) could signal a desire to bolster his standing on the political right on the heels of a rough battle over immigration.

… While Fred Barnes reported in the Weekly Standard on Tuesday night that Rubio had signed onto the bill already, that decision is not yet final. ‘The pro-life groups have asked him to introduce the bill in the Senate,’ a Rubio adviser wrote in an e-mail … ‘He had not made a final decision before leaving on a family vacation this week. I expect an announcement when he gets back to D.C. next week.’

Sen. Mike Lee introduced a bill this year similar to the original bill authored by Rep. Trent Franks, banning abortions beyond 20 weeks in the District of Columbia. The Franks bill was expanded to cover the entire country, and antiabortion groups are now discussing whether Lee or Rubio will take the lead on a broad bill, according to people involved in the discussions. … Rubio is coming off a bruising immigration battle that has reduced his standing on the right [and] needs to repair his brand among conservatives generally. … [But] the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to take up any legislation designed to restrict abortion laws. … ‘Senator Reid is not going to bring up this bill,’ said [a Reid] aide. 

HOUSE GOP PREPS DEBT CEILING PLAYBOOK via the National Journal

With an anxious eye toward the coming debt-ceiling negotiations, House Republicans are drafting what members call a ‘menu’ of mandatory spending cuts to offer the White House in exchange for raising the country’s borrowing limit.

“This menu is more a matrix of politically fraught options for the Obama administration to consider: Go small on cuts and get a short extension of the debt ceiling. Go big – by agreeing to privatize Social Security, for example – and get a deal that will raise the ceiling for the rest of Obama’s term.

 It’s a strategy meant to show the GOP is ready to deal. But even conservatives admit that this gambit might do little to help them avoid blame should the negotiations reach a crisis stage.

IN SWING DISTRICT, PATRICK MURPHY MUST TREAD CAREFULLY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

In a bitter twist, the loss of a polarizing, donation-attracting opponent may make it harder for Murphy, one of just nine Democrats in the country to win a district that went for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama. “His prospects of winning a second term are almost entirely dependent on Republicans nominating someone who is unpalatable to independent voters,” said Wasserman, who gives Murphy no more than a 35 percent chance of besting any generic Republican.

The GOP began targeting Murphy immediately after he won the District 18 seat, which touches Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Martin counties, confident their voter registration advantage will benefit a less controversial candidate. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the electorate; Democrats, 36 percent; independents, 26 percent.

Most districts in the country are far more one-sided, the result of gerrymandering. It has pushed Democrats to the left and Republicans to the right, resulting in a Congress that rarely cooperates. “I’m lucky I’m in a seat where I can be myself,” said Murphy, a Republican until 2011.

His early fundraising success, pulling in more than $550,000 in the first quarter, has not scared off competitors. Three Republicans have entered the race already and at least that many are considering. 

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ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: Gov. Scott will attend and deliver remarks at the Wakulla County Republican Party Fourth Annual Ronald Reagan Blue Jeans and Black Tie Affair. 6:45 p.m. Wakulla Springs Lodge

NO CAMPAIGN ACCOUNT YET, BUT RICK SCOTT’S COMMITTEE HAS $11 MILLION IN THE BANK via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union 

“Let’s Get to Work,” a committee supporting his re-election, has raised $8.6 million since the beginning of the year and has $10.8 million in the bank.

“Raising that type of money before a campaign account is different than our past experience here in Florida,” said David Johnson, a longtime political consultant and former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida.

Tim Baker, a Republican attorney and campaign consultant, said raising unlimited contributions using an outside committee is simply easier than using a traditional campaign account.

“Why would you bother with a campaign account when you can accomplish almost everything you need to from Let’s Get to Work and it can fully coordinate with the eventual campaign?” he wrote in an email.

SEQUESTER FURLOUGHS COULD MEAN FEWER NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIERS, SCOTT WORRIES

Gov. Scott said he’s concerned about fewer National Guard soldiers being available during hurricane season.

Furloughs caused by sequestration begin Monday.

Scott said the National Guard offered to take funding reductions before or after hurricane season, but the request was denied by the federal government.

The National Guard said it will still help during disasters but the manpower shortages could result in slower response times.

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BONDI’S NET WORTH UP 65% via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

Bondi’s net worth increased 65 percent during the time she has been in public office, according to financial disclosures made public this week.

Bondi’s reported worth was $472,260 in 2010 when she first ran for office, but was $780,871 as of the end of 2012, reports show.

Most of the increase comes from “household goods and personal effects,” which she is not required to itemize. They rose from $150,000 to $424,838. The state allows those to be “reported in a lump sum” if they’re individually under $1,000.

The financial disclosure form defines such goods and effects as including, but not limited to, “jewelry, collections of stamps, guns and numismatic items (coins), art objects, household equipment and furnishings, clothing, other household items” and personal vehicles.

Bondi declined to comment on her finances.

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DOH TO HOLD MEETING ABOUT DRUG DATABASE RECORDS via the News Service of Florida

Amid a controversy about the release of personal information, the Florida Department of Health will host a workshop Monday as it seeks to strengthen policies related to a state prescription-drug database. The database was created to help prevent “doctor shopping” by drug abusers who visit multiple doctors and pharmacies to get powerful painkillers. But the program in recent weeks has come under heavy scrutiny — and faces a legal challenge — after the disclosure of confidential prescription-drug information about 3,300 people. The information was disclosed to defense attorneys involved in a drug case in the Volusia County area. The Department of Health will hold the workshop at 8:30 a.m. Monday, as it develops new rules aimed at better protecting confidential information.

NEW DUKE CEO WANTS PAY-AS-YOU-GO CONSTRUCTION via Emery Dalesio of the Associated Press

The newly installed chief executive officer of Duke Energy Corp. wants to change how the utility is regulated in the Carolinas and Florida so that America’s largest electric company can more easily pass along the cost of big power plants a little at a time.

The company’s desire to get consumers to start paying for big-dollar projects with price tags that could run into the billions is high on the agenda of Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, who stepped into the company’s top job Monday. That’s what she told a Wall Street analyst shortly after her hiring was announced two weeks ago.

… Duke Energy would rather avoid the examination of its costs and simply seek clearance to recover construction costs, said Robert Gruber, who recently retired as executive director of the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s public staff. The office represents consumer interests before the regulatory panel. Gruber said the utility would like it even better if state law allowed that unfinished power plant to be considered an asset on which the company could tack on approved profit margin.

STORY I JUST COULDN’T GET TO: “Annual Solid Waste Report Shows Need For Increased Commercial Recycling”

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HEATHER FITZENHAGEN’S FOURTH OF JULY FAIL: Check out this screen-grab of an email from Rep. Fitzenhagen. Did you know the Declaration of Independence was actually signed in 1766?

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS REWARDED HIGH-PERFORMING STAFFERS WITH SALARY HIKES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

When Florida legislators this year broke the freeze on employee pay and offered state workers salary increases for the first time in seven years, legislative leaders made sure to give some of their own employees pay raises, too.

Using criteria based on performance and promotions, the increases amounted to about three to five percent for most workers but as much as 20 percent for others.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz took different approaches. Gaetz provided bonuses and salary increases to 35 staff members, beginning last month. Weatherford gave raises to 71 full-time employees, starting this month.

Weatherford attempted to keep the House annual budget the same by reorganizing, and using retirements and departures of some staff members, said Ryan Duffy, spokesman for Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. The net cost of the raises to taxpayers was about $27,000, he said.

The Senate bonuses, by contrast, cost taxpayers an additional $105,848, said Katie Betta, Senate spokeswoman. 

NEW CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW CONFUSES FLORIDA FUNDRAISERS, DISMAYS SKEPTICS via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

The Florida Legislature this spring agreed to eliminate one form of freewheeling political spending committee – a move hailed by lawmakers and some advocates as bringing more transparency and common sense to campaigns.

… But erasing these accounts from Florida’s political landscape is where the latest trouble has come. Soon followed by the lawyers and accountants.

“I’ve given two presentations to groups on how they should deal with this, and a one-on-one to another client,” said Mark Herron, a Tallahassee elections lawyer. “It’s keeping everybody busy right now.”

CCEs will be prohibited from accepting contributions July 31. These committees, which have helped power Florida elections for years, must close completely Sept. 30.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re basically taking three left turns and still going in the same direction.” — Nancy Watkins, a Tampa accountant who directs dozens of political committees. 

SMOKE SHOPS BREATHE EASY AFTER PIPE BAN FIZZLES via Kathryn Varn of the Orlando Sentinel

At Mystik smoke shop, uttering the word “bong” will you get you escorted out.

The store has a faded sign above its shelves of glass and water pipes that reads: “Tobacco products must be referred to as pipes or waterpipes only! Any other references, and you will be asked to leave immediately!”

The rule embodies House Bill 49, which mimics federal guidelines stating that smoke shops cannot sell pipes to customers who express intent to use them illegally.

It its original form, the legislation would have made it illegal in Florida to sell various smoking instruments, such as glass and water pipes, threatening business for Mystik and hundreds of other shops.

But lobbying by the Florida Smoke Shop Association smoldered the legislation to what it is now: a rule that enforces what most shops — like Mystik — have already been doing for years.

So what’s changed? Nothing, really.

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BOUSQUET  CONFIRMS FASANO A LEADING CANDIDATE FOR PASCO TAX COLLECTOR

Ten days ago, I wrote, “Representative Mike Fasano finds himself at the center of speculation as to who might be appointed Pasco County Tax Collector after nine-term Democrat Mike Olson passed away on Wednesday.”

On Friday, Bousquet wrote — without a hint of attribution — “Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Mike Olson, the long-time Pasco County tax collector who died last week.”

JACKSONVILLE ATTORNEY FILES TO REPLACE DAN DAVIS, HIRES MARC REICHELDERFER, TIM BAKER via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville attorney Paul Renner, a Republican, is the first candidate to file  to run for the House District 15 seat being vacated by state Rep. Daniel Davis.

Renner is an attorney with Jacksonville law firm Milam Howard. He went to Davidson University, and entered the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School after graduation.

His campaign is being led by well-known campaign consultant Marc Reichelderfer and Tim Baker, a junior partner with Gainesville-based consulting firm Data Targeting. Reichelderfer has worked with many Northeast Florida clients, including state Sens. John Thrasher and Aaron Bean.

Renner also hired prominent accountant Abby Dupree, a shareholder with Carroll and Carroll. During the 2012 election cycle, the firm was paid $309,982 from candidates and fundraising committees.

MATT GAETZ EXPECTS OPPONENT, DAD WON’T STEP ASIDE via the Northwest Daily News

Gaetz expects to face opposition as he seeks a Senate seat in 2016, while his dad, Senate President Don Gaetz, said he plans to serve out the final three years of his term, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Matt Gaetz’s bid to replace his dad got a boost this week when state Rep. Jimmy Patronis announced he would drop out of the Senate race. Meanwhile, Don Gaetz has faced questions about whether he might leave the Legislature in 2014, two years early, after his term as president is finished.

“Anything could happen, but my intent is to try to serve out my term,” Don Gaetz told the Daily News.

One other interesting tidbit from the story: Matt Gaetz questions whether the state even needs a lieutenant governor.

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NEW LOBBYING REISTRATIONS

Jason Gonzalez, Ausley & McMullen: Fellsmere Water Control District; South Indian River Water Control District

Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: Horace Mann Insurance Group; Qorval Insurance Holdings, Inc.; Ultimate Health Plans

Bob Martinez, Holland & Knight: Hogan Law Firm

David Ramba: East County Water Control District

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Willis Global Solutions

POLITIFACT WEIGHS IN  ON AD BLASTING ‘PHONY HORSE RACING’ via Katie Sanders of the Tampa Bay Times

A masked thief fanning $100 bills is the backdrop for an ad blasting “phony horse racing.”

You’re probably thinking, “Phony horse racing? Huh?” It’s okay — we thought it, too.

A coalition of horse breeders and owners used the phrase for races they deem improper at a rural racino west of Tallahassee. Expansion of parimutuel rodeo-style racing has dramatic consequences for the quarter horse industry and parimutuels, opponents say.

“Florida outlawed Internet cafes, but rubber-stamped phony horse racing,” begins the United Florida Horsemen ad. “Gov. Scott, can you tell us why?”

Is the ad’s message hyperbole or on point? PolitiFact says the ad is…half true.  

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY this past weekend to the Sarasota GOP’s Joe Gruters and the Florida Medical Association’s Tim Stapleton.

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.