Sunburn for 8/30 – 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’S AFFORDABLE CARE ACT LOOKING A BIT UNAFFORDABLE via Clara Ritger of National Journal

Republicans have long blamed President Obama’s signature health care initiative for increasing insurance costs, dubbing it the “Unaffordable Care Act.” Turns out, they might be right, National Journal‘s Clara Ritger reports. For the vast majority of Americans, premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits, according to a NJ analysis of news coverage and cost data. Adding even more out-of-pocket expenses to consumers’ monthly insurance bills is a swell in deductibles under the Affordable Care Act.

Health law proponents have excused the rate hikes by saying the prices in the exchange won’t apply to the millions receiving coverage from their employers. But that’s only if employers continue to offer that coverage–something that’s looking increasingly uncertain.

STRONG SECOND-QUARTER GDP SOARS PAST EXPECTATIONS via Reuters

The U.S. gross-domestic product grew by a 2.5 percent annual rate from April to June, revealing an economy that accelerated sharply in the second quarter due in large part to a surge in exports. The economic data released today is being widely seen as strengthening a case for the Federal Reserve to begin tapering its $85 billion monthly bond-purchasing stimulus program. “We are likely now moving past the peak of fiscal drag and, as we do, improving underlying private demand should support a pickup in GDP growth,” said Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley. The government had originally estimated a GDP growth of 1.7 percent in the quarter.

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DOJ WILL NOT CHALLENGE POT LEGALIZATION IN COLORADO, WASHINGTON

The Justice Department said Thursday it will not attempt to block recently passed state laws in Colorado and Washington that legalize marijuana. The Justice Department also issued less stringent enforcement guidelines for federal prosecutors that intend to shift the focus toward the most serious trafficking offenses. Nationally, marijuana will remain illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Colorado and Washington voters legalized marijuana last fall via ballot measures. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow some marijuana use, usually for medicinal purposes. The new guidelines, outlined by Attorney General Eric Holder in a call to the Washington and Colorado governors, will not change federal money-laundering rules.

TREASURY, IRS TO RECOGNIZE ALL GAY MARRIAGES via The New York Times

Prompted by the Supreme Court ruling in June striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service said today that all same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes even if their state does not recognize the marriage.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax-filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.” The ruling applies to all legal marriages in the U.S. or foreign countries.

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AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY SUMMIT THIS WEEKEND

Americans for Prosperity will start a two-day “Defending the American Dream Summit” in Orlando. Among the conservatives expected to take part in the event are Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Speaker Will Weatherford and U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Opening general session starts at 2 p.m., Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando.

WHY IS RICK SCOTT SPEAKING AT THE AFP SUMMIT? via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Unless he’s worried about his base or the lingering threat of a primary challenge, it baffles us that Scott – who couldn’t find time to attend any of a three-day education summit he called himself – would find the time to speak at the AFP “Defending the American Dream Summit” Friday at Universal Florida. Maybe he hopes the Koch brothers, who founded AFP, will show some love to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee.

Otherwise there seems to be little gain. As a speaker, Scott is highly unlikely to compare favorably to the others speaking during his Friday afternoon block – Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, David Horowitz. And embracing group thundering about the Barack Obama destroying America won’t do much to win over the Florida voters Scott needs most.

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LIBERALS LAUNCH CAMPAIGN TO RESTOCK FLORIDA’S FEDERAL BENCH via Rick Stone of WGCU

Florida has a critical shortage of federal trial judges. The state is four short now, according to the Center for American Progress, and the total will be six by the end of the year. The left-leaning center’s Andrew Blotky led a presentation to activists and lawyers in Miami last night, with the message that too few judges will threaten the work of the federal judiciary and even leave some important cases undecided. That’s why he’s traveling from state to state to tell voters they have the power to persuade the president to name judicial candidates quickly and the senate to confirm them. Liberals in Florida and elsewhere generally agree that the federal court system is their only protection from conservative efforts to weaken voting rights, limit immigration and rewrite abortion rules.

The man who broke the Florida Supreme Court color bar in 1975 says he has an idea for bringing diversity to the federal bench. Speaking to activists and lawyers last night at a seminar in Miami, black former Justice Joseph Hatchett said a diverse judiciary presents fairness and the Appearance of fairness in a way that preserves public confidence in the judicial system. According to Hatchett, most of the new federal judges come from careers that began in courthouses. He said the best way for a young lawyer to prepare for a possible appointment is to apply for jobs as assistant U-S Attorneys or public defenders.

TED STRICKLAND TO PARTICIPATE IN FLORIDA DEMS 2013 STATE CONFERENCE

Former Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio announced his participation in the Florida Democratic Party’s 2013 State Conference this October.  In an email statement, Strickland blasted Gov. Rick Scott for not understanding that “you can expand access to education and help businesses grow” and for “looking out for the special interests, not regular Floridians.”  He ended the message saying, ” PS: You’re going to join me at the Conference, right? Be sure to apply to be a delegate right away!

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APPOINTED: Kathryn L. Whitson, Dr. JoAnn Trybulski, and Elmira Gainey to the Board of Nursing.

RE-APPOINTED: Steven Uhlfelder to the Children and Youth Cabinet.

FLORIDA GIVEN A D- FOR ACCESSIBILITY OF EDUCATION SPENDING DATA via contributor Karen Cyphers

This week, when the Cato Institute released its summary of findings on state education spending, I was expecting yet another prosaic memo on per-pupil expenditures, void of metrics that make such data meaningful.  But what I found was a far more unique piece, looking only at the scope and public accessibility of state education spending data. Cato ranked each state on the public accessibility of  information regarding per-pupil school expenditures, overall expenditures, and salaries.  Most studies on these factors are about how much is spent, rather than on how easy it is to collect the information. Rather, Cato sees access to spending data as crucial to budget writing and public input.

“When the state education departments provide incomplete or misleading data, they deprive taxpayers of the ability to make informed decisions about public school funding,” the report states. Cato justifies their focus on this issue, stating that public schools are “usually the most costly item in state and local budgets” and that the true cost of public education is vastly underestimated. Overall, Florida ranked poorly, scoring a “D-” and ranking at 30th among the states.  Read more about why here.

JIM MCCLELLAN: MORE AT STAKE THAN OYSTERS IN APALACHICOLA WATER WARS on Context Florida

For the time being, the St. Johns and Withlacoochee are the only two Florida rivers that flow north. But if Georgia keeps sucking up more of its headwaters each year, the Apalachicola might just become the third. The good news is that the State of Florida has stepped up its efforts to keep that from happening. The bad news is our track record is pretty dismal. In case you missed it, Gov. Rick Scott has filed another lawsuit in hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court will finally make Georgia quit hogging all our water up in Lake Lanier and other impoundments.

Florida’s case is based on the damage that reduced flows of fresh water from upstream have caused to Apalachicola Bay and its seafood industry, particularly the oyster harvest. Georgia is expected to respond in much the same way that it has in the past – by explaining that Atlanta needs more water for homes and businesses and schools and for all the new Braves fans who showed up after the ’95 World Series. “People are more important than oysters,” they’ll say (while making a loud raspberry noise). “Suck mud, bivalves.”  

MUST-VISIT WEBSITE

Protectourrivers.com – effort pushing to stop polluting St. Lucie & Caloosahatchee Rivers.

PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY: “Commissioner Putnam Marks Two Years in Fight to Eradicate Giant African Land Snails”

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BEN KIRBY: FLORIDA MUST HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT INNOVATIVE TRANSPORTATION on Context Florida

Earlier this month, Tesla Motors and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk introduced the Hyperloop to the world. Using solar power to fuel magnetic bursts, a large, train-like tube will propel passengers faster than the speed of sound on a cushion of air from point to point. Musk wants to build it in California. The Hyperloop would carry travelers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in an astounding 30 minutes. The trip now takes more than five and a half hours.  Why wouldn’t he build it in Florida?

The drive from St. Petersburg to Daytona Beach takes more than two and a half hours.  The need for sustainable, efficient mass transit in Florida is certainly as great as in California. The answer lies in what the Hyperloop truly represents: an impetus to start a community conversation about something innovative. Musk says the inspiration for the Hyperloop, at least in part, was his frustration with the old mass-transit paradigm.  Why a high-speed rail in California that would use already outdated technologies?  Why ground-based rails vulnerable to earthquakes? Why not something new?  Or at least why not a conversation about something new? California may be more ready than Florida to have a conversation about innovative transportation.  But that shouldn’t be.

FLORIDA AT VANGUARD OF AUTONOMOUS CAR FUTURE via Craig Kopp of the Tampa Bay Times

If you are in the know, you don’t call them “driverless cars,” you call them autonomous cars. By whatever name, they are cars that drive themselves through the use of laser radar and sophisticated GPS.  And, Florida is vying to be a testing ground for this vehicle of the not-too-distant future. Florida is one of just three states (California and Nevada are the others) that have put laws on the books to govern the testing of autonomous cars.

That’s, in part, thanks to St. Pete’s Sen. Jeff Brandes who co-sponsored the automated-vehicle law when he served in the House in 2012. He’s convinced autonomous cars aren’t just the stuff of Minority Report or I, Robot. But he knows full well that a “driverless” future can seem sci-fi scary. When he ran for state Senate, a PAC ad against him targeted his support of driverless cars: It featured an elderly woman almost run over by a driverless Prius. Times correspondent Craig Kopp checked in with Brandes to talk about hands-free driving, the taxi of the near future and the ultimate designated driver. Read the full interview here.

REP. DARREN SOTO BILL WOULD GIVE PRIORITY TO HOMESTEAD BUYERS OVER INVESTORS via the Orlando Sentinel

As the Sentinel’s Mary Shanklin reported this morning, Florida leads the nation in the percentage of houses that are bought for cash. Investor groups, international buyers, landlords and those in the market for vacation homes are fueling a market that’s seen 66 percent of houses sold for cash — much to the frustration of people trying to buy a home to live in. Enter Sen. Darren Soto who today filed the “Florida Homestead Recovery Act,” which would compel sellers to sell to homesteading buyers – provided the offer either matched or exceeded the all-cash offer. Soto’s bill, which if passed would expire in three years, would give priority to the buyer who wants to live in the house. If the all-cash offer is higher, the statute would not apply.

SEN. DORTHY HUKILL FILES BILL TO CUT TAXES FOR CORPORATIONS, BANKS via Gray Rohrer of The Florida Current

Sen. Dorothy Hukill filed SB 134 this week, which would increase the amount of income exempted from corporate income taxes and the franchise tax imposed on banks and savings associations. Currently, the first $50,000 in income is exempted from the state corporate income tax. The exemption from the franchise tax sits at the same level for banks. The bill would increase both exemptions to $75,000. Eliminating the corporate tax cut was one of Gov. Rick Scott’s top priorities when he first came into office.

Florida already has one of the lowest state corporate income tax rates in the country at 5.5 percent, and lawmakers have only given him exemptions from the tax rather than a reduction in the rate.  Scott’s quest to zero out the corporate income tax may be difficult, since a sizable portion of Florida’s general revenue is generated by the tax. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the tax is estimated to generate $2.27 billion, or about 8.7 percent of total general revenue.

SPEAKER WEATHERFORD TO BE GRILLED IN TIGER’S DEN ON SEPT. 10

Republican Will Weatherford will have a chance to talk about the importance of his “part time job” — Speaker of the Florida House — when he enters the Tiger’s Den on September. 10. The semi-monthly Suncoast Tiger Bay “politician carving” will be at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater.  Lunch starts at noon, with Weatherford served as dessert soon afterwards. As many state and local politicians realize — sometimes the hard way — everything is fair game in the Tiger’s Den.  

Tickets for the event are $25 for Tiger Bay members, $35 for guests. To RSVP online, visit www.tigerbay.org

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BILL GUNTER HOLDS SIGNIFICANT LEAD IN POLL OF HD 36 GOP PRIMARY Full polling results here

If the race were today, Gunter would walk away with an easy win with over half the vote.

Gunter, a Presbyterian minister for the Redeemer Community Church in New Port Richey, leads the pack with 52.4 percent of respondents. Pasco Republican Chairman Jim Mathieu received 12.6 percent; insurance company employee Jeromy Harding came in third with 8.5 percent, with 26.5 percent undecided. Gunter’s support is strongest with voters 50 years old and up.

FUNDRAISER SET FOR DIAZ, EAGLE, HOOD, LA ROSA, AND RODRIGUES

Join Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli, and Chairmen Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva for a fundraising reception benefiting the reelection campaigns of Reps. Manny Diaz, Jr., Dane Eagle, David Hood, Mike La Rosa, and Ray Rodrigues on Monday, Sept. 23 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at The Governors Club Library Room.

REP. RAY PILON ENDORSES BLAISE INGOGLIA FOR HD 35

Rep. Ray Pilon became the 15th legislator to endorse Blaise Ingoglia for House District 35 on Thursday, praising Ingoglia as “a fiscal conservative who will be a strong voice against government waste in Tallahassee.” Pilon joins 14 other state legislators, and five local leaders, in his public support of Ingoglia.

SHAWN HARRISON ENDORSEMENT AVALANCHE – PART 2

Representatives Jose Felix Diaz, Bill Hager, Larry Ahern, Jimmie Smith, and Clay Ingram announced their support for Shawn Harrison who is running to reclaim his seat in the Florida House, District 63.  His former and hopeful colleagues commended Harrison on his contribution to the party’s message of economic mobility and individual freedom, as well as his experience as a lawmaker and businessman.

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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Allison Carvajal, David Ramba, Ramba Consulting: Spring Lake Improvement District

Ana Cruz, Floridian Partners: Orlando Science Schools

Charlie Dudley, Scott Ross, Floridian Partners: Burger King Corporation

Bill Rubin, The Rubin Group: National Mortgage Insurance

PARTNERSHIP FOR PUBLIC FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE TASK FORCE HOLDS FIRST MEETING

Newly appointed members to Florida’s ‘Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act Guidelines Task Force’ met in Tallahassee this week to begin laying the groundwork for the landmark legislation. The measure, referred to as ‘PPP’, authorizes the seven-member task force to make recommendations to the Legislature by July 1, 2014 in order to create a uniform process for establishing PPPs.

Gubernatorial appointee Michael Olenick said, “One of the goals for us as a task force, and for me personally, is to try to take some of the mystery out of the PPP process. It is confusing, it is complex, and I am hopeful that the guidelines we develop will allow for a more user-friendly process and serve to excite those local governments considering using public-private partnerships.”  

Governor Scott signed House Bill 85, sponsored by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Rep. Greg Steube in June. The new law also allows for PPPs to contract for public service work with not-for-profits organizations, charitable youth organizations, and for county road projects.

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HALIFAX MEDIA TO BUY 3 SMALL FLORIDA NEWSPAPERS

Daytona Beach-based Halifax Media Group is set to buy the Daily Commercial of Leesburg, the News-Sun of Sebring and the South Lake Press of Clermont.

The small Florida newspapers are currently owned by HarborPoint Media. Halifax announced Wednesday that it has agreed to acquire the assets of HarborPoint, with the deal set to close Sept. 30.

HarborPoint director Russell Denson says Halifax will be a good home for HarborPoint’s employees and newspapers. He says Halifax brings additional resources and capabilities to expand and enhance the newspapers’ service to their readers, advertisers and communities.

Halifax was founded in 2010 when a group of investors bought The Daytona Beach News-Journal. The group has since grown to 33 newspapers and affiliated websites, published in five states in the Southeast.

WEEKEND TV

Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: As many as 20 kids may be dead after contact with DCF. Kurt Kelly, who represents the providers, and Mike Watkins disucss what’s working and what’s not at DCF.

Political Connections on Orlando’s 13 News: Phil Brown and Frank Kruppenbacher from GOAA (Greater Orlando Aviation Authority)

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn

The Usual Suspects on Tallahassee’s WCTV: Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald

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BE CAREFUL OUT THERE: FHP JOINS 8-STATE EFFORT TO BEEF UP ENFORCEMENT DURING LABOR DAY WEEKEND via the Miami Herald

The Florida Highway Patrol is launching a beefed-up enforcement effort over Labor Day weekend in collaboration with seven other southern border states that line the 2,460 miles of I-10. The campaign, called “10-08 on 10, One Road, One Mission” is an “intensified enforcement campaign to keep the roadway safe with zero fatalities,” FHP Director Col. David Brierton said at a press conference Thursday morning at an I-10 rest stop. Florida is partnering with Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California in what Brierton called a “first-time” collaboration between the states, in effect from Aug. 30 to Sept., 2.

Troopers will be focusing on stopping drunk and drugged drivers, aggressive drivers, speeders and drivers who fail to move to the left hand lane when a law enforcement, emergency or two vehicle is parked on the side of the road. Brierton said the agency will also be on the lookut for distracted drivers (including texters), improper seatbelt use, lane changes and commercial vehicle safety. 

Statistics point to the need for concern. During Labor Day weekend in 2012, according to FHP, there were 2,771 total crashes statewide from Aug. 31-Sept. 3, with 18 fatalities. Also during Labor Day in 2012, troopers wrote 10,000 citations, arrested 118 impaired drivers and assisted 2,700 stranded motorists.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to Tampa city councilwoman Yolie Capin; this weekend Dr. Ed Moore celebrates, as well as Judi Spann.

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.