A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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WHITE HOUSE TO HONOR 9/11 VICTIMS
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, and Jill Biden will observe a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House to mark the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
CONGRESS TO HOLD 9/11 REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY
Members of the House and Senate will hold a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at 11 a.m. on the East Front Center Steps of the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner are scheduled to deliver remarks.
PENTAGON TO MARK 9/11 ANNIVERSARY
President Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey will deliver remarks at a 9/11 Memorial Observance Ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at the Pentagon Memorial, 1 N. Rotary Road, Arlington, Va. Hagel, Dempsey, and Michael Rhodes, Director of Administration and management at the Washington Headquarters Service, will deliver remarks at a Defense Department 9/11 remembrance ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Center Courtyard of the Pentagon.
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JEB BUSH HELPS HONOR HILLARY CLINTON BUT KEEPS A SAFE DISTANCE via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
Jeb Bush tried to seem bemused Tuesday evening as he helped present a public service award to Hillary Clinton. “I’m not sure what people expect will happen here tonight,” he said.
Oh, but the political waves that rolled off the stage in Philadelphia: Political icons with eagerly awaited next chapters projecting bipartisanship and sharing a few laughs while not getting too close. And for Bush, enduring harsh criticism of the GOP’s right wing for even showing up.
“Hillary and I come from different political parties, and we disagree about lots of things, but we agree on the wisdom of the American people — especially those in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina,” the former Florida Republican governor joked, referring to the states he and Clinton would compete in if they enter the 2016 presidential race.
Clinton was honored with the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal for her public service and ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of women. “We are drawn here today by a common purpose,” Bush said, going on to extoll the values of the Constitution.
FEDERAL HIRING IN 2012 WAS LOWEST IN SIX YEARS via The Washington Post
Government agencies made fewer than 90,000 new hires in 2012, the smallest such amount in six years and 37 percent lower than the number hired in 2009. Defense and security agencies accounted for three-fourths of those hires, which featured the largest share of veteran hiring in recent years at 44.7 percent, according to data from the Office of Management and Budget analyzed by the Partnership for Public Service. The hiring drop is occurring at the same time as a large wave of baby-boomer retirements and an exodus of younger employees amid budget cuts, furloughs, and poor morale.
MANEUVER ON CR MAY NOT PACIFY OBAMACARE CRITICS via National Journal
House Republican leaders plan to proceed with a vote Thursday on a stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating beyond Sept. 30, and they plan to include a rare procedural maneuver to force the Senate to vote on defunding President Obama’s health care law. The strategy being put forward by Majority Leader Eric Cantor is intended to satisfy conservatives who want to derail the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Some have called for Republicans to use their majority in the House to block spending bills, including so-called continuing resolutions, as leverage even if that might lead to a government shutdown.
TWEET, TWEET: @SarahPalinUSA: Enough of this foreign fiasco distraction. Get back to work. It is time to bomb Obamacare.
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MAJORITY THINK OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY NO BETTER THAN BUSH’S
A new Reason-Rupe poll finds President Obama’s standing on foreign policy “has taken such a hit” that 64% of Americans — including 68% of independents and 41% of Democrats — believe his handling of foreign policy is worse than, or the same as, former President George W. Bush’s handling of foreign policy.
Just 32% of Americans say President Obama is handling foreign policy better than Bush did.
DCCC CHAIR: SYRIA WON’T MATTER IN 2014 via Alex Roarty of National Journal
The man charged with leading Democrats back to a majority in the House downplayed the potential political impact of the crisis in Syria, saying Tuesday that regardless of what action takes place voters will care far more about other issues by next November. “It does not complicate the cycle at all; 2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria,” said Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “2014 will be a referendum on who can get things done and who clung to partisanship and extremists.”
REPS. FRANKEL AND MURPHY REMAIN CAUTIOUS OVER SYRIA via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post
Frankel and Murphy offered cautious statements on Syria after getting a briefing this afternoon from Vice President Biden and other officials at the White House.
Neither Frankel nor Murphy has taken a position on President Obama‘s request for authorization of military strikes in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s use of chemical weapons.
“This is probably one of the most agonizing decisions that I’ve ever been asked to make in my life and I take it very seriously. I have not yet decided,” Frankel said.
“I’m like most Americans. I go in with a bias against war,” said Frankel, whose son served in the Marines in Afhganistan and Iraq. “I certainly would like to be able to support the president. I think the use of chemical weapons is just an outrageous crime against humanity…The best result is a diplomatic solution.”
Murphy released this statement: “The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime must be stopped. Military action must always be the last resort and I am encouraged that the Administration is working toward a diplomatic solution. I have attended several closed briefings this week with the Vice President, other Administration officials, and top military officials. Because of the gravity of this situation, I continue to carefully weigh all options, consider all information, and closely monitor new developments.”
TWEET, TWEET: @VernBuchanan: In Washington hosting a live conference call w/ folks back in Florida — the response to Syria? A resounding NO!
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MONEY CONCERNS PLAGUE CONGRESSIONAL AIDES
Forty-five percent of respondents to the third ‘Life in Congress’ study said a desire to earn more money significantly influenced their decision to leave Congress, while 51 percent of staffers cited low pay as the top reason they left their current job or office.
Even so, compensation was not a major factor in a staffer’s decision to stay in the legislative branch, or in overall job satisfaction. In fact, despite complaints about pay, grueling hours, poor management and lack of professional development in individual offices, 80 percent of congressional staff surveyed were happy with their current jobs.
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CRAZY OR LOYAL? LOBBYIST HOLDS FUNDRAISER FOR NAN RICH CAMPAIGN via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald
Bernie Friedman, whose income as a Becker & Poliakoff lobbyist hinges in no small part on a Republican-led Legislature, is hosting a fundraiser for his friend and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich.
The folks in Tallahassee have noticed. And Rich, who has campaigned tirelessly but has little money to show for it, sure could use the financial help to unseat incumbent GOP Gov. Rich Scott and his mega-millions campaign.
“I have had the honor and privilege of calling Senator Nan Rich my friend and mentor for more than twenty years,” Friedman wrote. “Nan is a tireless advocate for those in need. With her passion, integrity and leadership, she will be a great Governor for the State of Florida. I hope you will join us at this event.”
IS ALLISON TANT HURTING FLORIDA DEMOCRATS CHANCES via Jeff Henderson of Sunshine State News
Democrats had a great year in Florida in 2012. Barack Obama carried the state over Mitt Romney and Bill Nelson easily defeated Connie Mack to keep his Senate seat. Democratic challengers defeated two Republican congressmen and cut down on the GOP majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. While Rod Smith’s gubernatorial bid in 2006 and his role as Alex Sink’s running mate in 2010 may have left him a loser as a statewide candidate, his stint as Florida Democratic Party chairman has to be considered a success.
But Allison Tant, Smith’s successor, has had major problems in her time leading the party.
… Democrats haven’t impressed with their efforts to recruit candidates for state Cabinet offices. No major Democrats have filed for attorney general, CFO and agriculture commissioner besides Braswell, who turned out to be a disaster for Tant. While the election is still 14 months away, Tant hasn’t impressed so far on that front.
Nor do things look better for Democrats at the legislative level. So far, no major Democratic challengers have filed to run against any Republicans in the Florida Senate.
To be sure, Democrats have their chances to win big in Florida next year. If Crist wins, he will be the first Democrat to win a gubernatorial election since 1994. But, so far, Tant’s leadership hasn’t impressed and Florida Democrats can be excused if they miss Rod Smith.
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BRUTAL SUE CARLTON COLUMN: THE TWO FACES OF PAM BONDI
I find myself struck by the differences between Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general often in conservative lockstep with our disaster of a governor, and Pam Bondi From Here.
The one from here is hard not to like. When she was a state prosecutor, families of victims in her cases gravitated to her. She hugged them and she held their hands and she put bad guys away. She has two on death row, Adam Davis and William Kenneth Taylor.
This is a small detail but, to me, telling: She loves dogs, purebred or pound, any dog. (And yes, there was the controversy over the Katrina dog.) She has taken her dog advocacy to the capital, so that at least has not changed.
But something else happened on the way to Tallahassee. Maybe those tea party politics were always in her heart, but she has become a stranger to some as attorney general, pledging on the campaign trail to oppose gay marriage, supporting an NRA challenge to a federal law restricting 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds from buying handguns and, of course, fighting Obamacare.
GOVERNOR IN MIDDLE OF EDUCATION BATTLE via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press
Gov. Scott is in the middle of a tug-of-war over education that could reshape the state’s schools while also turning upside down the 2016 presidential race.
The Republican governor in recent weeks has refused to come out strongly in favor of Florida’s transition to new standards known also as the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
Supporters of Common Core contend there is a long list of misperceptions and myths surrounding the new standards, which set uniform benchmarks for reading, writing and math. The standards are a result of an initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Opponents see them as the nationalization of education policy and standards, something they say should be left to the states.
Scott has backed the standards in the past, but as controversy over them has mounted, particularly among some Republicans, he has steadily begun to side-step questions about them.
These new standards are backed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who helped create the state’s current A-to-F grading system while in office from 1999 to 2007. It would be a huge defeat to Bush’s potential presidential campaign if his own home state suddenly changed directions on education, an area where he is seen as a leader.
Backing away from the standards would also require a wave of changes in Florida’s schools as well as a change in state law.
But Republicans across the state who will be critical to Scott’s re-election are beginning to line up in opposition to the standards. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, also a potential presidential candidate, has come out against them. Meanwhile, a rift is also growing over the standards in the Florida Legislature.
SCOTT’S RE-ELECTION COMMITTEE CANCELS GATOR HUNT FUNDRAISER
As we first reported yesterday, Gov. Scott’s re-election campaign planned to hold a “private gator hunt” in New Smyrna Beach on Oct. 18. Attendees were being asked to contribute $25,000 to the “Let’s Get To Work” committee formed to promote his campaign.
The committee announced last night that the event has been canceled. No explanation was forthcoming.
News of Scott raising money from the killing of one of the state’s signature animals went viral today, with the story making its way to The Huffington Post and POLITICO.
WATCHDOG GROUP CRITICAL OF FLA. GOVERNOR’S TAXPAYER-FUNDED OVERSEAS TRIPS via WFTV
Since 2011, Gov. Rick Scott has led nine overseas trade missions designed to bring jobs and new economic opportunities to Florida. This summer, the governor led a delegation of 100 community, business, and political representatives to France for the Paris Air Show. The cost to taxpayers was $332,659. Travel expenses for Scott and his wife were covered through private companies. However, Orlando-based Enterprise Florida, the state’s taxpayer-funded marketing and business incentive arm, reported costs for the trip at almost $600,000.
In its financial disclosure, issued three months after the conclusion of the trip, Enterprise Florida states it recouped $262,000 in expenses. Enterprise Florida reported expected revenue of $172 million from the trip but it has not produced any documentation to verify that figure.
The Paris Airshow is considered one of the leading aerospace and aviation trade shows in the world, with more than 350,000 visitors. At this year’s airshow, Embraer aircraft holding, a Brazilian aerospace company with its U.S. headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, and Embry Riddle University, both announced major deals including partnerships and aircraft sales.
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APPOINTED: Anna Dooley and Mike Bauer and Cari Roth (reappointed) to the Environmental Regulation Commission.
APPOINTED: Christi L. Underwood to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court.
MORE APPOINTMENTS: Kelly Jo McKibben to the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court.
EVEN MORE APPOINTMENTS: Gary K. Hunter, Jr. to the First District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission.
THE APPOINTMENTS OFFICE WAS BUSY: Dr. Steven Scott to the University of Florida Board of Trustees.
LET PROGRESS CONTINUE: THE CASE FOR KEEPING MEDICAID’S DENTAL CARVE-OUT via contributor Karen Cyphers
Here is a case where lawmakers got it right, and then, just as the measure is starting to work, a new law rips out its teeth. Kinda, literally.
Florida’s Prepaid Dental Health Plan (PDHP) became operational in Miami-Dade County in 2009, and since that time, scores for annual dental visits by low-income children improved each year. PDHP plans significantly outperformed fee-for-service plans for preventive dental services, and based on their successes, prepaid dental plans were expanded from the Miami-Dade pilot statewide in December 2012. Considering Florida’s starting point (dead last in the nation for all measures of public dental access) this is a big, consequential deal. But the effort is already in danger and improvements will go by the wayside when the prepaid dental program sunsets in October 2014.
At that point, dental services under Medicaid will become wrapped into the managed care health plans that cover all other health care services. Why does it matter for Florida to contract directly with dental managed care plans for dental services? When dental benefits are left to health insurers (who in the private market have no interest in offering these benefits, and don’t) state capitated payments for dental care are added to the same giant pot as all other health care services. Where, in that type of system, does an insurer see the incentive to draw in more claims under dental? It doesn’t.
In contrast, by contracting directly with dental managed care programs, each dollar dedicated to oral health care is used for just that. In Florida and elsewhere, this approach works. The Legislature should extend the statewide prepaid dental managed care program for at least three more years, during which time a full review can take place to validate the improvements we have finally started to see. By doing so, Florida can avoid the fate it is heading for, and one that many other states have faced. Other states have tied dental care into overall health plans only to have go back later, remove dental, and return these services to their own ‘carved-out’ managed care environment.
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COMINGS AND GOINGS IN BUDGET OFFICES via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Sen. Gaetz has promoted Cindy Kynoch to be staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee replacing Mike Hansen, effective Oct. 21, at a salary of $140,000 a year. Kynoch had been Hansen’s top deputy. And JoAnne Leznoff continues to hold down the fort in the House as the long-time staff director of the House Appropriations Committee.
SEN. LIZBETH BENACQUISTO AND REP. MATT CALDWELL BREAK GROUND ON CALOOSAHATCHEE TREATMENT PROJECT
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Rep. Matt Caldwell announced that a project to clean and store water from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River Basin will be built near Clewiston in a public-private partnership with Hilliard Brothers of Florida. The Caloosahatchee River Treatment Facility, a 680-acre project to clean water from Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding Caloosahatchee River basin, will utilize a hybrid wetland system including Floating Aquatic Vegetation (FAV) to remove nutrients from water intercepted from Lake Okeechobee and the local drainage basin and returning clean water to the Caloosahatchee River. The project was approved and funded by the 2013 Florida Legislature. Sen. Benacquisto and Rep. Caldwell sponsored the legislation in their respective chambers. The event will be held today at Hopedelagee (means “grassy sloughs”) in Western Hendry County.
FLORIDA HOUSING COALITION HONORS SEN. NANCY DETERT
The Sadowski Housing Coalition today congratulated State Senator Nancy Detert on receiving the Housing Award from the Florida Housing Coalition (FHC) for her legislative advocacy and leadership efforts on behalf of foster care children in Florida with the filing and passage of the 2013 “Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act.” Senator Detert was honored during today’s lunch session at the 26th Annual Statewide Affordable Housing Conference in Orlando, Fla.
Senate Bill 1036, filed by Senator Detert during the 2013 Legislative Session, gives foster care youth the opportunity to remain in foster care until the age of 21, as opposed to aging out of the system at the age of 18. Before final passage out of the Senate chamber, the Senate voted to rename the bill to the “Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act.”
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ERIC EISNAUGLE AND SCOTT PLAKON TEAM UP AGAIN TO FUNDRAISE ON SEPT. 19
Eric Eisnaugle and Scott Plakon, both former legislators, are hoping to regain seats in the Florida House. Eisnaugle sat out of the 2012 election and Plakon was narrowly defeated. Join the two hopefuls for a fundraising reception on Thursday, Sept. 19, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the offices of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell in Orlando.
JENNIFER SULLIVAN HITS PETITION GOAL IN HOUSE DISTRICT 31 RACE — AFTER 5 DAYS via Orlando Politics
Last to Enter, First to Qualify? Republican Jennifer Sullivan says she’s collected the number of petitions necessary to qualify for the Florida House District 31 race next year. She pushed out a graphic saying “5 days, 45 Volunteers, 1300 petitions” then in a formal release commented on the goal. “My campaign did in five days what takes most candidates over five months,”
This isn’t a complete surprise, she’s been active on social media posting pictures of those volunteers during those petition walks. Her mother is also Patricia Sullivan, a former Congressional Candidate who has a massive following in the area. She also hit a 10k in 10 day money bomb a week ago that should show up in her fundraising numbers next quarter. All of this less than a month after she entered the race. What is also astonishing is the lack of noise from the rest of the field. There are 5 other candidates in this race and only Medical Exec Randy Glisson has made been active on social media, and communicating with the press.
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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Tom Arnold, Paul Bradshaw, Chris Dudley, James McFaddin, Paul Mitchell, Lindsey Perkins, Southern Strategy Group: Identity Theft Guard Solution d/b/a I.D. Experts
Brian Ballard, Brad Burleson, Ballard Partners: RAF Industries, Inc
Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight: City of West Palm Beach
Jay Neal: Florida Association for Insurance Reform
Elisa Weber: Department of Business & Professional Regulation
PASCO COMMISSION HIRES SHAWN FOSTER OF SOUTHERN STRATEGY GROUP via The Bay Buzz
Pasco Commissioners voted Tuesday to begin negotiations with Southern Strategy Group, a firm represented locally by Shawn Foster, a former aide of U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis who also worked for Mike Fasano when he was a state senator. He currently serves as a lobbyist for the Hernando County Commission.
The firm would replace Slater Bayliss…
Commissioners have set aside $50,000 for lobbying efforts in Tallahassee, but they told staff to work to secure a less expensive deal. An agreement will come back before the board for final approval.
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NEW COLLEGE OF FLORIDA RANKED NATION’S TOP NON-MILITARY PUBLIC LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE via contributor Karen Cyphers
UM, UF and FSU weren’t the only Florida colleges to earn recognition by US News & World Report this week: New College of Florida, the 800-student honors college in Sarasota, was ranked as No. 5 in the nation among schools of its kind. This made New College of Florida the state’s most highly ranked college — albeit in a limited category — and the nation’s top public liberal arts college that is not affiliated with the military. Preceding New College on the list are the US Naval Academy, the US Military Academy, the US Air Force Academy, and Virginia Military Institute.
New College has a higher proportion of Fulbright Scholars than virtually all other colleges in the US. It features a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and emphasizes in-depth undergraduate research. It also features a fair amount of foosball and patchouli, but that’s another story. US News & World Report also ranked New College as No. 6 in the nation for the percentage of students who go onto graduate programs within a year of graduation, and No. 21 among public and private liberal arts college for students who graduate with the least debt.
PALM BEACH ARMS DEALER HIRES FORMER LT. GOV. JENNIFER CARROLL AND MASS. SEN. SCOTT BROWN via Deirdra Funcheon of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times
In March, Jennifer Carroll resigned as Rick Scott’s lieutenant governor after becoming, as the New York Times put it, “an embarrassment to the man who chose her for the job” during a tenure “marred by scandal and poor judgment.” Farther north, Scott Brown, a rare Republican in liberal Massachusetts, relinquished his seat in the Senate in January after being beaten in an election by consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. But both are finding themselves wanted by a Palm Beach-based arms dealer, GDSI.
GDSI’s chairman and CEO, Richard J. Sullivan, formerly held the same titles at Applied Digital Solutions, a company that made various technologies, including microchips. He was also involved in a company called Digital Angel, which also worked on Verichip, a controversial microchip that could be implanted in people.
There is little information about the company or its principals in the financial media, except for news releases from the company. GDSI is publicly traded, not on the NASDAQ or the NYSE but rather on the over-the-counter markets. One analysis from June raised some “red flags” about the company for investors.
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Daniel Diaz Leyva.
SHAMELESS PLUG: MY INTERVIEW WITH FLORIDA CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING
Excerpts from my interview with FCIR about Florida Context, my feelings about identifying as political operative and reporter, and what might come next.
“Context Florida is a lot like Florida Voices in that it features op-eds from influential thought-leaders, but how it has been constructed is a lot different from Florida Voices. Context Florida is built for the web first. You can tell this by how attractive the site looks and feels…”
“Whereas I once resisted such categorization, I now see myself as a member of the media… I still resist the label of journalist because I have such respect for that term. It’s like, if you are a journalist, you are part of a code. You’re a Samurai.”
“Still, I am very much a political operative. I probably work on two dozen different political races, mostly helping candidates with their public relations and social media. This presents an obvious conflict — one I acknowledge. But that conflict of interest is based on rules created by traditional media. I don’t necessarily subscribe to those rules and, candidly, don’t want to and will resist doing so if it benefits my or my clients’ interests.”