Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – April 23

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: It’s Independence Day in the Florida Keys, the 33rd anniversary of the establishment of the Conch Republic. The 1982 “secession” was equal parts jest and legitimate political protest, coming five days after the federal government set up a checkpoint on U.S. 1 to search vehicles for drugs and illegal immigrants. In response, the Keys proclaimed independence, declared war, immediately surrendered  – and asked for $1 billion in federal aid. Many Keys residents continue to celebrate the Conch Republic each year, boasting, “We Seceded Where Others Failed.”

DAYS UNTIL Avengers: Age of Ultron debuts: 1: Sine Die: 8; Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 26; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 81; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 245; First Day of 2016 Legislative Schedule: 264; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 326; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 495; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 566.

HASHTAG OF THE DAY — #BILLSAREDYING

>>>Over the last 24-48 hours, here’s what’s died or is dying…

MEDICAL MARIJUANA — Sen. Jeff Brandes one of the prime advocates in the Legislature of legalizing medicinal pot, confirmed Wednesday even a proposal to speed patient access to cannabis low in euphoria-inducing THC is effectively dead this session.

“I think the best plan for us is to work on it over the summer, talk to experts in the field, come back with a bill that is well thought-out, well-researched and is something that is the right thing for Florida,” he said, “versus building something in the next couple of days that will have huge unintended consequences.” (via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times)

TELEHEALTH — An effort to expand the use of “telehealth” in Florida may be in trouble, as bills stalled in both House and Senate committees. Rep. Travis Cummings admitted that his measure may not pass by May 1, the scheduled end of the regular legislative session.

HB 545 is currently stuck in the House Health & Human Services Committee, which is not expected to meet again for the remainder of the session. SB 478, the Senate version filed by Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean and Democratic Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, is still awaiting a hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill is not on the committee’s Thursday agenda.

FLORIDA CHAMBER’S HEALTH PLAN — The Florida Chamber of Commerce says negotiations over a pot of supplemental hospital funding and the debate over Medicaid expansion should be separate issues, a move that puts it in line with Gov. Scott and House Republicans.

The group now wants lawmaker’s sole focus to be on securing funding for the so-called Low Income Pool, a mix of local and federal dollars used by hospitals to provide charity care. That money must be approved by the feds, which have been in intense negotiations with Scott’s administration over the issue. … The position was laid out in a three-page memo written by Mark Wilson, the group’s president, and circulated to the Chamber’s board of directors. (via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News)

PROBABLY GAMBLING BILLS, BUT MAYBE NOT THE SEMINOLE COMPACT — Senate Regulated Industry Committee Chairman Sen. Rob Bradley said discussions with the Seminole Tribe and the Senate are underway over the resolution of the portion of the gaming compact with the state.

But “there is such a large distance between the two parties” that he expects it “will be very difficult to come to a meeting of the minds” before the session ends on May 1. The casualty, he said, is likely to be passage of any gaming bill this session.

“The Senate’s position has been consistent, we think when it comes to gaming you deal with the compact first and then deal with these other issues,” he told the Herald/Times. “We are not going to recommend to our members a deal that doesn’t make sense for the people of the State of Florida.

“Until we arrive at a situation with our negotiations with the Tribe, where we have such a deal, then we’re not going to move forward.”

That could mean that any attempt by the House to schedule passage of its sweeping gaming bill, HB 1233, could be in trouble. Or it could mean that the chilled relations between the chambers over the budget and health care impasse are also interfering with progress on other priority bills. In other words, is it posturing? (via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald)

DECORUM — I witnessed the Senate Rules Committee, with David Simmons presiding and Vice Chair Darren Soto riding shotgun. The mysterious, embarrassing, outrageous manner in which this near four-hour meeting ended tipped me over the edge. … If you were there, or watched the meeting on The Florida Channel — it involved discussion on the “conscience protection” bill that religious groups in Florida say is necessary for them to deny gays’ applications to adopt — I’m betting you were as appalled as I was. (via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News)

>>>Here’s what may be coming to an end because of legislative action…

ACCESS TO POLICE CAMERA VIDEOS — The Senate voted 36-2 for the bill that would keep confidential police videos that are shot inside a house, a health care facility or any place that a “reasonable person would expect to be private.” Supporters of the measure contend it would encourage police agencies to have their police officers use body cameras. They also said it would guarantee the privacy rights of those caught on video. (via the Associated Press)

THE FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION PASSES — A measure that would replace the FHSAA with a different state-selected nonprofit organization passed the state House 86-29, clearing the path for the state Senate to take up the issue in the coming days.

Among other things, the measure calls on the state education commissioner to review the association’s performance following an operational audit; requires the organization to offer fans the option to buy a single-day pass or multiple day pass instead of per-event ticket; and allows students, including those in public schools, to participate in sports at a different school if the program isn’t offered at their school. (via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of the Naples Daily News Political Fix Florida)

TICKET QUOTAS — The House unanimously passed the so-called “Waldo Bill” (SB 264) and sent it to the desk of Gov. Scott. The Senate had previously approved the bill. The bill’s nickname comes from the city of Waldo on heavily travelled U.S. 301, once considered one of the nation’s worst speed traps. In 2014, Waldo police officers disclosed a quota system and it was reported that tickets accounted for nearly half of the city’s revenue. The police force has since been disbanded.

The bill also requires a city or county to report to state officials if traffic ticket revenue exceeds a third of the cost of operating its law enforcement agency. (via the Associated Press)

How one Top 5 lobbyist describes the environment at the Capitol: “It’s not even 5 o’clock and I am going home. I should be here burning the midnight oil. Instead I’ve got nothing to do. This is — by far — the weirdest session I’ve ever seen.”

>>>And Rick Scott’s not making matters any better… 

GOV. CALLS IN SENATORS, THREATENS VETOES, WARRING WITH HOSPITALS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott used the threat of his veto pen and privately called several Republican senators into his office individually, threatening to veto their priorities, reminding them he wants tax cuts, and showing them a list of local hospitals which he suggests are making unreasonable profits.

The message, according to several senators who spoke with the governor: Why aren’t we cutting taxes if we are willing to send taxpayer money to profitable hospitals?

“It’s a legitimate question,’’ said Sen. Nancy Detert, one of the senators Scott called in for a meeting. “We’re  passing out taxpayer money and asking the working poor to pay too. People looking at their hospital bills don’t think the hospitals are suffering as much as they say they are.”

Detert said that Scott discussed vetoes “because that is the only tool in his toolbox” and “demonstrated that her local hospital had a profit of $93 million.”

Other senators said the governor told them he wasn’t pleased at the standing ovation the Senate Appropriations Committee gave Senate President Andy Gardiner, a gesture of appreciation for his position on the health care issues.

Sen. Jack Latvala said he asked to meet with the governor after he heard of the governor’s meetings with his colleagues, but wouldn’t comment on whether he offered the governor any advice.

“Cooler heads need to prevail,’’ he said. “We don’t get to a solution in the media.”

SENATOR: GOV. SCOTT’S USE OF ‘NUCLEAR OPTION’ MAKES MATTERS WORSE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Republican senators swapped stories on the Senate floor after they held one-on-one meetings with Gov. Scott. Lawmakers said Scott reminded them of his priorities of tax cuts and school spending and threatened to kill their bills and veto their budget items.

One GOP senator not invited to Scott’s inner sanctum was Sen. Don Gaetz who has criticized Scott for shifting his position on Medicaid expansion and for Scott’s unwillingness to negotiate a resolution to the health care budget stalemate.

“He’s not the first governor to threaten vetoes if he doesn’t get his way on priorities. That’s well within the rules,” Gaetz said. “The problem is, that’s the nuclear option. When the governor says, ‘All your bills are dead and all your appropriations will be vetoed,’ then there’s really nothing else to talk about … It has a tendency to stop productive conversation at that point.”

Gaetz has been most critical of the Scott administration’s failure, for nearly a year, to send an alternative plan to the federal government in anticipation of the end of a hospital funding program known as LIP, or the low-income pool. Gaetz calls the inaction “governance malpractice.” Scott did send the feds the Senate’s modified Medicaid expansion plan earlier this week.

“The meetings that have been held today lose him some ground in human relations,” Gaetz said of Scott. “There are some senators who will not take kindly to being threatened.”

WHAT STEVE CRISAFULLI IS READING — “Why state Medicaid expansion hurts everyone” by Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation

AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY AIRING TV ADS OPPOSING MEDICAID EXPANSION via Florida Politics

AFP-FL, the Florida-based branch of the pro-industry advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, has taken to the Florida television airwaves to make their case against a plan in the Senate that would draw down federal Medicaid dollars to expand coverage through the state under the program.

“At some point, the Senate is going to have to recognize that Floridians do not want more federally run healthcare,” said AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson in a voiceover featured in prominently in the ad.

“Their plan will force a massive regulatory burden and even bigger financial drain on the state,” Hudson goes on. “Even worse? Their plan does nothing to ensure Floridians get the care they deserve. The Senate should be working with the House and Governor Scott to hold the federal government accountable, and refocus on what they were elected to do – balance the budget.”

TWEET OF THE DAY: @RIchardCorcoran: The entire fight is about paying hospitals more money. It has nothing to do with coverage or health care outcomes for the poor.

>>>These issues moved forward on Wednesday…

SENATE APPROVES LOCAL PENSION REFORM BILL

In a unanimous vote, the Senate approved a measure to revamp the funding of local police and firefighters pensions, once step closer to ending an ongoing debate over retirement plans.

Headed to the House, SB 172 passed 36-0 with only a brief debate. At the heart is an agreement reached last year between cities and unions, which cities then disowned soon after Gov. Scott’s re-election.

The House could take up its version of the legislation (HB 341) sometime Thursday. If passed, it could reach Scott’s desk by the next day. Barring a veto, Margate Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring believes the bill will pass this year. Ring spent two years on pushing the issue.

Supporters say the changes are necessary because of the long-term financial health of several local pensions. Ring and Bradley brokered a deal between cities and unions last year, where local governments can fund the plans with insurance premium taxes, a major source revenue source for retirement plans.

The bill seeks to repeal current state law governing the spending of premium taxes, as long as local governments and unions agree. Without an agreement, taxes would be subject to a complex formula that governs existing benefits, as well as how much money goes to workers enrolled in retirement accounts.

Supporters say the complicated standards for distributing money is supposed to push governments and unions to agree as to how to spend the money, instead of reaching a stalemate in negotiations. Opposing the bill this year is the Florida League of Cities, which once supported the measure in 2014.

SENATE UBER INSURANCE BILL ADVANCES WITH NEW TWEAKS AMID DEBATE via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

With a newfound emphasis on a ridesharing scourge sponsor Sen. David Simmons called “rogue drivers,” a bill to require greater insurance coverage for Uber and Lyft continued along its road to this afternoon in the Senate.

Simmons’ SB 1298 – which also deals with short-term property rental companies like Airbnb, another facet of the emerging “sharing economy” – passed after the adoption of three amendments this afternoon.

The debate took on a new tinge, however, as the better part of today’s ridesharing discussion focused on an illicit practice which Simmons alleges is common. Many drivers flout the rules by going “off the app” with riders, i.e. forming informal relationships wherein they arrange to exchange cash for rides without activating the operative smartphone app that signals the beginning of a commercial agreement governed by current ridesharing rules.

Use of the app does not only trigger a fee for Uber as a middle man which takes a fee from the transaction: it also also triggers specific insurance coverage which kicks in when a passenger is present and engaged in an official ridesharing transaction.

That issue was resolved – for the Senate version at least – by way of a Simmons-sponsored amendment to his own bill that would require commercial levels of coverage on  vehicles which host Uber rides whether they are technically pursuing a fare at the time or not.

>>>Also on Wednesday, the Prez was in town, but the Gov couldn’t meet with him

AT EVERGLADES, OBAMA WARNING OF DAMAGE FROM CLIMATE NEGLECT via Josh Lederman and Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press

With swampy waters and alligators as his backdrop, President Barack Obama was using a visit to Florida’s Everglades to warn of the damage that climate change is already inflicting on the nation’s environmental treasures – and to hammer political opponents he says are doing far too little about it.

Obama’s trip to the Everglades, timed to coincide with Earth Day, marks an attempt to connect the dots between theoretical arguments about carbon emissions and real-life implications. With his climate change agenda under attack in Washington and courthouses across the U.S., Obama has sought this week to force Americans to envision a world in which cherished natural wonders fall victim to pollution.

Obama, dressed down in a blue shirt and sunglasses, toured the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park, where a series of wooden walkways took him through dense shrubbery and over wetlands. A park ranger explained the history of the area to the president as alligators slithered in nearby shallows and small flocks of large birds ducked in and out of the deep-green waters.

In Florida, rising sea levels have allowed salt water to seep inland, threatening drinking water for Floridians and the extraordinary native species and plants that call the Everglades home. Christy Goldfuss of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality said without stepped-up action, Joshua Tree National Park could soon be treeless and Glacier National Park devoid of glaciers.

Those political overtones were impossible to avoid.

Gov. Scott has attracted national attention over his resistance to acknowledging man-made causes of climate change head-on. “I’m not a scientist,” the Republican famously claimed when asked about climate predictions that show Florida to be one of the states most threatened by rising seas and stronger storms.

TWEET, TWEET: @Mdixon55: Today: Gov. Scott needs to be in Tally for session so he could not greet Obama … Tomorrow: Scott will attend Wawa opening in Fort Myers.

>>>Meanwhile, Carol Marbin reports, while #TheProcess ignores…

BEHIND SMILES, A HOLLYWOOD, FLA. CHILD’S SHORT, TROUBLED LIFE via The Miami Herald

Last December, when a Broward County child welfare investigator visited the Hollywood home where Ahziya Osceola lived with his father — who had been the subject of two recent child abuse allegations — the 3-year-old’s stepmother was viewed as a source of stability, someone who brought “structure” to his chaotic life.

Stepmom Analiz Osceola’s parental report card would prove to be far more complicated.

Ahziya’s 24-year-old stepmother had been under the scrutiny of child protection investigators herself since April 2012, when her own son had been found sleeping on a mattress on the dirty floor of a one-room drug house teeming with cockroaches. As many as 15 other adults were there, too, police said, abusing narcotics. Five months later, the 2-year-old was found wandering alone several blocks from his home. It took his mother almost three hours to report him missing.

Analiz Osceola was charged last month with aggravated manslaughter after police found Ahziya’s 30-pound body stuffed inside two garbage bags in his parents’ laundry room. Hollywood police say the boy was covered “head to toe” with bruises, had suffered a lacerated liver and ruptured pancreas, and had a healing spiral fracture to his foot — a kind of injury that is often associated with child abuse.

… In his sadly abridged life, Ahziya had appeared in the subject line of four abuse or neglect reports, 127 pages of caseworker chronological notes, another 58 pages of child protection narratives and one police report. No one who signed any of the records seemed to comprehend where all the bread crumbs were leading.

The final document was the boy’s autopsy.

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>>>Back to the campaign trail…

NATIONAL POLL: MARCO RUBIO JUMPS TO FRONT OF GOP FIELD, BEATS HILLARY CLINTON via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio leads the GOP field in a new national poll and runs best against Hillary Clinton, a big shot for his campaign that’s just over a week into effect.

Rubio takes 15 percent of the GOP primary vote, according to the Quinnipiac poll, with Jeb Bush earning 13 percent and Scott Walker 11 percent. No other candidate tops 9 percent and 14 percent remain undecided.

Clinton naturally blows away any Democratic competition and other Republicans, except 43-year-old Rubio.

Bush tops the “no way” list as 17 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him. Chris Christie is next with 16 percent, with 10 percent for Rand Paul.

RUBIO REACHES OUT TO GAY REPUBLICANS via Luciana Lopez of Reuters

Rubio … has been making moves to court a socially liberal faction of his party that represents gay conservatives.

The Florida senator’s staff have held quarterly meetings with the Log Cabin Republicans “going back some time”, their executive director, Gregory Angelo, told Reuters. The meetings with the advocacy group were to discuss legislation, issues and opportunities to “partner on,” Angelo said. Rubio’s office declined to comment on the meetings.

The discussions highlight the tricky electoral math for Republican presidential aspirants like Rubio.

Facing an electorate that has sharply altered its views on the issue since the turn of the century, even Rubio, who has long opposed gay marriage, has softened his rhetoric, saying last week that he would attend a gay wedding of a loved one.

While those kinds of comments might help win votes in the general election if he becomes the Republican nominee, they have the potential to antagonize the conservative Republican base he needs to win the primary, party activists said.

RUBIO PALM BEACH FUNDRAISER AT HOME OF SUGAR TYCOON via Brian Crowley of the Crowley Report

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is attending a Palm Beach fundraiser Friday at the home of Pepe Fanjul, Jr., executive vice president of Florida Crystals and vice president of Fanjul Corporation. The Fanjul family are among the most powerful sugar tycoons in the world.

Pepe’s father, who is on the host committee, was one of the first people Rubio greeted as he left the stage following his speech formally announcing his 2016 presidential campaign. Pepe Sr. and his brother Alfy, are well known in political circles nationally and internationally.

… The event begins with a reception at 11:30 a.m. Among those expected to attend is former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

RUBIO’S BIGGEST PROBLEM ISN’T JEB BUSH via Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal

At first glance, Jeb Bush looks like the biggest obstacle to Rubio’s presidential aspirations. Both hail from Florida, both are touting a reform-oriented brand conservatism, and it makes for good political theatre: The two have been friendly since Rubio’s tenure as speaker of the Florida House. In search of a distinction against his one-time mentor, Rubio emphasized that he was the candidate of the future in his kickoff speech. It was a subtle nod to the fact that there’s not much else that separates the two.

But if Rubio is ever going to get a chance to face off with Bush, he has a more pressing problem to deal with first: a brewing collision with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Despite Rubio and Bush’s surface similarities, their bases of support are surprisingly distinct. Bush remains the clear favorite among Republican centrists, holding onto a slim plurality of support in most national polls thanks to his establishment connections. What’s forgotten about Rubio, especially since his ill-fated immigration reform advocacy, is that he’s still the favorite of many tea-party conservatives.

This week’s CNN/ORC national survey of GOP voters found Rubio leading Bush, 14 percent to 11 percent, among Republicans who identify with the tea party. But the same poll showed Rubio trailing 20 percent to 7 percent among those who don’t. In their home state of Florida, this month’s Quinnipiac survey showed Rubio with an 81 percent favorability rating with tea-party supporters, while Bush’s was only 57 percent.

STRUGGLING TO REMEMBER THE NAME OF JEB BUSH’S SUPER PAC? HERE’S WHY via Emily Flitter of Reuters

The Bush super PAC is in fact Right to Rise. America Rising is another political action committee, unconnected to Bush that plans to raise and spend unlimited sums of money, although it does share one goal in common with Right to Rise: to defeat Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

They also share some thematic similarity with the group supporting another Republican presidential hopeful, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (Our American Revival), which isn’t too different from groups advocating for potential candidates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (America Leads) and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (Pursuing America’s Greatness).

The bland sameness of the names means that tens of millions of Americans may not realize who funded the television advert they just watched denigrating or trumpeting a particular candidate. A few blinks, and the names all run together – just as they’re supposed to, strategists told Reuters.

“Super PACs aren’t Coke and Pepsi; they’re not even Democrats or Republicans,” said Carl Forti, co-founder of the Republican political strategy group Black Rock Group. “You don’t necessarily want it to be a brand.”

That’s because many of these groups want to stay in the background while spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support their candidate or their cause. A group that spends most of its cash on vicious attack ads, for example, can hide behind the anodyne gloss of a name that is easily forgotten or confused.

ON THE HUNT FOR THE PRESIDENCY, BUSH ADOPTS A ‘CAVEMAN’ DIET via Steve Holland of Reuters

Bush is eating like a caveman, and he has literally shrunk in size. … the popular Paleo diet, which is based on what are believed to be the eating habits of the Paleolithic hunters and gatherers.

For Paleo practitioners, lean meat and fruits and vegetables are in and processed foods, dairy products and sugary delights are out.

For Bush, the results have been noticeable. Late last year he was something of a pudgy doughboy with a full face and soft jawline. Today the 6-foot, 4-inch-tall Bush sports a more chiseled look. His campaign-in-waiting would not say how much he had lost, but he looks to have shed 20 or 30 pounds.

His son George P. Bush, the newly elected Texas land commissioner, talked Jeb and Jeb Bush Jr. into trying it, a source close to Bush said.

Bush, who associates say has been dining on grilled chicken and salad while snacking on nuts and also exercising, is hardly the first politician to aim for a leaner look ahead of an expected campaign.

Politicians entering a presidential campaign often decide to lose a few pounds to project a more vigorous image. Usually when they do so it means they are seriously considering a candidacy.

Bush’s friends have noticed the weight loss and are envious.

SMART READ — HOW THE GOP CAN OUT-COOL DEMS IN 2016 via Matt Lewis of The Week

“The brain processes cool in terms of its impact on our social identity,” says Steven Quartz, co-author of Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World. “[W]e buy products that reflect who we are and how we want others to think of us as well.”

But it’s not just the products we buy. The same often holds true of the candidates we buy into. … cool means victory. Our last three presidents were cooler than the six competitors they bested. Bill Clinton was cooler than George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, George W. Bush was cooler than Al Gore and John Kerry, and Barack Obama was cooler than John McCain and Mitt Romney (and in the 2008 primary, Obama was cooler than Hillary Clinton, too).

And that’s the thing about cool: You know it when you see it. And that brings me to the GOP’s future. …

Republicans are faced with both a challenge and an opportunity. If a demographic shift has made it vital for Republicans to sell conservatism to more millennials and urban, cosmopolitan voters — and I believe it has — it makes sense to go for cool. Marco Rubio — who is young, handsome, and fluent in Spanish, sports, and pop culture — is cool. Especially compared to Hillary Clinton. Grandmothers (and grandfathers!) may be a lot of wonderful things, but “cool” isn’t typically one of them, at least in the popular imagination.

And it’s not just Rubio. Rand Paul is kind of cool, particularly among millennials who are socially liberal but wary of the intrusiveness of big government. Indeed, there might never be a better time for the GOP to steal the “cool” mojo from Democrats — who have tended to “own” the cool factor for the better part of the last 50 years.

If you put aside the historic nature of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy — and that is a huge if — you are left with a candidate who has achieved extraordinary levels of professional success — and is undeniably uncool.

Still, the fracturing of media, and the rise of alternative sources, has increased competition. No longer do a few mainstream media outlets have a monopoly on the news. That also means they no longer have a monopoly on defining what is cool. This, I suspect, means we will see through the spin and get a clear picture of who’s really cool. And I’m pretty sure it won’t be Hillary Clinton.

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THE MYSTERY OF A POSSIBLE FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE via Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call

A handful of Republicans are currently being mentioned as possible Senate candidates for the Florida seat being vacated by Rubio.. Former Rep. Bill McCollum, who has run repeatedly (and often unsuccessfully) for statewide office, is mentioned, as are a handful of House members, including Rep. Ron DeSantis, a tea party favorite.

Perhaps the most interesting, or at least unusual, candidate for the Republican nomination is the state’s current lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former Florida House member (and majority leader) and Miami-Dade County property appraiser.

What makes Lopez-Cantera, who was appointed to his current post in January 2014 by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, so unusual is that he is a Cuban-American Jew who was born in Madrid. His wife, Renee, is Jewish.

Lopez-Cantera’s father is Catholic but his mother is Jewish, which makes the lieutenant governor Jewish according to Halakha (Jewish religious law). But is Lopez-Cantera — who has deflected questions about his religion — a practicing Jew, or does he identify with his father’s religion? On that, the evidence is inconclusive.

Steve Bousquet wrote in the Tampa Bay Times that the Republican’s official state House biography in 2010 listed his religion as Catholic.  But a subsequent House manual did not list a religious affiliation for the Republican legislator, Bousquet noted.

Maybe most interestingly, the Chabad Lubavitch Community News Service, which reports on news of interest to the Hasidic community in Brooklyn and elsewhere, identified Lopez-Cantera as “Florida’s first Jewish Lieutenant Governor,” and observed that Tallahassee Rabbi Schneur Oirechman “has been visiting Lopez-Cantera for years, having helped him put on Tefillin during his term as Republican Majority Leader.”

The bottom line is there is no evidence the 41-year-old is a practicing Jew, and he doesn’t seem all that interested in demonstrating that he is. And he may not need to go into detail about his religious views and observances anytime soon, since political insiders are skeptical that he will actually make a run for the Senate.

SPOTTED at the Republican Club of Palm Beaches luncheon: CD 18 candidate Rebecca Negron.

A BREAK FOR NAN RICH: CHALLENGER WON’T RUN via Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com

Nan Rich can rest a little easier today.

Weston Mayor Dan Stermer, who was considering challenging Rich for an open Broward County Commission seat, has decided not to run.

“After serious consideration and deliberation, I have decided I wil not be running for the Broward County Commission,” Stermer told Browardbeat.com. “I made a commitment to the residents of Weston when they elected me mayor and I will honor the trust they have placed in me.”

Rich, 72, of Weston, is running for a seat currently held by Marty Kiar. He is leaving the commission to run for Property Appraiser.

A former state senator from Weston who lost a race for the Democratic nomination for governor last year, Rich’s deep support has scared away any other accomplished Democrat with a realistic chance of beating her. There is now a good chance that she takes the county commission seat with no formidable opponent.

TWEET, TWEET: @AmySherman1: Former state Sen. Steve Geller, an adviser to Charlie Crist last year, filed Tues to run for Broward County Commission.

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL — PLANNED 1,000-FOOT MIAMI TOURIST TOWER SPARKS POLITICS SCRUM via Curt Anderson of the Associated Press

Last August, Miami voters gave a developer permission to lease land on the city’s sparkling downtown waterfront to build a 1,000-foot, hairpin-shaped tourist tower complete with thrill rides, breathtaking observation decks, restaurants and clubs. There was one key promise: No public money would be spent on the $430 million project.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado backs the SkyRise project, as does the Miami-Dade County mayor, Carlos Gimenez. Now, the city and county are being sued by Raquel Regalado – the 40-year-old daughter of the Miami mayor – and billionaire car dealer Norman Braman, a Miami resident and former owner of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Why? Because developer Jeffrey Berkowitz is seeking $9 million from an existing county economic development fund to pay for infrastructure improvements, such as streets, marina upgrades and so forth. Regalado and Braman claim in their lawsuit that the county funds would violate the no-public-money promise made to Miami voters – who approved the project with 68 percent in favor.

Oh, and one other twist: Raquel Regalado, currently a county school board member, recently announced plans to challenge Gimenez for county mayor in 2016, with Braman in her financial corner.

Raquel Regalado and Braman said in interviews that the SkyRise subsidy would be the latest in a string of projects improperly seeking public handouts. Both said a sour taste remains from the millions of taxpayer dollars siphoned off to build the Miami Marlins’ $634 million, retractable-roof baseball stadium.

“It’s the essence of corporate welfare,” said Braman, who unsuccessfully challenged the Marlins deal in court. “It’s just wrong. It’s a waste of taxpayer money. I think people are fed up with it.”

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JIMMY PATRONIS, JULIE BROWN CONFIRMED TO PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION via the Associated Press  

The Florida Senate has confirmed two appointments to the panel that regulates Florida utilities.

The Senate voted 33-1 to confirm former State Rep. Jimmy Patronis and Julie Brown to the Florida Public Service Commission. The five-member commission regulates investor-owned electric, natural gas and water utilities. The job pays $131,036 a year.

Patronis is a Panama City Republican. He was forced to leave the Legislature last year because of term limits. The lone no vote on the appointments came from State Sen. John Legg.

Legislators voted to approve the two appointments even though the PSC has come under fire from legislators. Some lawmakers have complained that commissioners are too cozy with the utilities that they regulate. The Legislature may pass a bill that would tighten rules controlling the PSC.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Michael Anway, Kimberly Case, Mark Delegal, Bob Martinez, Lawrence Sellers, Holland & Knight: Phadia US; PRH 1116 North Ocean; Osceola County

Paul Bradshaw, David Browning, Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: Indigo Development; Intralot

Matt Bryan, Smith Bryan & Myers: Government Services Group

Jonathan Bussey: Humana Medical Plan

Marty Fiorentino, Thomas Griffin, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: myNexus

JerrY Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: White Elephant Pub

Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Target Corporation

Jeffrey Sharkey, Capitol Alliance: Foundation Consultants Corporation

TODAY’S GOV CLUB BUFFET MENU: Chilled Vichyssoise; Sandwich Board with Chips; Cold Cut Combo Sandwich Board; Chef Salad; Tuna & Chicken Salad; Lamb Loin ”Provencal Style”; Baked Pecan Crusted Arctic Char; Chicken Francaise; California Mix Vegetable Mix; Scalloped Potatoes; Peach Cobbler; Assorted Mini Desserts

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.