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: A 1960 film put Fort Lauderdale on the map for Spring Break, but another feature filmed there two years later struck out for Spring Training. Though it featured the two biggest stars in baseball, Safe at Home! had only a modest box office impact. Revolving around a young boy’s fib about knowing Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the film didn’t stir imaginations like Where the Boys Are. The movie quickly faded from memory, but did conclusively prove one thing: The M&M Boys were wise to stick with baseball rather than acting.
Now, on to the ‘burn…
DAYS UNTIL Sine Die – 38; Special Election in SD 6, HD 17 & 24 – 12; Special Election in HD 64 – 27: Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election – 55; Florida’s Presidential Primary: 356; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election 524; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 594.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Senator Maria Sachs, Rep. Bob Cortes and “brightest mind” Sara Clements.
THE DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS FOR TALLYMADNESS selections is today at noon. Email me your suggestions about who are the best lobbyists in Florida. Look for the brackets in Thursday’s Sunburn.
QUICK HIT ELECTION RESULTS…
JACKSONVILLE — ALVIN BROWN, LENNY CURRY WILL GO ANOTHER ROUND IN MAYOR’S RACE via Nate Monroe, David Bauerlein and Rhema Thompson of the Florida Times-Union
Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown and Republican challenger Lenny Curry will face off in the May 19 general election, all but ensuring Jacksonville voters will see perhaps the most hard-charging — and expensive — City Hall election in recent memory, replete with endorsements, money and attention from statewide and national political figures.
Both men sought to make the night’s results a victory, while acknowledging the tough race ahead.
With all precincts reporting, and only some mail-in ballots still outstanding, Brown carried 42.8 percent of the vote, compared with Curry’s 38.3 percent; 33.5 percent of Duval County voters turned out Tuesday, a bump over 2011’s 29.7 percent turnout.
TAMPA — GUIDO MANISCALCO BESTS JACKIE TOLEDO TO WIN CONTENTIOUS TAMPA CITY COUNCIL RACE Full story here
After an increasingly contentious runoff election, Democrat Guido Maniscalco narrowly defeated Republican Jackie Toledo … to represent the formerly non-partisan District 6 on the Tampa City Council.
Maniscalco, a 30-year-old West Tampa jeweler, took a late lead over Toledo, a civil engineer at CPH Engineers in Tampa, by less than two percentage points — 51 to 49 percent. Just 142 votes separated the two.
With all 29 precincts reporting, 7,172 ballots were cast, a turnout of 14 percent. According to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections website, there are 51,964 registered voters in the citywide district.
JEB BUSH LOSES SOME MOMENTUM IN FLORIDA IN NEW PPP SURVEY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics
A new poll shows that a majority of Floridians would prefer that neither Jeb Bush nor Marco Rubio should run for president next year.
Only 37 percent of Florida voters think Bush should run for president, to 52 percent who say they think he should not, according to the survey published today by Public Policy Polling. The numbers for Marco Rubio on that front are almost identical — 35 percent say he should run, to 51 percent who believe he should sit it out. PPP says that neither Republican is wildly popular in the Sunshine State; Rubio’s approval ratings in the survey are 45 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable. With Bush, it’s 45 percent positive, 42 percent negative.
But they’re actually two of the few politicians in the survey from either party with a higher favorable than unfavorable rating.
Hillary Clinton gets a 41 percent favorable rating in the survey, with 51 percent showing an unfavorable ranking.
But Clinton leads every Republican in the field in a head-to-head matchup some 19 months before the presidential election. She’s up 48-46 percent over Rubio in Florida, and up 47-44 percent over Bush.
Among Republicans only, Bush is most popular in Florida, with 25 percent support. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has made up a lot of ground since the last PPP survey was conducted. He comes in second with 17 percent. Rubio comes in third with 15 percent, and retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson is fourth with 12 percent support.
The last time PPP surveyed was last summer, when Bush was at 30 percent, and Walker was only at 7 percent.
MAYBE THIS IS WHY … MANY FLORIDIANS NEVER KNEW BUSH AS GOVERNOR via Philip Bump of the Washington Post
How many Floridians actually remember Gov. Bush’s tenure? Since Bush took office in 1999, Florida has both grown dramatically and seen huge churn in its population. He left in early January 2007. That year, the Census Bureau estimates that the population of the state was 18.28 million. Last year, it was 19.89 million — an increase of 1.61 million. At least 8 percent of the state never knew Jeb Bush as governor; perhaps as much as 30 percent of the current population was not there in 2007. … one thing is clear … The Florida that elected Jeb Bush is very different from the one that will be asked to vote for him next year.
BUSH’S SOUTH CAROLINA FIREWALL FAILS TO TAKE SHAPE via James Hohmann of POLITICO
Twice before, South Carolina has delivered for the Bush family. In 1988, it famously served as George H.W. Bush’s firewall after he finished third in Iowa. Twelve years later, it served the same role for George W. Bush after John McCain’s New Hampshire victory.
But as Jeb Bush seeks to become the third in his family to win here, he’s finding the state almost unrecognizable. The electorate in the first primary state in the South is more conservative than before — and the former Florida governor is perceived as a moderate. Much of the old Bush team has defected to other candidates. And the presence of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is eating into Bush’s natural base of support.
While Bush — who made his first trip to the state last week as an all-but-announced candidate for the presidency — is undeniably the beneficiary of the goodwill generated by past family campaigns, more than two dozen interviews on the ground show that the reservoir of support is neither as wide nor as deep as he might have hoped.
“There’s going to be some resistance to a Bush III here,” said Fred Payne, a member of the Greenville County Council who backed George W. 15 years ago and is now uncommitted.
“Jeb’s a good guy,” added Payne, 74, who came to hear Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speak at a barbecue organized by the state GOP … “He’s got a great family name, but I really think America is ready for a fresh name. We’ve got such a great stable of candidates.”
BUSH SUPER PAC JUGGERNAUT HEADS TO CALIFORNIA NEXT WEEK via Matea Gold of the Washington Post
Bush is swinging through California next week as part of a nonstop fundraising tour raking in millions for a super PAC set up to back his expected presidential bid.
On March 30, Bush heads to Newport Beach, where he is headlining a $25,000-per-couple “reception and discussion” at the Pacific Club, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by the Washington Post.
The next day, he will be in Bel Air for a reception and dinner at the home of Maria and Robert Tuttle, who was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom by President George W. Bush. Other co-hosts include Robert Day, founder of an investment management firm; Brad Freeman, co-founder of an investment firm who was a top fundraiser for George W. Bush; asset manager Ric Kayne and his wife Suzanne; former ambassador to Austria Susan McCaw and her husband Craig McCaw, a cellular phone industry entrepreneur; and asset manager Marc Stern and his wife, Eva.
The minimum requested donation is $25,000 per couple. Attendees who wish to attend the reception and dinner are asked to give $100,000 per couple.
On April 2, Jeb Bush is scheduled to make a stop in San Francisco for a “luncheon and discussion” at the Mandarin Oriental. The hosts include venture capitalist Jay Kern and his wife Katie, as well as billionaire school choice advocates Bill and Susan Oberndorf.
GEORGE W. TO ATTEND JEB BUSH FUNDRAISER via Thomas Beaumont of the Associated Press
Former President George W. Bush is scheduled to attend a Lone Star-studded fundraiser in Dallas … for his brother Jeb Bush.
The former president and former first lady Laura Bush are the special guests named to appear with the former Florida governor … It would be the first time former President Bush — a former Texas governor and current resident of Dallas — has attended a fundraiser for his brother, who has been aggressively raising money for his political action committee from some of the GOP’s top donors for three months. It also comes as Jeb Bush nears the end of what is expected to be a successful fundraising quarter for the PAC.
The guest list also includes big names in Texas and national GOP fundraising circles, including Dallas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who is chair of BP Capital Management, and real estate and homebuilding magnate Woody Hunt of El Paso.
FROM BUSH TO BUSH, THE ANSWER WAS OFTEN NO via Matt Viser of the Boston Globe
President Bush was on vacation … when an 18-page fax arrived from the White House. His brother … wrote to say that his state had been experiencing a series of storms, tornadoes and, as he put it, “a persistent episode of moist winds.”
It didn’t take long for the president to render a decision: Denied.
The bureaucratic back-and-forth between two powerful brothers — who were known to have a competitive relationship — reveals a peculiar pattern.
Records show the president rejected his younger brother’s requests at a greater rate than the national average; there is no way to know if it was a fluke of the weather or further evidence of a well-known sibling rivalry. But other governors had more luck winning federal aid than Jeb Bush.
That snapshot of the Bush brothers’ relationship is one of several contained in documents held at the George W. Bush Library here, documenting communication between them when one was president and the other was governor of the country’s fourth-largest state.
President Bush denied six of Governor Bush’s 20 major disaster or emergency requests during the time they overlapped in office, according to Federal Emergency Management Data compiled by Richard Sylves, a professor at the University of Delaware. That represents an approval rate of 70 percent, compared with an average of about 85 percent for the rest of the country.
Jeb Bush enjoyed a much better batting average during the two years he served while Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office. The Democratic president approved all six of Bush’s requests, never denying an application.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks, a trusted provider of industry-leading communications and networking services to businesses of all sizes, from startups to large, multi-site organizations. Our Enterprise Solutions provides the fiber connectivity, cloud and managed services today’s large organizations demand, while our Business Solutions team works with small- to mid-size companies to ensure they get the right services to fit their needs and their budget. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more at brighthouse.com/business.***
BILL NELSON SAYS HE’LL STAY OUT OF SENATE PRIMARY BUT PRAISES PATRICK MURPHY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times
Sen. Bill Nelson says … he’ll stay out of the 2016 Senate primary but did not hide admiration for Patrick Murphy.
“I think Patrick Murphy is a very attractive candidate who can win statewide,” Nelson said in an interview in the Capitol. … he has talked to Murphy, who got in the race yesterday, “at length,” adding, “I’m a big fan.”
He said Rep. Alan Grayson, a potential rival to Murphy, has not reached out to him.
When told it sounded like he has a preference, Nelson objected. “Reubin Askew taught me an important lesson: When you are the senior member in the entire state, you don’t get involved in a primary.”
Nelson also said he was not concerned that Murphy, who turns 32 next week, lacks experience. “He’ll be 34 by the time of the election. The Constitution says 30.”
Democrats, Nelson said, “have a great bench” in Florida. “Absolutely. Look at all the other members of the delegation. Each one has a strength.”
DEMOCRATS’ REPUBLICAN-STYLE PROBLEM IN FLORIDA via Andrea Drusch of the National Journal
Establishment Democrats got exactly what they wanted … but their jubilation may be short lived.
Murphy giv(es) the national Democratic Party its preferred candidate for what promises to be one of the election’s most contested races. At 31, Murphy is a charismatic centrist backed by the party elite, as well as by pro-business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce. In short, exactly the type of candidate the national party believes is capable of winning the purple-state Senate seat occupied by Marco Rubio.
But before he gets a go at Republicans, Murphy would need to survive a Democratic primary — and that’s where the party’s pick has a problem: Rep. Alan Grayson.
Grayson is one of the party’s foremost firebrands, has a history of mounting nasty primary campaigns and has more than a passing interesting in mounting a Senate campaign of his own. And if he does, Democrats are likely headed toward an ugly, intraparty battle — and there’s little the establishment could do to stop it.
After former Gov. Charlie Crist and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz took their names out of contention last week, Grayson has said the “stars are aligning” for a possible foray into the race, and he’s actively polling his chances. He also says he has no interest in stepping aside for Murphy, regardless of what the establishment prefers.
“Patrick’s entry into the race doesn’t really factor into mine at all,” Grayson told National Journal … The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee …”hasn’t endorsed anybody, Harry Reid hasn’t endorsed anybody, and it’s not terribly relevant if [they] did, because while we’d all like to have the support of the party, it’s the voters who decide these things, not the party. … This race isn’t about who Harry Reid wants to be the next senator from Florida.”
SCOOP — STEVE SOUTHERLAND WILL NOT CHALLENGE GWEN GRAHAM IN 2016, SAYS HIS FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF Full story here
U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham can breathe easier, at least if her former opponent’s chief aide knows what he is talking about.
Jonathan Hayes, who served as Chief of Staff to former Congressman Steve Southerland, emailed members of the Bay County Republican Executive Committee to inform them that the two-term Republican will not be seeking a rematch against Graham in 2016.
“Just wanted to let you all know that Steve will not be running for CD 2 re-election,” Hayes wrote on Mondayin an email obtained by Florida Politics.
Southerland was first elected during the Tea Party movement in 2010.
Southerland’s intentions “will become public later this week or early next week,” writes Hayes.
Hayes’ comments run counter to a story in conservative outlet Sunshine State News that “Whispers are growing louder that Steve Southerland could seek a rematch with Gwen Graham in 2016.”
Actually, those whispers are so ‘loud’ that Hayes told his Republican colleagues that he has accepted a job as Chief of Staff for Arizona Congressman Trent Franks.
CARLOS CURBELO TO FORMALLY KICK OFF REELECTION CAMPAIGN via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo will officially launch his reelection campaign in South Miami … a day before the end of the year’s first fund-raising quarter.
The event, at Shula’s 347 Grill at Sunset Place, will be the first one the Miami Republican freshman’s campaign formally hosts. But Curbelo has been meeting privately with political donors since last month. Like most members of Congress, he had to begin gearing up for a new campaign after being in office for barely a month.
(O)rganizers are asking for contributions ranging from $1,000 to $5,400. Among the top donors already listed are former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart — Curbelo’s one-time employer — and Jeb Bush Jr., according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. Curbelo has yet to endorse any potential Republican presidential contenders but is expected to back former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, given his close ties to Bush and his supporters.
***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s top lobbying firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again. To learn more visit www.corcoranfirm.com.***
GUN-SHY GOVERNOR, CABINET BALK AT TRANSFER OF HURRICANE RISK via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
After nine straight years without a major hurricane, Florida’s catastrophic insurance fund is flush with cash to pay claims and the cost of backup reinsurance is cheaper than ever.
“Reinsurers are hungry for new business,” said Ash Williams, director of the state Board of Administration, which oversees the so-called CAT fund. “We’ve never had the stars line up in this way.”
Williams’ pitch to transfer up to $2.2 billion in hurricane risk to private reinsurers enjoys broad support from a diverse coalition of pro-business and pro-consumer groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Consumer Action Network, James Madison Institute and Florida Wildlife Federation.
But when Williams sought approval … of a plan he said would protect Florida taxpayers, Gov. Scott and two Cabinet members balked and said they want to approve any refinancing deal in advance.
Their hesitancy reflects not just the amount of money that’s at stake, but the hyper-self consciousness of Cabinet members in the wake of the forced ouster of a top state police official with no public discussion.
Insurers buy reinsurance as an extra layer of coverage to help them pay claims after a major storm or other catastrophe. In the CAT Fund’s case, the more private reinsurance it buys, the less taxpayers are on the hook to bail out the state to cover hurricane claims.
SCOTT, CABINET REJECT CONFEDERATES FOR VETERANS HALL OF FAME via William March of the Associated Press
Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet rejected nominations of three Confederate soldiers for the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame Tuesday after being told they weren’t eligible because they didn’t serve in the U.S. military.
Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans argued they should be included because they honorably served the state and became prominent citizens after the Civil War.
But the state NAACP opposed their nomination. Tallahassee NAACP President Dale Landry said the men symbolized a time of hatred and slavery in U.S. history and that inducting them would be like flying a Confederate flag over the Capitol.
The men included Edward A. Perry, who became governor of Florida; Samuel W. Pasco, who became a U.S. senator and for whom Pasco County is named; and David Lang, who became Florida adjutant general and is considered by some the father of the Florida National Guard, according to information submitted with their nominations.
Putnam initially suggested inducting Lang because of his National Guard service. But David Herman, general counsel for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, said he would be eligible only if he had been called to active duty for purposes other than training.
The Cabinet … asked that the department and its Hall of Fame seek clarification of laws and policies on inductees.
BEST PRESS RELEASE OF THE DAY via Adam Putnam’s office — “Commissioner Putnam Welcomes RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo to Florida“
EVERYONE AGREES ON CST CUT, BUT TAX CUT PACKAGES DIFFER IN OTHER AREAS via Matt Dixon of Political Fix Florida
With a $1.2 billion budget surplus, Gov. Scott and lawmaker are crafting packages that would slash taxes by more than $600 million, but the specific of those plans widely vary.
Lawmakers and Scott’s office are on the same page with slashing the “communications services tax,” which is applied to things like cell phones and satellites. Each chamber proposes reducing that tax by more than 3 percent, which would collectively save $470 million annually.
“The average Floridian will save $40-per-year, and the average Florida family will save $160-per-year,” said state Rep. Matt Gaetz … during a news conference … to rollout the House’s tax cut plan.
That announcement came during a week set aside to give momentum to tax cut packages. It featured television ads from the Florida Cable Association in the Tallahassee media market urging lawmaker to cut the cable and cell phone tax, and a “Cut My Taxes” booth setup by Scott’s office on the first floor of the Capitol.
Though there is agreement on the communications services tax cut, the House package and governor’s office are disagree on roughly $140 million in tax cuts. The Senate has put forward individual bills making tax cuts, but has not yet crafted a tax cut package as the House and governor’s office have.
Overall, the House’s plan is about $17 million bigger than Scott’s proposal. The governor’s plan includes fewer overall tax cuts, but many are larger. Scott, for instance, wants to eliminate the tax manufacturers pay on equipment purchases, a move that would save $142 million annually.
FLA. SENATE VOTES TO SEND MESSAGE TO OBAMA ON CUBA POLICY via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press
The Florida Senate voted overwhelmingly … to send President Barack Obama a message that it opposes his decision to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba.
The three-page message to Obama and Congress expresses “profound disagreement” with the president’s decision last December to restore relations with the communist nation just 90 miles off the Florida coast. It says Fidel and Raul Castro have mistreated Cuban citizens since they took power in 1959.
“The actions of the Castro brothers have resulted in the impoverishment of the Cuban people and a complete and blatant disregard for human rights and democratic principles,” it reads.
The message was sponsored by three Cuban-American senators: Republicans Anitere Flores, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Rene Garcia of Miami-Dade County.
“We’re blessed to live in the best country in the world, a country that was founded on enshrining basic freedoms. The Cuban government does the opposite. They want to take away those freedoms from their people every day and at every moment,” Flores said.
The only objection came from Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, who said she supported Obama’s decision.
“His moving this forward is an effort to bring freedom to the Cuban people,” Joyner said.
TWEET, TWEET: @Anitere_Flores: Thank you to my colleagues for supporting bringing about true freedom for the Cuban people
FRETTING PRIVACY VIOLATIONS, LAWMAKERS ADVANCE DRONE BILLS via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald
Trying to preempt privacy concerns with the growing technology, the Florida House and Senate are moving forward with bills regulating the use of drones.
The unmanned aircraft have wide-ranging possible uses, including for a same-day delivery plan announced by Amazon.com, storm chasing, search-and-rescue missions and recording overhead video.
It’s this last possibility that has state lawmakers worried: How can personal privacy be protected, especially on private property, while still allowing the technology’s possibilities to be explored?
Committees in both chambers advanced bills (SB 766 and HB 649) Tuesday seeking to answer that question.
“This is a real this is a real issue,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill … the sponsor of the Senate bill. “Just within the last month, we had a drone that crashed into the bedroom window of a Hialeah, Fla., residence.”
Hukill’s bill and its House counterpart by Rep. Larry Metz … would make it illegal to record someone else’s private property using a drone without their consent.
It wouldn’t apply in public places or to the parts of private property that are visible from public places, such as the front of a home.
GUN ADVOCATES WIN VICTORIES IN HOUSE, SENATE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times
Florida gun rights activists’ had a victorious day in the Capitol as the Republican-controlled Legislature considered two St. Petersburg lawmakers’ bills, passing one through the Senate and shooting down the other.
The Senate endorsed a bill allowing lawful gun owners to carry a weapon while evacuating in an emergency, even if they don’t have a concealed carry permit. Later in the day, a House panel voted down a Democrat’s proposal to set more limits on shooting a gun on residential property.
In a legislative session that involved long discussions about the role firearms should play on public school and college campuses and in the wake of a natural disaster, the Senate’s concealed carry legislation was the first gun bill to pass either chamber. It gained support from all 25 Republicans and four of the 14 Democrats.
Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who sponsored the bill, and other supporters argue that allowing concealed carry of weapons in the first 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is necessary so gun owners aren’t arrested on felony charges, something they say happened in Louisiana as people fled Hurricane Katrina. Carrying a gun, they say, is preferable to leaving it at home, where it could be stolen by looters.
“This is about this incredibly rare instance, this incredibly tailored instance, when people are fleeing for their lives,” Brandes said on the floor … “And yet Florida statute today says if they take that weapon with them and they carry it in a certain manner, they can be charged with a third-degree felony.”
BEST HEADLINE FROM THE CAPITOL –– BANG BANG, HOMEMADE SHOOTING RANGE BILL SHOT DOWN via James Rosica of Political Fix Florida
A House panel … voted down a measure aimed at clamping down on backyard shooting ranges in residential neighborhoods.
The Criminal Justice subcommittee killed the bill (HB 623) by an 8-5 vote after opposition by the National Rifle Association.
“What this is all about is preventing discharge of a firearm on private property, period,” NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, said he sought only “to curtail the use of a gun range, which the law currently allows, in urban and residential settings.”
He filed the legislation after reports that a St. Petersburg man had set up a makeshift firing range of wooden pallets and sand, upsetting neighbors.
Rouson said the man lives “only a few blocks from my house.”
State law now allows people to shoot pistols and rifles outside their homes or on residentially-zoned land, but says anyone who does so “recklessly or negligently” could be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor.
HOUSE BILL LAYS OUT SITE-SELECTION PROCESS FOR NEW VETERANS’ NURSING HOMES via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics
As the likelihood of additional veterans nursing homes increases the House of Representatives wants to put into law a selection process that the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs must follow.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee … takes up HB 7045. The bill follows controversy surrounding the selection of St. Lucie County for the development and construction of the state’s seventh nursing home.
Specifically, the bill requires the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to contract for a study that ranks each county’s need for a nursing home based on certain criteria, including: current distance to an existing veterans’ nursing homes; number of veterans aged 65 or older loving in the county; presence of existing veterans’ outpatient clinic, emergency room and physician capacity; number of nursing home beds per 1,000 elderly male residents, and poverty rate.
The bill would require the department to select the county with the highest ranking for any new nursing home authorized through 2020, subject to approval of the governor and Cabinet. If the highest ranked county cannot accommodate a new nursing home, the department must select the next highest ranked county.
The House has earmarked $50,000 in its budget to pay for the rankings. The bill makes clear that the study’s findings don’t apply to the 2014 decision to build the newest nursing home in St. Lucie County.
HOUSE PANEL SNUFFS BILL TO LIMIT LAWSUITS AGAINST TOBACCO COMPANIES via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics
With little to no fanfare the House Civil Justice Subcommittee … deferred action on a bill aimed at snuffing out the lawsuits of 4,500 smokers and their families who have sued cigarette manufacturers but still are awaiting trial.
Committee Chair Kathleen Passidomo announced at the beginning of the meeting that the bill, HB 1067, would be temporarily deferred and that she would not bring it back up.
A bill that is temporarily deferred must be brought back up at the committee’s next scheduled meeting or it is dead. A look at the House calendar shows the subcommittee is not scheduled to meet next week.
Florida Justice Association lobbyist Paul Jess said he assumes that the bill was TP’ed “because the votes were not there to pass it.”
Specifically, HB 1067 would have retroactively applied a 1999 cap on punitive damages to all suits.
The issue stems from a 1994 class action lawsuit on behalf of Howard A. Engle and 700,000 other smokers. After hearing from 157 witnesses over a two-year period a jury decided that the tobacco industry had intentionally misled people about the danger of smoking and in 2000 awarded the class $145 billion in damages.
REALTORS BAT .500 AS HOUSE PASSES ESTOPPEL BILL BUT SENATE DEFERS ACTION via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics
With time running short the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries … deferred action on a controversial bill that real estate professionals believe will help expedite the sale of homes.
SB 736, sponsored by state Sen. Kelli Stargel, addresses estoppel letters, how long they are effective and how much homeowner associations and community management companies can charge for them. The changes are supported by the Florida Association of REALTORS and were included in a list of legislative recommendations submitted by the Community Association Living Study Council, a group that meets every five years for six months to discuss multi-residential housing issues.
Estoppel letters are legal documents that list information regarding the current owner’s financial obligations to their homeowner’s associations. The Senate bill was opposed by Community Association Mangers lobbyist Mark Anderson as well as a score of others who traveled to Tallahassee to testify against the measure.
Anderson said the costs of the estoppel are currently picked up by either the Realtors or the title company when the estoppel letters are ordered, which must be done before closing. The bill would shift the costs of the letters to be paid by the home seller and would appear as one of the myriad closing costs.
Committee Chairman state Sen. Rob Bradley was only half joking when he said he had gotten 1,300 emails on the caps “today, alone.”
Bradley had 12 minutes left in his regularly scheduled committee to move the bill but it proved to not be long enough. Seeing the opposition to the measure, Stargel tried to make a motion to vote on the bill two minutes before the meeting was scheduled to end. But Bradley said he had enough time to move the bill.
WALL BETWEEN WHISKEY AND WHEATIES MAY STAND IN FLA. via James Rosica of Political Fix Florida
State lawmakers look more likely to keep a wall between whiskey and Wheaties, though one that has an “aperture” in it. An omnibus House bill (HB 107) dealing with alcoholic beverages was approved … at its latest stop, the House Government Operations Appropriations subcommittee.
That bill originally had language repealing the state’s 80-year-old requirement that retailers sell hard liquor in a separate store away from groceries and other goods.
Eliminating the separation requirement is supported by Walmart, Target and other big-box retail chains, and opposed by Publix, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits and independently-owned liquor stores.
The drug and alcohol-abuse prevention community also opposes it.
Seeking compromise, a related bill in the Senate (SB 468) was changed last week to keep the separation requirement and instead allow only a door between adjoined liquor and main stores.
So the House bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota, amended his bill similarly. Rep. Charles Van Zant, a Keystone Heights Republican, said he would still oppose the bill.
“I’d like to keep the wall in Walmart,” he said.
***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***
KEEP AN EYE ON THAD ALTMAN’S AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE $350 MIL FOR LAND-BUYING via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics
Sen. Thad Altman is backing up his criticism of Amendment 1 funding in the Senate proposed spending plan for 2015-16 with budget amendments to provide $350 million for conservation land-buying.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday is scheduled to consider the proposed $80.4 billion Senate budget in a meeting that starts at 1 p.m. in room 412 of the Knott Building.
The environmental spending plan proposed last week by Sen. Alan Hays, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, included $2 million for the Florida Forever land acquisition program and another $20 million for Kissimmee River restoration.
Altman, a Republican from Melbourne, charged last week that the proposal violated the constitution and the intent of the 75 percent of voters statewide who supported Amendment 1.
On Tuesday, Altman told Florida Politics that his budget amendment would reinstate the Florida Forever land-buying program, which had received at least $300 million a year from 1990 until 2009.
He filed amendments to both SB 2500, the state budget, and SB 2502, the budget implementing bill. The amendments would provide $410 million in bond proceeds with $350 million going towards the Florida Forever land acquisition program, $15 million for state park improvements, $20 million for Kissimmee River restoration and $25 million for beach renourishment.
Another $41 million from Amendment 1 would go towards debt service to issue the bonds.
“The reason we have Amendment 1 is people supported that (Florida Forever) program,” Altman said. “It was an incredibly popular, successful program. What that (budget) amendment does is re implements it.”
IT’S SPACE DAY IN THE CAPITOL!
Former space shuttle astronaut Mike McCulley, commander on the mission to deploy the Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter, will lead industry leaders in lobbying Gov. Scott and the Legislature to develop the best strategy to fend off competition from other states and countries for the commercial space business.
“This transition in the space business arena impacts all of Florida,” said former astronaut Andy Allen, who is chairing Space Day 2015. “Florida has almost 500 aerospace companies employing over 30,000 high-tech professionals, it has the third largest space industry in the nation.”
On the group’s lobbying agenda is a $10 million appropriation for Space Florida business development and another $1.5 million to promote space tourism.
Sen. Altman is working to get money for the industry from Washington. He lobbied the Senate Education Committee to include money to create public/private partnerships enabling the universities to draw down NASA research money to beef up the universities’ research capabilities.
Altman does not seem all that concerned about the interest of other states to compete with Florida for commercial launches.
“We can have launches in Jacksonville and the Kennedy Space Center, and soon we’re going to have the capability in Homestead. No one else will have three launch centers separated by geography but working together,” Altman said. “No one.”
HEADS UP PARROTHEADS! JIMMY BUFFETT TO APPEAR AT CAPITOL FOR EVERGLADES DAY ON APRIL 7 via Bruce Ritchie of Florida Politics
Heads up Parrotheads! Margaritaville meets Florida politics next week in Tallahassee at the historic Capitol.
Jimmy Buffett, accompanied Mac McAnally and Robert Greenidge, will play a short acoustic music set during anEverglades Day Rally on April 7, event organizers say.
Buffett, who has developed a legion of “Parrothead” followers, is no stranger to Tallahassee even though it’s far off the path of his beloved Florida Highway A1A along the Atlantic beaches.
He campaigned in Tallahassee in October for Democrat Gwen Graham during her successful challenge to U. S. Rep. Steve Southerland, a Republican from Panama City.
And while Buffett has been snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he is a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, recognized for his devotion in music and activism for the Sunshine State. He is co-founder (with former U. S. Sen. Bob Graham) of the Save the Manatee Club.
The Everglades Coalition, which is hosting the rally, has been collecting petition signatures in support of the purchase of U. S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee.
“Jimmy has always been a passionate advocate for the Everglades,” said Cara Capp, national co-chair of the Everglades Foundation. “What the Everglades Foundation is trying to do is reach all our decision-makers and remind them of how important restoration is to our state.”
***The Fiorentino Group is a full service government relations and business development firm providing a broad range of consulting services to clients looking to influence public policy and create new business opportunities. The Fiorentino Group’s team of advocates is one of the largest in the state and has decades of experience in state, local and federal government relations and new business development.***
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Keith Arnold, Brett Bacot, Jim Magill, Kim McGlynn, Mac Stipanovich, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Government Utility Authority
Doug Bell, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney: National Strategies, Inc.
Ken Bell, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Associated Industries of Florida
Sarah Bleakley, Nabors Giblin & Nickerson: Floridians for Solar Choice, Inc.
H. French Brown, Hopping Green & Sams: Mosaic Fertilizer
Ron Pierce, Sara Gross, Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group; Highland Holdings, Inc.
Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick: Gregory Seller Consulting, LLC
Jon Rawlson, Armory Hill Advocates: Florida Coaltion of Compounding Pharmacies
Beth Vecchiolli, Holland & Knight: ESG Kullen, LLC
Derek Whitis: Business Action League, Inc.
SPOTTED at the James Madison Institute’s annual dinner on Tuesday: Slater Bayliss, Tyler Cathey, Chester Spellman, Glen Gilzean, Trimmel Gomes, Barney Bishop, Dave Mice, Justin Sayfie, Stephanie Smit, and JC Flores. Read more about the event here.
CONTEXT FLORIDA: PET PARENTING, FACULTY TENURE AND 10 COMMANDMENTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
On Context Florida: It is stupid to equate parenting with pet ownership, says Steven Kurlander, and actually misguided in terms of how we in American society think about animals and our relationship with them. Few hot-button topics are hotter among university faculty than whether tenure is essential to academic freedom and quality teaching, says former University of North Florida educator Dan Dundon. In public, GOP leaders are climate change deniers. In private, they understand climate change perfectly well. The difference is that disclosure does not serve the party’s purposes. Climate change denial – against the backdrop of accumulating science and fact – is like an electrical charge stimulating the Republican base. Alan Farago offers the GOP’s Ten Commandments of climate change.
FACEBOOK MAY HOST NEWS SITES’ CONTENT via Ravi Somaiya, Mike Isaac and Vindu Goel of the New York Times
In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.
The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic … The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal … To make the proposal more appealing to publishers, Facebook has discussed ways for publishers to make money from advertising that would run alongside the content.