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: You wouldn’t routinely link the small Florida Panhandle city of DeFuniak Springs with cosmopolitan Zurich, Switzerland, but they do share a unique distinction: the two cities are home to the world’s only naturally round spring-fed lakes. DeFuniak Springs, the county seat of Walton County, was built around DeFuniak Lake, and Victorian homes still encircle the round lake at the center of town. Home to great fishing and boating, this Old Florida town may be laid back, but it’s far from being square.
DAYS UNTIL Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 5; Special Session 17; Gov. Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: 18; Sine Die: 37; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 60; First GOP presidential debate: 83; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 218; First Day of 2016 Legislative Session: 243; Iowa Caucuses: 263: Florida’s Presidential Primary: 305; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 474; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 544.
FIRST IN SUNBURN — TWO MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS IN RACE FOR FLA. SENATE PRESIDENCY Full blog post here
The half-decade long race to determine who will serve as President of the Florida Senate from 2016 to 2018 — either Jack Latvala or Joe Negron — has taken on all the difficulty of a Chinese finger puzzle after a series of recent developments designed to solve the matter have only made the issue more complicated.
Most notably of these developments is the official signing-on of now ten current members of the Florida Senate to Negron’s political committee, the Treasure Coast Alliance according to registration paperwork filed with the Senate Rules Committee. Four Senators filed their paperwork on Wednesday, most notably Sen. Wilton Simpson, whose district is adjacent to Latvala’s. Also publicly throwing in with Negron is the recently elected Travis Hutson, as well as former Senate President Don Gaetz (absolutely no surprise there) and Rob Bradley.
For more than five months, Negron has contended that he, indeed, has enough votes to become Senate President. Negron told Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News in January that “… I have a majority of support.”
In response to this, Latvala at the time “I’ll kiss his feet on the Capitol steps if he can show me he has more than 12 pledge cards from current members of the Senate.”
Since that time, Florida Politics has learned that Negron is now backed by as many as 13 to 14 current members of the Florida Senate — himself, the 10 who have signed on to his committee, and up to three swing votes, including Thad Altman and Garrett Richter.
On Wednesday night, when asked to comment about Negron’s contention that he now has as many as 14 pledge cards in hand, Latvala said — before making it clear that he’s focused on his work as a state Senator, including helping to solve the state budget stalemate — “I’ll go ahead and concede that he may have 14 cards, but only 12 of them will be in the chamber at the time of the vote.”
Latvala is referring to the fact that the actual vote for Senate President is technically not until November 2016 — well after what looks like an increasingly active campaign cycle for the Republican Senate caucus.
Still, this was the first time Latvala publicly conceded that Negron holds a distinct advantage.
ALSO FIRST IN SUNBURN/SAINTPETERSBLOG – REFORM WASHINGTON SUPER PAC FORMS TO BACK CARLOS LOPEZ CANTERA
“The Reform Washington SuperPAC launched today in Tampa, Florida. Inspired by the leadership of Florida Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera and his agenda to ignite economic growth, ensure American national security, and refocus Congress on its Constitutional duties, Reform Washington will support candidates who make a firm commitment to cut spending and debt, balance the federal budget, and who focus on limited government policies that promote economic growth and opportunity.
… “Notable Florida finance and grassroots leaders joining Reform Washington’s advisory committee include Norman Braman, Remedios Diaz-Oliver, Darlene Jordan, Pat Neal, Trey Traviesa. Lucas Boyce and Peret Pass will head Reform Washington’s Young Professionals group. Regional advisors and supporters will be unveiled in the coming weeks.”
MARCO RUBIO: I’M READY TO BECOME COMMANDER IN CHIEF via Michael Crowley & Katie Glueck of POLITICO
In a Wednesday foreign policy address, Marco Rubio staked a claim to being the Republican presidential field’s toughest — and most qualified — candidate on national security, capping a four-year effort to cultivate expertise in an area of top concern for GOP voters.
In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Rubio alleged that President Obama has flinched from a dangerous world and argued for “American strength [as] a means of preventing war, not promoting it.”
But he also said that, given the benefit of hindsight about flawed intelligence, he would not have supported invading Iraq in 2003. (“Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it,” Rubio said.) That set up a contrast with Jeb Bush, who equivocated on the question this week.
Rubio’s Iraq comments followed a 20-minute address designed to showcase his credentials as a foreign policy savant, an image he has cultivated since his arrival in Washington just over four years ago. Rubio came to the Senate from the Florida legislature with no national security experience beyond a keen interest in Cuba and a boyhood fascination with the military.
Since then, he has worked assiduously to build his national security credentials and expertise, particularly after a foray into immigration reform became a political quagmire. Aides believe that none of his Republican rivals can match his foreign policy savvy, a point implicit in his willingness to field unscripted questions from CFR members after his speech.
“I actually traveled to Libya after the fall of Gaddafi,” Rubio said casually in response to one questioner. That is a preview of things to come on the campaign trail, where Rubio is sure to draw from overseas trips, classified briefings and meetings with foreign leaders unavailable to most of his GOP rivals.
REAX from American Bridge’s Brad Woodhouse: “Paging Marco Rubio’s foreign policy experience“: [H]is lackluster foreign policy resume is a good reminder that Rubio’s shift to ultra-hawk has been sloppy.
REAX from DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee: “Okay. So here’s Rubio’s alleged ‘new’ foreign policy. Troops in the Middle East permanently. A Cuba policy that is stuck in the Cold War. Unwillingness to even start a discussion of a two state solution. Keeping Guantanamo Bay open. No plan forward on Iran. Neoconservative meets Cold War: that’s the Rubio doctrine.”
HOW IT PLAYED: RUBIO DOCTRINE
WorldMag.org, Introducing the ‘Rubio doctrine’ – “To a packed house and an overflow room at the Council on Foreign Relations … simply recited the global news of the past year to underscore the failure of U.S. foreign policy.” New York Times, Marco Rubio to Outline His Approach to Foreign Policy – “The Rubio approach … has three main pillars — ensuring American strength; protecting the American economy in a globalized world; and preserving the moral clarity of America’s core values.” McClatchy Washington, Marco Rubio takes on question of war in Iraq – “Looking back on the Iraq war, after finding out that there were no weapons of mass destruction, would you … have been in favor of the Iraq invasion? Rubio said no. ‘Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it. And he said so.’” Wall Street Journal, Rubio Attacks Clinton in Hawkish Foreign-Policy Speech – “We simply cannot afford to elect as our next president one of the leading agents of this administration’s foreign policy … a leader from yesterday.” USA TODAY, Rubio touts foreign policy with expansive U.S. role – “… called for the U.S. to aggressively defend its economic interests — including when there is a ‘disruption of economic activity’ caused by one country invading another — as well as its ideological values.” Slate, The Rubio Doctrine Sounds an Awful Lot Like the Romney Doctrine – “If this all sounds familiar, it should. When Mitt Romney was running … his central critique of Obama’s foreign policy was over his failure to communicate ‘American strength and resolve.’”
ORACLE’S LARRY ELLISON TO HOST FUNDRAISER FOR RUBIO via Tarini Parti of POLITICO
Rubio now has another billionaire supporter in his corner: Oracle founder Larry Ellison. Ellison will host a fundraiser for the Florida Republican’s White House bid at his mansion in Woodside, Calif. on June 9 ... A VIP reception and photo opportunity with Rubio will cost attendees $2,700 per individual. The fundraiser will also include a host committee dinner for couples who have raised $27,000.
Ellison, who is worth nearly $54 billion, hosted a fundraiser benefiting the National Republican Senatorial Committee last year that featured another presidential hopeful, Sen. Rand Paul, who has been courting major Silicon Valley donors.
The former software giant executive’s support could mean millions for Rubio and outside groups supporting him. Ellison contributed $3 million to the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future in 2012.
Republican Jeb Bush appears to have unintentionally announced his candidacy for president in 2016 in a conversation with reporters on Wednesday that was caught on video.
Speaking in Nevada, the former Florida governor seemed to acknowledge he was a candidate but right afterward indicated he had not made up his mind.
“I’m running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be about how we, if I run, how do you create high sustained economic growth,” Jeb Bush said.
He also made clear earlier in his exchange with reporters that he was not yet a candidate. “No, no I’m not an official candidate. I’ve been traveling the country for the last three months and making up my mind, trying to determine the support I may have should I go forward,” he said.
A transcript of the exchange was provided by a Bush aide.
Bush announced in December that he would “actively explore” a run for the White House, but he has yet to formally declare he is running.
The difference between considering a run and actually jumping into the race affects what he can and cannot do under the law with regard to fundraising. Once candidates formally enter the presidential race they face tighter restrictions on raising money.
Bush has appeared at fundraisers across the country for Right to Rise, a political action committee that was created by Bush’s legal team. If he were to declare he is running, he could still appear at the group’s functions but would be prohibited from coordinating with it over messaging.
VID DU JOUR via American Bridge, targeting Jeb Bush: “Things losing campaigns say…” here.
— “College student tells Jeb Bush: ‘Your brother created ISIS’” via the New York Times
BUSH, ANA NAVARRO AND THE QUESTION THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MISHEARD via Jason Horowitz of the New York Times
The media’s preferred expert on Jeb Bush’s inner thoughts tried to explain … the likely Republican presidential candidate’s much discussed remarks to an interviewer that, even knowing what he knows now, he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq.
“I can tell you that I emailed him this morning, and I said to him, ‘Hey, I’m a little confused by this answer so I’m genuinely wondering, did you mishear the question?’” Ana Navarro, an oft-quoted dial-a-zinger, said … on CNN, where she is a political pundit. “And he said, ‘Yes, I misheard the question.’”
Navarro, 43, is often identified as a “confidante” of Bush or a “Republican strategist.” But her chief qualification is that she, better than anyone in the 2016 presidential cycle, hits the sweet spot of the Republican Party’s hunger for Hispanic female validators, the political media’s craving for an aura of access, and the overall dearth of wit in the talking point echo chamber.
Well liked in political media circles, Navarro visits primary states and skewers Bush’s potential opponents. (“I don’t need her to drown me in estrogen every time she opens her mouth,” she said of Hillary Rodham Clinton on CNN.) Her rollicking commentary and willingness to criticize Republicans on same-sex marriage and immigration issues make her a favorite of TV bookers.
How much of a confidante she is of Bush, however, is open to question. She never worked as a strategist on any of his campaigns, and she had to leave a job as Florida’s director of immigration policy when he was governor after it was discovered that she did not have a law license. Still, her connection to Bush has been decades in the making.
She’s a friend” who “hangs out in South Florida” and “had been around the political world,” said Jeb Bush Jr., a son of the former governor. “We’ve known her for a long time,” he said, adding that having “more Hispanic or Latina conservatives out there” is good “for any Republican, especially Dad.”
Bush père et fils both keep offices in Coral Gables’s Biltmore Hotel, the president of which is Navarro’s boyfriend, Gene Prescott, 71, a Democratic fund-raiser.
BUSH OPPONENTS POUNCE
— Rand Paul: It’s “a real problem if he can’t articulate what he would have done differently.“
POLLSTERS STRUGGLE TO ASSESS 19 GOP CONTENDERS via Stephen Shepherd of POLITICO
There are 19 Republicans seriously considering launching campaigns for president, and 10 numbers on a phone. That causes a big problem for pollsters using automated polling technology, one of the most common forms of public polling.
Thus, when GOP officials gather in Arizona this week to tackle the vexing question of how to decide which candidates are allowed to participate in party-sanctioned debates, they won’t be able to easily fall back on the most logical way to winnow the field: polling.
That only compounds the stresses on the Republican National Committee, which is determined to avoid the circus-like atmosphere of some of the party’s 2012 debates. Only one thing is clear, officials say: There’s no way the debates, which begin in Cleveland in August, can accommodate all of the nearly 20 candidates who have either announced their bids or are considering running.
“This is a vastly different scenario than has ever occurred before,” said RNC Communications Director and chief strategist Sean Spicer. “In the past, going as far back as ‘76 or ‘80, it’s always been about getting in the debate — what’s the threshold for getting in a debate? Now it’s about keeping people out.”
— “GOP seeks strategy for debates amid expanding candidate list,” via Jonathan Martin of the New York Times
FLORIDA FAMILY ACTION HOSTING GOP PRESIDENTIAL STRAW POLL NEXT WEEK via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics
Florida’s presidential primary election doesn’t take place until next March, but as the nation’s largest swing-state, it’s never too early to begin handicapping the candidates.
That’s the attitude apparently being employed by John Stemberger’s Florida Family Action group, which announced today that it will be hosting an analysis/straw poll of the GOP candidates next week in Maitland.
Among the panelists discussing the candidates will be Umatilla Republican state Sen. Alan Hays, national Tea Party leader Karin Hoffman from Fort Lauderdale, and Kurt Kelly, a former GOP state representative who lost out to Blaise Ingoglia in the race to become the current Republican Party of Florida chairman.
The event takes place Tuesday, May 19, from 7-9 p.m. at Venue on the Lake, also known the Maitland Civic Center. That’s at 641 S. Maitland Ave in Maitland. Doors open at 6 p.m.
CLC, RON DESANTIS LOOK TO FLIP THE SCRIPT via Andrea Drusch of National Journal
On the surface, Florida’s Senate primary appears to fall along the standard fault line that has complicated Republican party politics for a half-decade, with tea-party groups aligning behind one candidate and the establishment falling in with another. But behind the scenes, neither likely primary candidate is willing to accept the break, with both reaching out to groups on the other side in the hopes of capturing support from across the party spectrum.
Washington’s conservative groups, which spent millions trying to take down Republican senators last cycle, threw their support behind Rep. Ron DeSantis last week, hoping one of their own could replace Sen. Marco Rubio—who’s stepping aside to run for president—in the upper chamber.
Meanwhile, an accomplished team of establishment party operatives quietly aligned behind the pre-campaign of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a close friend and ally of Rubio. Following state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s surprise decision to sit out the race, much of the establishment support and infrastructure that had rallied behind him quickly moved over to team Lopez-Cantera.
But ahead of one of the biggest, most expensive Senate battlegrounds of the 2016 map, neither candidate is ready to settle into his respective party corner. Instead, both DeSantis and Lopez-Cantera each see room to court donors and support from across the GOP spectrum, making concerted efforts not to put themselves at odds with any faction of the party this early in the game.
“I’m a ‘Ronald Reagan Republican’ and conservative…. I think that’s the best label,” DeSantis told local reporters Friday when asked whether he was a member of the tea-party movement. “I think some of these other labels are kind of used as epithets now and people just want to throw names at you.”
POTTY-MOUTHED ALAN GRAYSON AND HIS OFFSHORE INVESTMENTS via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the outspoken, populist Democrat who thunders against Wall Street fat cats, and used to joke about Mitt Romney’s low tax bill, incorporated a couple hedge funds in the Cayman Islands so investors could avoid taxes.
Grayson Fund Ltd. and Grayson Master Fund were incorporated in 2011 in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven that Romney used as well, records show. That was the same year he wrote in the Huffington Post that the IRS should audit every Fortune 500 company because so many appear to be “evading taxes through transfer pricing and offshore tax havens.”
Grayson said the funds were incorporated in Grand Cayman at the advice of an attorney he declined to name. It was a vehicle for foreign investors to invest in his funds while limiting their tax liabilities, he said, but no money had been invested in them yet.
“When I set up my investment funds I set it up like everyone else,” Grayson said, complaining about the Tampa Bay Times looking for “some stupid, bull—- story. … You want to write sh– about it, and you can’t because not a single dollar of taxes has been avoided,” he snapped.
Grayson’s financial disclosure statements indicate he has between $5-million and $25-million invested in the Grayson fund, and he lists no income from it.
Asked whether it was appropriate for a member of congress and potential U.S. Senator to set up an investment fund with an eye toward soliciting foreign investments in the future, Grayson scoffed.
“Are you f——- kidding? I set up a fund that might solicit foreign investors. … I have no present intention of soliciting foreign investors,” he said. “Your perception issue is bull—-.”
ALAN GRAYSON ERUPTS AS SENATE BID LOOMS via Marc Caputo and Elena Schneider of POLITICO
As he faces the pressures of a potential Senate bid in the nation’s biggest swing state, Grayson has hurled angry expletives at reporters and described his likely rival in crude terms during a tense conversation with the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
For all of his outbursts, Grayson has been inventive with his slurs … he bizarrely accused one reporter of being a “s—-ing robot” – a phrase that’s sure to become part of his legacy of incendiary remarks, which include branding a lobbyist a “K Street whore,” likening the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan and accusing a Christian conservative opponent of being a member of the Taliban.
Grayson … didn’t dispute participating in a difficult phone call a few weeks previously with DSCC Chair Jon Tester, who informed the representative that the committee would likely soon endorse Rep. Patrick Murphy. Grayson denied he directly swore at Tester — as two sources alleged — but he wouldn’t comment on what he said.
“What’s the deal here? You publish whatever colorful lies people toss your way, for their own obvious political purposes?” Grayson asked via text message.
Already known for his outspokenness, Grayson became more irascible after the conversation with Tester and, with three separate reporters from different media outlets, Grayson has lost his cool.
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CONGRESS HEARING WON’T HELP FLORIDA BUDGET via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union
A congressional hearing to dig into Rick Scott’s allegations that the federal government is trying to illegally coerce Florida into expanding Medicaid likely won’t come soon enough to impact any upcoming budget negotiations.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton agreed to have the House Energy & Commerce Committee, of which he is chairman, look into whether the federal government should have tied Medicaid expansion to its decision-making on Low Income Pool funding, a government program that funnels millions of dollars year to hospitals that provide health care for the poor.
That means the hearing will likely come too late to impact the special session that begins June 1 to complete the state budget. A balanced budget must be in place before the fiscal year begins July 1 in order to avoid affecting government services.
SCOTT STANDS BY $8 BILLION SURPLUS FIGURE, WITH NO EXPLANATION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times
Scott’s office said (he) stands by his statement on Fox News … that the state would have a surplus of $8 billion if the Legislature adopts what he continues to call a “continuation budget” — in other words, holding the line with no tax cuts and no increase in per-pupil funding for schools.
“He meant to say $8 billion. It is $8 billion,” spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said. She said … in response to questions and said the surplus was $1.8 billion, she misunderstood the reporter’s question and that $8 billion is correct. (The $1.8 billion is the figure used by state economists).
Scott’s budget director, Cynthia Kelly, is an experienced and respected veteran of state budgeting. But no one — no one — in the legislative branch is suggesting that Florida has an $8 billion surplus. The most detailed and reliable revenue projections, detailed in a March financial outlook statement by state economists, suggest that the state could have $3.8 billion more general tax revenue to build next year’s budget.
The outlook statement, produced by the Economic and Demographic Research unit, says that because of improved economic conditions, the projected amount of general tax revenue available for next year’s budget would be $30.774.7 billion. That’s $3.8 billion more than the current year but it includes a projected surplus of $1.8 billion that would be left unspent at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
TOP FLORIDA LEGISLATORS WORK ON BUDGET DEAL via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press
Two top Florida legislators … spent hours meeting behind closed doors in a last-minute push to reach a deal on health care and a new state budget. Although no deal was reached, Sen. Tom Lee said that a “fair amount of progress” was made during the discussions between the House and Senate budget chiefs at the Capitol.
“It was super productive,” said Rep. Richard Corcoran. “I think today we moved the ball down the field tremendously. We are moving to resolution.”
The pressure is mounting for legislators to reach a budget deal. State government could be shut down if a new state budget is not passed by June 30. Legislators are tentatively scheduled to hold a special session in June to pass a budget but have not reached a formal agreement.
Lee said part of the … meetings centered on the House’s opposition to the Senate plan. The Senate proposed expanding Medicaid, but then transitioning it to a private insurance program that includes a work requirement for enrollees. Lee said Corcoran and House staff expressed “legitimate” and “reasonable” concerns about the proposal.
He added that part of the discussion was centered on a “definition” of what constitutes Medicaid expansion. In the past, House leaders have expressed concerns about relying heavily on federal money for health care coverage, as well as extending coverage to adults without children.
The meeting was not required to be open to the public or noticed. Lee defended having the lengthy closed-door session because of the threat of a government shutdown.
— “Lee, Corcoran hold seven hour meeting: ‘a ton of progress’ was made” via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News.
BUDGET DETAILS EMERGE via Christine Sexton of Florida Politics
Lee told Florida Politics on Wednesday night that he thinks the Legislature will produce a traditional budget coming from the traditional conference process.
Lee stressed he had not seen any of the governor’s documents or base budget proposals Lee said he believes the idea would be for the 2015-16 spending plan to have funding increases for caseloads that come out for education and Medicaid. He said there would be no tax cuts or any of the other “bells and whistles that go into the budget.” There would be no backfill for the Low Income Pool, either.
That would leave $2.5 billion in reserves if needed, depending on what financial news CMS gives Florida in terms of LIP funding.”There wold be plenty of money,” to deal with the health care deficit, if any, after Florida receives its decision from the federal government.
Lee said the Legislature is leaning toward the traditional budget where the chambers agree to allocations and a “public and transparent” conference be held.
“It might include some level of tax cuts, might include some level of backfilling held in an escrow account pending a number from CMS,” Lee said, adding, “that’s more of what we’re working on in the Legislature.”
MY TAKE: KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO IN DESPERATE NEED OF A NEW CALENDAR Full story here
As a special session of the Legislature inches closer for hammering out Florida’s spending plan ahead of the June 30 deadline, some lawmakers have even more pressing business to conduct: fundraising.
A new email from Naples Republican state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo does just that, as she announces she will seek the Senate seat of term-limited state Sen. Garrett Richter.
Passidomo notes how this race, unlike previous races, will be “difficult and expensive” as she promises to run a “vigorous campaign.”
What makes this money pitch particularly noteworthy is in the postscript: “Contributions must be received before the Legislature convenes for special session on June 20 and legislators are prohibited from accepting donations.”
Oops … the scheduled special session is June 1, set to pass a budget (contingent or otherwise) by the constitutionally mandated deadline of June 30.
While asking for money from supporters is vital to a campaign, one can’t help but wonder about the letter’s timing. How can constituents expect lawmakers to agree on the state’s budget (undoubtedly the most vital job they have) when they can’t even get their own calendars straight?
AFP OPPOSES FILM INCENTIVE, STADIUM FUNDING IN SPECIAL SESSION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times
Film Florida put out a petition last week asking lawmakers to take up a film incentive overhaul during special session … conservative group Americans for Prosperity has published its own letter to Gov. Scott, asking him to fight to keep film incentives and stadium funding off the agenda.
The special session to address the state budget has been scheduled for June 1-20 … Scott’s role — unless he decides to call the Legislature back to special session himself — is to approve or veto the budget and any other bills they pass.
“Both industries are glamorous and exciting and their backers have been very effective in persuading state and local politicians to provide lucrative giveaways to their private enterprises,” the AFP letter says. “However, the core function of government is not to subsidize glamorous industries — which are competing with essential services like public safety, transportation and education for limited taxpayer resources.”
Sen. Nancy Detert … the lead legislative advocate for film incentives, said she doesn’t expect an overhaul of the program to be taken up during special session. Her bill to do so did not pass before the House left town in April, cutting short the regular legislative session. However, she said, the House and Senate could likely appropriate money into the existing film program’s budget.
WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ — FLORIDA JOB CREATION SLOWS TO HIT LOWEST POINT OF THE YEAR via Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times
Florida’s briefly resurgent job creation has tumbled to the lowest point of the year … added just 13,800 private-sector jobs last month, according to a report … by payroll processing firm ADP.
That’s not only the Sunshine State’s weakest month so far this year, but far off 2014, when it enjoyed multiple months churning out 20,000 new jobs or more.
There is at least one encouraging sign. Despite the slowdown, Florida jumped a notch to become the second-biggest job generator in the country behind California, which nearly tripled Florida’s performance by cranking out 33,400 new jobs.
But Florida’s leapfrog only came because longstanding No. 2, Texas, posted a truly anemic month with only 6,500 new jobs. That pushed Texas down behind other large states like New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
With the tumble the Southern region can no longer boast it’s the fastest-growing part of the country. Continuing a pattern that has held up throughout the slow economic recovery, more than half of Florida’s new jobs are in the lower-paying service-producing sector.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight job growth at a 10 a.m. press conference at Sancilio & Company, 3874 Fiscal Court, Suite 100 in Riviera Beach.
FLORIDA COLLEGE SYSTEM GETS NEW CHANCELLOR via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times
Madeline Pumariega is the new chancellor of Florida’s college system.
Pumariega comes to the post after serving as president of Take Stock in Children, a scholarship program that supports at-risk students whose families do not have a history of attending college. Before holding that job, she was president of Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus.
Education commissioner Pam Stewart announced the appointment.
“Helping Florida’s students achieve their education goals is one of my life’s greatest passions,” said Pumariega, who replaces Randy Hanna. “I strongly believe that a quality education is the single most important factor to lifelong success, and I am both honored and excited to serve as the Florida College System Chancellor.”
She is expected to begin in time for the fall semester. Hanna announced his resignation late in 2014, with plans to practice law and seek a college presidency.
FLORIDA’S HURRICANE INSURANCE FUND STRONG FOR STORM SEASON via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press
Florida’s nine-year streak of avoiding hurricanes is helping the state reach a historic milestone: for the first time ever, the state-created fund designed to help pay out claims after storms has enough cash and assets on hand to pay off everything it could owe.
New estimates show the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund should have $17 billion available for the Atlantic hurricane season that starts June 1.
The financial health of the account known as the “Cat Fund” is important to Floridians regardless of where they live. Because of it, the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies – including auto insurance policies – to replenish it if it runs out of money. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.”
The main reason that the amount of money in the fund has grown is because Florida hasn’t been hit by a hurricane since Wilma lumbered across the state in 2005.
Florida created the fund after Hurricane Andrew ravaged a densely populated area of South Florida in 1992. It offers insurance companies backup coverage at prices usually lower than those in the private market. It was designed to help keep private insurers from leaving the state. Every company is required to purchase coverage to pay off claims after insurers reach a certain level of damages.
Twice a year the state relies on Wall Street firms and financial advisers to calculate how much money the fund needs – and how much it could borrow in the event of a catastrophic storm. An advisory council is scheduled to listen to a presentation … shows the fund could meet its maximum claims without having to borrow any additional money, although state officials have come under fire recently for their decision to purchase $1 billion worth of backup insurance this year to meet that goal.
1ST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL HEARS ARGUMENTS IN GRETNA SLOTS CASE via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics
The 1st District Court of Appeal … heard arguments from plaintiffs seeking to overturn an opinion issued by Attorney General Pam Bondi invalidating the results of a 2012 Gadsden County referendum to allow slow machines to operate at a horse racing facility in Gretna, as well as from an attorney from Bondi’s office, who defended the opinion.
Attorney Marc Dunbar serves as legal counsel to Gretna Creek Entertainment and represented them before the court. He took to task, among other things, flawed grammar on the part of the AG’s office in what Dunbar says is a willful misinterpretation of a state law which limits slots licenses.
The language at issue was a limit in state statute “held pursuant to a statutory or constitutional authorization after the effective date of this section.”
“The question for this court was whether the Legislature had to come back and authorize Gadsden County to hold this referendum. Gadsden County’s position and our position is that home rule authority always allows them to have that referendum if their county commission votes for it.”
Therefore, the state’s case proceeded, the 2012 county-wide vote — in which more than 62 percent of voters said ‘Yes’ to the approval of a new slot machines license for the facility — was “non-binding,” and could not be enforced.
COLUMN YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN: “How water and cold cash mix in Tallahassee” via Daniel Ruth. A low-hanging fruit diatribe. Everyone in the process is bad. Politicians raising money is bad. Spokespeople are bad. Blah, blah, blah.
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CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES QUESTION FLORIDA’S PROPOSED SOLAR ENERGY AMENDMENT via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics
Some Florida conservative Christians have raised concerns about the motives behind the proposed constitutional amendment promoting solar energy in the Sunshine State.
Jim Kallinger, chair of the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition – a group that calls for the government to “tighten its belt and live within its means” — is now questioning Floridians for Solar Choice … seeking a spot on the 2016 ballot for a measure to allow solar energy users to sell power directly to other consumers.
“In March, the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition sent a letter to the leaders of Floridians for Solar Choice regarding their effort to use the state Constitution to promote solar power over other forms of energy,” Kallinger writes in a statement. “We requested that they change their proposed amendment to ensure that Florida’s taxpayers would not be saddled with mandates and subsidies should the language be adopted. Our request has been ignored.”
What bothers Kallinger most is the proposed language of the amendment, which he believes could lead to government mandates and taxpayer-funded subsidies. At the same time, the actions of Floridians for Solar Choice Chair Tory Perfetti also raise concerns about the “true intention of this group.”
Kallinger accuses Perfetti of misleading taxpayers about the amendment’s impact, after “misstating” the state’s financial review determined the measure would not increase state and local taxes.
“Perfetti’s statement is a blatant mistruth,” Kallinger said. “In fact, the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) Information Statement found that ad valorem taxes will increase because of the amendment.”
ORANGE COUNTY DEMS FILE ETHICS COMPLAINT, ALLEGE RENE PLASENCIA DOESN’T LIVE IN DISTRICT via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel
Jimmy Auffant, Florida Democratic Party secretary, filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Rene Plasencia … claiming the Orlando Republican doesn’t live in his district.
“Rep. Plasencia was elected by a razor thin margin to represent the people of House District 49. How can he possibly represent our community if he doesn’t even live here?” said Auffant, who lives in the district.
Plasencia, 42, represents House District 49 … centered around the University of Central Florida campus. The complaint claims he used his father’s home in the district to claim residency, but actually lives in a home in Winter Park, a district represented by Republican Mike Miller.
He shrugged off the complaint as a petty political stunt.
“It’s these kind of tricks and dirty politics that both parties do, quite frankly, that turns people off of politics,” Plasencia said.
The complaint will be reviewed by the Florida Commission on Ethics. The panel will first determine if there is a legal basis for investigating the complaint, then if there is a probable cause to suspect a violation of ethics laws. If the complaint gets that far, a public hearing will be held and the commission can recommend a penalty – usually a fine of up to $1,500 – to the Florida House.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Ron Book, Ron Book, P.A.: Concerned Waterfront Homeowners Association, Dezer Development
Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Co.: Florida Healthcare Association
Jonathan Kilman, Jon Yapo: Foley & Lardner: LM Funding, LLC
Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Colonial Life
Manny Reyes, Gomes Barker Associates: OMNI & Midtown Community Redevelopment Agencies
Jennifer Valenstein: Campaign Facts, LLC
NOT SO SUBTLE PLUG — WEBSITES ARE ALREADY SELLING OUT OF AD INVENTORY FOR 2016 via Shane Goldmacher of National Journal
Voters don’t head to the polls for another eight months, but already a mad dash is underway among Republicans and their allies in the 2016 presidential race to buy up the most valuable ad space online.
The behind-the-scenes scramble has gotten so intense, so quickly, that something almost unthinkable is happening even before all the 2016 candidates have entered the contest: The hottest digital real estate is running out.
… If the Internet can seem a vast and endless space for potential ads, the universe of premium spots for political campaign ads is actually far narrower.
… There were digital-ad shortages ahead of the 2012 and 2014 elections—but never this far in advance, strategists and political ad-sales representatives say. The summer of 2015 has yet to arrive, but winter 2016 inventory is fast dwindling. Ads are already booked for as early as this coming November.