Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – June 11

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

With apologies to the writers of Mad Max: Fury Road, yesterday was not a very lovely day for Governor Rick Scott…

There could be some court room drama next week in Gov. Rick Scott’s lawsuit against the federal government over the fate of $2 billion in supplemental Medicaid money known as Low Income Pool.

It was expected that oral arguments would be held on June 19 in the fast-moving lawsuit. But Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers in an order issued on Wednesday, said he would hold an evidentiary hearing on the governor’s motion for a preliminary injunction that, if approved, could force the federal government to continue Low Income Pool funding at the current $2 billion-plus level.

An evidentiary hearing means that both the state and federal government will have to present witness testimony in court. The could mean heavy hitters like Scott, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell could be required to appear in federal court.

Scott met with Burwell May 6 to discuss the Low Income Pool program.

The change on the docket came in an order Rodgers issued denying Scott’s recent motion to compel the federal government to enter mediation with the state. Rodgers ruled that court-ordered mediation as Scott’s attorneys sought does not guarantee a resolution and that it would not “advance the process any faster than the expedited proceeding currently scheduled.”

But Rodgers is moving ahead with another of Scott’s requests.

Acknowledging the short time frame before the end of the state fiscal year and the “voluminous materials” submitted for the upcoming oral arguments the judge said in the ruling he’d use the June 19 date to consider Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction and told the parties to be prepared to bring witness testimony to court.

“The court needs to have a thorough understanding of the LIP extension or amendment process and the history of the negotiations between the parties in order to resolve the questions rasied. It is also important that the Court be able to timely resolve any evidentiary conflicts or credibility questions that may arise during the hearing,” wrote the judge.

Until then, Judge Rodgers told the parties that they are “encouraged to continue their negotiations and to promptly notify the court if a resolution is reached prior to the hearing.”

Scott is slated to leave the country this weekend for the 2015 Paris Air Show. The governor told reporters in Tampa on Tuesday that the legislative special session had altered his plans and that he would shorten his trip and leave the country on Friday, June 19 and return Monday, June 22.

“I will be going to the air show in Paris, I’ll go Friday night and I’ll come back Monday, so I’ve shortened my trip, It’s an important trip,” Scott told Tampa Tribune reporter Jerome Stockfish.

The governor’s press office later told the paper that the trip would be a “game time decision.”

Scott spokesperson Jackie Schutz did not return emails asking whether Scott would appear at the courthouse in Pensacola. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Benjamin Wakana referred questions on the suit to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Scott has been wrangling with the federal government over Low Income Pool since the spring. After receiving a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advising “the future of the (low-income pool), sufficient provider rates and Medicaid expansion are linked,” the governor filed a lawsuit against HHS claiming that the federal government was trying to pressure Florida into expanding Medicaid which is unconstitutional.

The federal government advised Florida last April it would continue Low Income Pool funding June 30, 2015. Scott assumed the program would continue at its $2 billion level when he developed his proposed budget for the 2015-16 year.

The federal government advised Florida it could expect to receive $1 billion in LIP for 2015-16 and another $600,000 for 2016-17. In his request for mediation Scott’s attorneys said the uncertainty regarding LIP has prevented the Legislature from being able to build a budget.

SCOTT APPROVES ABORTION 24-HOUR WAITING PERIOD BILL via AP

Women will have to wait 24 hours before having an abortion under a bill Gov. Scott signed into law today, a reflective period supporters said they hoped would change some women’s minds before ending their pregnancies.

Scott signed the abortion measure along with 54 other bills, including legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to take experimental medicines. Scott also signed into law a measure that revises the rules for the panel that regulates Florida electric rates. He vetoed a bill dealing with home medical equipment providers.

Abortion was the subject of emotional debate during the Legislature’s regular session. Democrats complained the bill was simply an effort to put up roadblocks to infringe on women’s rights to an abortion while Republicans said women should have to wait before making such a major decision.

“One day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view an image of the unborn child’s ultrasound image, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith are minimal considering the effects that will remain for a lifetime beyond that irreversible decision,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican and one of the bill sponsors.

Florida will be the 27th state to have a waiting period for abortions when the law takes effect July 1.

REAX TO SCOTT SIGNING WAITING PERIOD BILL

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy: “A woman’s right to choose is just that — her right. Politicians like Rick Scott have no business interfering in medical decisions that should be between a woman and her doctor.  I’m extremely disappointed that Gov. Scott refuses to let Florida’s women decide what’s best for themselves, and I am more committed than ever to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

Florida Democratic Party: “Yet again, the Florida GOP has shown that they are willing to check their small government rhetoric at the door when it comes to relitigating culture wars they lost long ago. The women of Florida will not forget this come 2016.”

Florida ACLU: “We have warned Governor Scott that this law violates the state constitution. This law was created solely to put in place needless hurdles that impose financial, professional and personal burdens on Florida women whose right to access safe and timely abortion care is protected by the Florida Constitution. As with every law passed by Florida politicians that undermines people’s guaranteed rights and freedoms, we are examining every option for protecting women against this dangerous legislation.”

Florida Catholic bishops: “When we recall major life decisions, we recognize that we find it prudent to gather all the necessary information and take some time to think. Rather than ask what the cost will be for women to make a second visit to terminate a pregnancy, we should be concerned with the human costs of not having a reflection period.”

SCOTT OKS MODEST REFORMS TO PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION via Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com

Scott signed HB 7109 into law Wednesday, a bill that makes modest reforms at the state Public Service Commission.

The law limits future Public Service Commission members to three consecutive four-year terms and requires commissioners to undergo annual ethics training. The bill was weakened when the House refused to accept a Senate amendment that would require the PSC to hold customer service meetings every other year in the service area of the utilities they regulate.

It also requires that specified commission meetings be streamed live on the Internet and a recorded copy of the meeting be made available on the commission’s website. The requirement applies to:

  • each internal affairs meeting, workshop, hearing, or other proceeding attended by two or more commissioners; and
  • each meeting, workshop, hearing, or other proceeding where a decision that concerns the rights or obligations of any person is made.

The bill also affects public utilities.

It allows Duke Energy Florida to issue bonds for the $1.4 billion Crystal River nuclear plant shutdown, a move that Pinellas County Sen. Jack Latvala said would save an estimated $600 million for customers. The Crystal River facility was shuttered much earlier than expected because of damage to a containment building during a botched repair attempt. The plant was permanently shut down in 2013, though it had not generated electricity since 2009.

SCOTT’S ELECTIONS CHIEF ON HOT SEAT AT ELECTIONS CONFERENCE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, could get an unfriendly welcome Wednesday when he appears before the annual mid-year conference of state election supervisors in Kissimmee.

Tensions are still high between Detzner and the supervisors after he spent the regular legislative session unsuccessfully trying to defeat their top priority: creation of an online system for voters to register and update their voting information by 2017.

To complicate matters for Detzner, the new president of the supervisors’ group is one of his toughest critics, Pasco Supervisor Brian Corley, the outspoken son of a former New York City police officer and a tenacious advocate of making it easier to vote in Florida.

Detzner has been working to repair the damage from the regular session, in which senators were so dissatisfied with him they refused to confirm him, forcing Scott to reappoint him.

On Sunday, after a budget conference committee, he was seen engaged in an animated conversation with Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Clemens, who was the sponsor of the online voter registration bill that Scott recently signed into law. Clemens declined to discuss their conversation, but he said during the session that he was offended that Detzner didn’t tell him to his face that he was trying to kill his legislation.

EPILOGUE: ETHICS PANEL: EX-LG JENNIFER CARROLL BROKE THE LAW via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

An ethics panel concluded that former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll likely broke the state’s ethics law after failing to disclose money paid to a company she controlled.

Carroll was forced to resign in March 2013 after state investigators questioned the work she did for Allied Veterans of the World before she ran with Gov. Scott. The veterans charity was accused of running an $300 million illegal gambling operation.

State investigators eventually concluded that Carroll, a Republican, did not break any criminal laws, but last year they asked the Florida Commission on Ethics to review the case.

The commission announced Wednesday that it had found probable cause that Carroll broke the law because she did not disclose all of her income on mandatory financial disclosure forms.

Carroll was cleared of any wrongdoing on two other ethics charges, including whether she accepted payment to influence her work as a legislator.

Carroll said she does not plan to challenge the findings, but maintained it was a mistake and not intentional. She also said that Scott was wrong to force her to resign when the Allied Veterans investigation became public.

“If they find a reason to fine me for that, so be it,” said Carroll in an email. “What I would like is a public apology from Governor Scott for his knee jerk reaction to ask for my resignation where no probable cause or evidence presented itself to implicate me to the issues with Allied Veterans.”

Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, said that the governor appreciated her service but that she “made the right decision for her family by resigning.”

ONE PIECE OF GOOD NEWS FOR THE GOV — JOBS, WAGES RISING AS RECESSION FALLS FARTHER BEHIND FLORIDA via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the Orlando Sentinel

The Great Recession is now far in the rearview mirror, especially for Florida, which is driving toward an annual expansion rate of 3.1 percent, University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith says in a second-quarter economic forecast released Tuesday.

“With every new jobs report and economic data release, Florida puts greater distance between its economy today and the economy that was crippled by recession, housing and financial crises,” said Snaith, director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness.

But now, labor-force growth in the state is expected to average 2 percent through 2018, Snaith said. The faster pace of payroll job creation has invigorated Florida’s labor market, with the improved prospect of finding a job resulting in more residents back on the job hunt.

The sectors expected to have the strongest average job growth during the next three years are construction, professional and business services; trade, transportation and utilities, which incudes retail; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality.

IT’S ALMOST OVER…

ANDY GARDINER LAYS OUT SENATE SCHEDULE FOR REMAINDER OF SPECIAL SESSION

Gardiner announced a few programming notes following a more or less pro forma floor Session late Wednesday morning.

Among them:

  • The 6 o’clock rule — which has been broken a handful of times this conference season, including an 8:45 meeting of the Education budget panel — remains in effect whether budget chiefs Richard Corcoran and Tom Lee come to agreement today or not. Gardiner final offers were more likely to emerge tomorrow.
  • There will be a brief 9 a.m. floor Session, in order to comply with “some changes in the interpretation” of the state Constitution.
  • The final budget “bump” — to presiding officers Gardiner and Speaker Steve Crisafulli — will also occur Friday. He says a final budget will be hammered out by the two by Monday.
  • Health Policy will meet Tuesday, June 16 at 9 a.m. Appropriations will meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Chambers will vote on the final budget on Friday, June 19.

BUDGET TALKS DISAPPEAR BEHIND CLOSE DOORS AS HEALTH CARE ISSUES TAKE CENTER STAGE via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

With work on finalizing a state budget pushed behind closed doors, House and Senate committees Wednesday began tackling a host of regulations on the health care industry.

House budget chief, Rep. Richard Corcoran and Senate counterpart, Sen. Tom Lee held no public meetings as they began sifting through dozens of unsettled spending differences between the two chambers.

… Still, economic development dollars, money for environmental land-buying efforts and college and university construction are among the budget areas up in the air, with funding at stake for major projects at Palm Beach State College and Florida Atlantic University.

More than $1 billion in water project requests, including provisions for the Lake Worth Lagoon and Loxahatchee River, are also subject to Corcoran and Lee’s deal-making.

The spate of water projects is purportedly being funneled through what budget leaders say is an available $50 million in financing, suggesting most will come up dry.

SCHOOL BOARD ASSOCIATION DROPS OUT OF VOUCHER LAWSUIT via The Associated Press

The Florida School Boards Association is dropping out of a lawsuit that contends the state’s largest private school voucher program is unconstitutional.

The group’s board of directors voted Wednesday against pursuing the lawsuit any further. A circuit judge in May ruled the groups filing the lawsuit did not have a legal right or “standing” to challenge the program.

The deadline to file an appeal is next week. The Florida Education Association has not yet decided whether it will challenge the ruling by Circuit Judge George Reynolds.

The legal battle has been closely watched as supporters have mounted an advertising and public relations campaign that called for the lawsuit to be dropped because of its potential impacts to families using the vouchers.

Nearly 70,000 children attend private schools through the tax credit scholarship program. The program currently serves low-income families but the program will expand to middle-income families starting in 2016.

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CNN SCHEDULES GOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE IN FLORIDA via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

CNN announced Wednesday that it has scheduled a Republican presidential debate to take place March 10 in Florida, five days before the state’s 2016 primary.

The debate had previously been listed as “pending.” CNN is hosting two GOP debates this year, in September and December. Six others have been sanctioned by the party, hosted by others.

“Given the size and competitiveness of the GOP primary field, at this time it does not appear as though the party will have chosen its presidential nominee by March 10,” CNN said.

“This ensures that all presidential campaigns will have to spend a considerable amount of time in Florida speaking to Republicans from Pensacola to Key West and everywhere in between,” Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement.

JEB BUSH ON PACE TO RAISE $100 MILLION via Ben White of POLITICO

The biggest guessing game in the presidential race these days is just how massive a war chest Bush will announce on July 15, the first official deadline for candidates to disclose their financial position.

The answer: It will be massive and very likely over $100 million, though the exact figure remains unclear. And we probably won’t know even then precisely how much the Bush juggernaut actually has.

That’s because Bush Inc. has at least four vehicles for campaign contributors: the Right to Rise super PAC, a hard-dollar campaign committee (which only recently started raising money), a leadership PAC and a nonprofit entity dedicated to funding policy formation.

The eye-popper will be the super PAC, which has vacuumed up huge checks from Wall Street titans and other captains of industry over the past six months. The campaign at one point capped donations at $1 million because money was pouring in so fast from events with minimum price tags of $100,000 or often even more.

A person with direct knowledge of the matter said the super PAC had raised around $87.3 million by earlier this spring. The pace slowed after an initial burst. But not enough to throw the Bush money machine off course. “I can’t imagine it won’t be over $100 million, probably from the super PAC alone,” this person said.

HERE’S THE REAL ISSUE WITH MARCO RUBIO’S FINANCES via Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post

It’s been 24 hours (or so) since the New York Times popped its big report on Sen. Marco Rubio‘s “financial struggles” over the course of the Florida Republican’s lightning-quick rise through the political stratosphere. In that time, it’s become clear how the Rubio team will respond. And it’s this way: Rubio struggled with his finances and his debts. Just like almost every average American does.

“The attack from the Times is just the latest in their continued hits against Marco and his family,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Rubio presidential campaign. “What the Times misses is that getting rich is not what has driven Senator Rubio’s financial decisions.”

That’s a smart response — particularly given that one of Rubio’s main opponents in the GOP primaries is Jeb Bush, a scion of a very wealthy and well-connected family, and that his general election opponent would likely be someone who has lots and lots of money questions already surrounding her campaign.

Smart, but not entirely to the point the story raised. The Times story, at its heart, is not about how Rubio doesn’t have a lot of money. It’s about the decisions he has made given that financial reality. Here are the second and third paragraphs of the Times piece:

“In speeches, Mr. Rubio, a Florida Republican, spoke of his prudent plan for using the cash to finally pay off his law school loans, expressing relief that he no longer owed ‘a lady named Sallie Mae,’ as he once called the lender.”

JOHN STEMBERGER FAVORING MARCO RUBIO IN PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST? via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

The Bush-Rubio mano-a-mano duel for the Republican nomination has certainly split Florida Republicans, though a majority of the establishment GOP has tended to side with Team Jeb.

Then there are those who choose to remain neutral, such as John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, one of the leading social conservative organizations in the Sunshine State.

But a report in the National Journal indicates that maybe Stemberger isn’t so neutral after all.

The NJ’s Tim Alberta reports that Rubio was one of six Republican presidential hopefuls spoke for a half-hour each last month to the Council for National Policy – a group identified as a “secretive nonprofit  populated by hundreds of right-wing activists and donors,” at a Ritz-Carlton in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.

PAUL SPAIN JOINS CROWD SEEKING PATRICK MURPHY HOUSE SEAT via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Spain, who lost a 2014 bid to unseat Rep. Lois Frankel in a Democrat-leaning district, is moving north to run for the open, more GOP-friendly congressional seat of Rep. Patrick Murphy

Spain is the sixth Republican to enter the race for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat, which Murphy is leaving to run for Senate.

Retired financial planner Spain got 42 percent of the vote last year against Frankel in Palm Beach-Broward District 22. Considering Dems had a 40-to-31 percent registration edge in that district, Spain’s showing was more impressive than that of the GOP’s District 18 nominee, Carl Domino, who got 40.8 percent against Murphy in a district where Republicans had a 37-to-35 percent registration edge.

FLORIDA GOP WANTS DCCC TO ‘APOLOGIZE’ FOR BOOSTING FAUX TEA-PARTY CANDIDATE IN 2010 via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

When a little-known tea-party candidate ran for Congress in Miami in 2010, Democrats mailed two campaign fliers depicting Roly Arrojo as “too conservative” — a strategy intended to attract conservative voters to the unknown contender and siphon votes away from Republican rival David Rivera.

But Arrojo, as was suspected at the time, turned out to be a straw candidate put up to run by the campaign of Democrat Joe Garcia. Arrojo and Garcia’s whose former manager, Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, have been charged with violating federal law. (Rivera issuspected of orchestrating a far more extensive straw-candidate campaign in 2012, but he has not yet been charged.)

Democrats’ support of Arrojo has not been forgotten by the Republican Party of Florida, which on Tuesday drafted a letter calling on the party to “apologize” for its role in the 2010 race.

“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s efforts to bolster a candidate, who was illegally funded and recruited, with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign mailers is a direct disregard and harm to the democracy that voters in South Florida value,” reads the short letter signed by RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia and the heads of the Miami-Dade and Monroe local parties, Nelson Diaz and Debby Goodman. The district as it’s drawn now stretches from Westchester to Key West.

The letter was addressed to Annette Taddeo, the Democrat challenging incumbent GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the DCCC who will be in Coral Gables on Friday to raise funds for her.

In an announcement statement, Spain said: “I believe I have the right background to be an effective and sensitive representative for District 18 residents. I’m a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and a successful businessman with a lifetime of community service. That service includes Chambers of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, a current member of the College of Financial Planning with Advanced Planning Certifications (AAMS, CRPS), and a member of Maggie’s List, which promotes and supports efforts by women to hold public office.”

SAVE THE DATE: DEMOCRATIC BIGWIGS PLAN JUNE 20 FUNDRAISER IN ST. PETE

Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, Charlie Crist, Alex Sink and state party Chair Allison Tant are slated to be on hand at an evening fête at the home of Aubie Ribeiro and Dr. Sarah Lind Ribeiro in Saint Petersburg, on 146 4th Avenue Northeast. The June 20 shindig lists just four hosts so far donating $1,000 or more, though the committee is still in formation. Tickets are $250.

SENATE DEMOCRATS PLAN MID-SESSION FUNDRAISING IN TALLY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times

As legislators convene the third week of a three-week session with a budget vote pending, Senate Democrats have scheduled a fundraiser Monday night at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee.

Senate rules prohibit fundraisers during session, including the special session, with one exception. If the fundraiser was previously planned before the special session was scheduled, an exemption is allowed.

“The rules say it’s allowed if it was planned before the call of the session,” said Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa who is hosting the event with Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami.

Joyner, however, said Wednesday if the fundraiser was scheduled, she hasn’t been thinking about it.

“Nothing rings a bell but the budget right now,” she said.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Leslie DughiFred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: West Point Underwriters

Michael Lawton: United Healthcare Services

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MY BEST STORY OF THE DAY – WILL WEATHERFORD VISITS THE HOLY LAND

Former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford recently returned from a tour of Israel, where he met with former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Weatherford, who led the Florida House from 2012-2014, visited the Holy Land in early May. There he visited many of the country’s holiest sites, including the Masada Desert Fortress (where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood) and the Garden of Gethsemane (most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus’ crucifixion).

Weatherford said he was struck by the dichotomy of the modernity of Israeli cities, such as Tel Aviv, and the history and “spiritual component” throughout the country.

Weatherford shared details of his tour of the Holy Land with this writer over lunch at Tampa’s Ocean Prime restaurant.

MY OTHER TAKES

– “Dara Kam pisses off the Governors Club” via Peter Schorsch of FloridaPolitics.com

– On POLITICO’s forthcoming arrival in Tallahassee – Part 2” via Peter Schorsch of FloridaPolitics.com

BEST STORY OF THE DAY PERIOD – SHARK DIES AFTER TRANSPORT TRUCK RUNS OFF I-95 via CF 13 News

Authorities say a shark was killed in a traffic accident when a truck carrying four of the big fish blew a tire and ran off the highway.

The Florida Highway Patrol says the four sharks were being driven to an aquarium in New York City from Marathon, Florida, when the tractor-trailer transporting them ran off of Interstate 95 near Oak Hill on Wednesday afternoon.

The sharks had been placed in separate tanks in the trailer. One tank was damaged, leading to the animal’s death. The three people in the vehicle were not hurt.

A SeaWorld rescue team from Orlando moved the remaining sharks to its facility until transportation arrangements can be made. Team member Jim Kinsler says the remaining sharks are in good condition.

NEVER TOO EARLY STORY – UNIVERSAL’S FIRST HALLOWEEN HAUNT REVEALED: FREDDY VS. JASON via Steve Persall and Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times

For its 25th anniversary of Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Orlando is pitting Hollywood’s grisliest icons against each other, and park visitors.

Universal announced Wednesday that Freddy Krueger of theNightmare of Elm Street franchise, and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees will go scarred face to hockey mask in their own haunted house. The attraction is titled Freddy vs. Jason, echoing their lone screen collaboration.

That 2003 battle ended in a draw of sorts, with Jason cheating death yet again, and Freddy’s decapitated head winking at the camera.

Michael Aiello, director of creative development for entertainment at Universal Orlando Resort, said Tuesday that park visitors could see the fight go either way.

“We’re actually doing two different endings,” Aiello said. “Depending on when you go in, you’re going to see Jason being victorious, or you’re going to see Freddy being victorious. … The fans of Freddy and the fans of Jason are definitely divided camps in the horror community.”

Freddy and Jason were featured before at Hollywood Horror Nights, in separate exhibits during Jack’s Carnival of Carnage in 2007.

“It just felt like this year is a perfect opportunity to do some things that have been successful in the past, but presented in a new, unique way,” Aiello said.

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