Sunburn for 3/15 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Oh, and beware the Ides of March.

AT CPAC, RUBIO GETS BIG APPLAUSE FOR STANCES ON MARRIAGE, ABORTION by George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Rubio, in a speech widely seen as an early audition for a potential 2016 presidential run, got big applause from the Conservative Political Action Conference today when he defended traditional marriage and voiced opposition to abortion.

Rubio is best known for his economic and fiscal stances and efforts to soften the GOP’s hard-line stance on immigration. But he got big cheers when he weighed in briefly on social issues.

“I respect people that disagree with me on certain things, but they have to respect me, too,” Rubio said.

“Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot. Just because we believe that life, all life, all human life is worthy of protection at every stage of its development does not make you a chauvinist,” Rubio said.

“In fact, the people who are actually close-minded in American politics are people that love to preach about the certainty of science with regards to our climate but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception,” Rubio said.

Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul spoke back-to-back at the conservative gathering.

NO CPAC STRAW POL SHOWDOWN FOR BUSH AND RUBIO via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

The straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference is a highlight for the thousands of activists who show up from all over the country. And this year promised a juicy showdown between Florida’s Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

Only Jeb Bush isn’t on the ballot. A CPAC official said that Bush asked not to be included.

Al Cardenas, head of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors CPAC, confirmed the move, said it was requested by Bush’s staff. How come? “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them,” he said.

WEST LAUNCHES 501(C)(4)

West, who lost his House seat in the 2012 election, has launched an outside group that plans to educate and inspire ‘the next generation of conservative leaders within the minority and veteran communities nationwide,’ according to an announcement yesterday. West’s group, which will operate under nonprofit 501(c)(4) status, will seek to increase the number of veterans in Congress as well as ‘advocate on behalf of minorities and veterans on critical issues facing their communities.’

***Prepare to make a difference as a future public leader…at no cost to you.  March 29 is the deadline for applications to the Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute where you’ll learn from pros about candidacy, leadership and public policy, while networking with leaders. Discover more.***

THE FALLOUT FROM CARROLL’S RESIGNATION CONTINUES

ADAM PUTNAM’S OFFICE DRAFTING LEGISLATION TO BAN ALL INTERNET CAFES by Dave Heller of Sunshine State News

State lawmakers are moving quickly to consider legislation that would ban Internet cafes following a three-year investigation that alleges widespread criminal activity by one of the main operators in Florida.

And now they have Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam fully participating on their side as well.

… “I think that the investigation into Allied Veterans and the widespread corruption and racketeering that it has exposed has reinforced the need for the law to be clarified and for all of them to be banned,” said Putnam on Thursday. “They’re clearly a gateway into organized crime and racketeering as this investigation proves, and I’m hopeful the Legislature will take swift action.”

ALLIED VETERANS $1.3 MIL IN CONTRIBUTIONS REACHED ALL CORNERS OF TALLY via Amy Pavuk and Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Millions of dollars in bank accounts were frozen, dozens of luxury cars and boats were seized, and the government has taken claim over countless Florida properties as part of the criminal case against the controversial nonprofit Allied Veterans of the World, newly released case documents show.

Meanwhile, a review of the state campaign contribution records shows that Allied, its affiliated entities and top players have made at least $1.3 million in political contributions to both political parties as well as key legislators who had power to influence state gaming laws.

Allied Veterans, a nonprofit group that operates controversial strip-mall casinos across Florida, was accused this week of being a $300 million criminal enterprise.

The biggest receivers of the group’s political giving by far where Florida Republicans, including lawmakers in position to control the gaming agenda in Tallahassee.

TIMES EDITORIAL: BAN INTERNET CAFES: “… now that a sweeping racketeering investigation has led the lieutenant governor to resign, state leadership appears to have finally coalesced around banning this burgeoning, predatory industry. It can’t come too soon. Local governments, including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, have shown far more courage in protecting Floridians. Florida does not need more gambling.”

EMAIL: “Another Florida Scandal” from Progress Florida

TWEET, TWEET: @ElectBeaven: Hey, why don’t we save FL some $ by intro’ing “no Lt Gov needed” bill to save us about $5.0 a year?

HENDERSON COLUMN: VOTERS WON’T OVERLOOK SCOTT’S ERRORS IN JUDGMENT

There was already blood in the water for Scott’s re-election chances, and Wednesday’s abrupt resignation of his second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, opened the spigot full blast. The only thing missing is the theme from “Jaws.”

… No one is suggesting Scott faces any legal trouble in this, but he is in a world of hurt politically. Based on his low approval numbers, voters considered his judgment suspect. Now he has given more fuel to those who view him as a rank amateur in the game of high-stakes politics.

… For now, it’s hard to see Scott’s tenure remembered as anything but the second coming of Claude Kirk. Maybe he can buy voters a lot of forgetfulness with a war chest that could reach $100 million, but unlike 2010 he is an incumbent with a record — and not a good one.

At this point, the likely scenario for 2014 is a cardboard box to help clean out his desk and note that says, “Let’s get to work.”

HUFFINGTON POST SLIDE SHOW: “17 Staffers Who Have Resigned Since Rick Scott Took Office”

CRIST TO SPEAK TO MANATEE DEMS TONIGHT

Crist will make his first major speech as a registered Democrat before a Sarasota-Manatee audience in Lakewood Ranch. Crist will be the keynote speaker at the Manatee County Democrat’s annual awards dinner and dance at the Fete Ballroom of the Polo Grill.

STORY I DON’T WANT TO MENTION, SO I’LL JUST LINK TO IT: “Another Charlie Crist donor headed to jail” by Michael Van Sickler

INTERESTING EMAIL: “Why I’m running for Governor” from former Senator Nan Rich

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ANITERE FLORES IN SPOTLIGHT via the News Service of Florida

Anyone who paid the least bit of attention to the last election will remember that Hispanics were the golden prize. Republicans all over the country looked at the November results and started thinking about working on their pronunciation of buenos dias and thinking a little more about immigration issues.

So it’s no surprise that with a sudden vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office and a governor up for re-election who needs a new running mate that the name of Sen. Anitere Flores would suddenly be, as they say in social media, trending.

Floreswas mentioned by several people yesterday as a possible replacement lieutenant governor forJennifer Carroll, who resigned this week amid an investigation into a gambling ring that involved a company she did some work for. Gov. Rick Scott said he won’t pick a new LG until after the legislative session ends in early May, but the Capitol is already buzzing with talk of who might be named. Other names that have come up have included DCF Secretary and fix-it guy David Wilkins, and Rep. Dana Young.

Flores has a reputation as serious and smart, very good on education issues, and isn’t particularly rhetorically strident, meaning she doesn’t come off as a shrill partisan. She has just enough of the Miami-Cuban accent that she’d play very well in that media market, but is young (38 later this year), telegenic and articulate enough that the rest of the state could easily “get” her too.

LATVALA SAYS HE’D RATHER BE SENATE PRESIDENT THAN LG (DUH!) Watch here (with a cameo from me).

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HOUSE-SENATE SPLIT ON PENSIONS HINTS AT DEAL-MAKING TO COME via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

An effort by leading House Republicans to close the Florida Retirement System’s traditional pension plan to new employees cleared its final committee stop Thursday — after undergoing some changes that did little to ease overwhelming opposition from public workers’ unions.

Rep. Jason Brodeur endorsed an amendment that continues to make new hires eligible for disability and death benefits — a provision whose earlier absence had infuriated police and firefighter unions.

… While the measure could head to the House floor as early as next week, the Republican-led Senate seems to have little interest in going that far.

A more modest change, proposed by Sen. Wilton Simpson advanced Thursday in the Senate’s Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

The bill (SB1392) would give new public employees an incentive by cutting their payroll contributions to 2 percent if they join the investment plan. If they choose the traditional plan, they’d pay 3 percent.

The only new workers required to join the investment plan would be senior managers, under Simpson’s bill. Senate President Don Gaetz has come in favor of Simpson’s proposal.

The division between the House and Senate makes it likely that some kind of compromise will have to be forged for any FRS changes to clear the Legislature this spring.

“It looks like we’ll have to sit down and talk to Sen. Simpson,” Brodeur conceded after the House vote.

STORM BREWING IN SENATE OVER CATASTROPHE FUND via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Driven by reinsurers, some policymakers have hoped to slowly reduce the overall size of the so-called Cat fund, on a path that could drive up individual property insurance premiums. 

A bill (SB 1262) being discussed in a workshop Thursday in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee seeks to do that in a number of ways, for example reducing the maximum amount of reimbursement that property insurers can collect from the backup fund. The measure also would drop the amount of mandatory coverage for the Cat fund over time, meaning insurance companies would have to get the difference from the private market.

But a second idea has emerged that proponents say could reduce premiums by expanding the bonding requirements from one to three years, a move that could generate $6 billion a year without giving much more of the market to private reinsurers.

“We have to manage rates and risks, this … does both,” said Sen. Jeremy Ring.

Ring tried to get the idea included in the Cat fund bill in the committee. It didn’t get a particularly favorable reception. 

But the debate is expected to heat up again on March 20 when the legislation returns for a vote by the same panel. Ring’s proposal could also result in a floor showdown over the direction of the backup fund, which has grown as the state has avoided a major storm for seven years.

WATCH NOW: Senate President Don Gaetz, um, crush Rice Krispies while thinking of the Florida House, but not Jack Latvala. Vimeo here.

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. With more than 45 years of combined legislative and regulatory knowledge and experience, Corcoran & Johnston’s ability to navigate through the processes and politics of government and deliver for their clients is unmatched.***

HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON PPACA MEETING TODAY: The House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act meets Friday to continue its discussion of implementation of the law in Florida. 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building

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MIKE FASANO HONORED FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT WORK via Brent Kallsted of the Associated Press

Veteran state legislator Mike Fasano was honored Thursday by the First Amendment Foundation for his efforts improving transparency in government. 

Foundation President Barbara Petersen praised Fasano’s long record of ensuring the legislative process remains open and accessible while representing the people’s interests, most notably in the 2012 session. 

“He has consistently dedicated his time and effort to making sure that the average Floridian has a voice in the process,” Petersen said. “Rep. Fasano has continually proven himself a friend of the people, not just his constituents, but those encountering roadblocks as they try to manage the maze of government bureaucracy.” 

SUNSHINE SUMMIT THIS WEEKEND

The First Amendment Foundation’s third annual Sunshine Summit takes place 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Petersburg College’s Seminole Campus in the Dennis L. Jones Library Conference Center. Noted Florida author, columnist and political commentator Diane Roberts is keynote speaker, and FAF President Barbara Petersen will discuss working together to reform Florida’s open government laws.

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APPOINTED: Glen Gilzean to the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees. 

ROUSON DISAPPOINTED IN CHOICE: “The governor has the authority to appoint who he wants,” Rouson said. “Our community in St. Petersburg has certainly spoken in terms of who we want on school board in Pinellas.” (Gilzean was defeated handily by former St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Rene Flowers during the November election.)

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Brian Ballard, Matthew Forrest, Greg Turberville, Ballard Partners: Houston Astros; Scott McRae Auto Group

Buddy Dewar: Florida Fire Sprinkler Association

Fred Dudley, Hollard and Knight: Modular Building Institute, Inc.

Carole Duncanson: H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center

Todd Lewis: Florida Chiropractic Association

William Peebles, John Wayne Smith: City of Gainesville

David Powell, Hopping Green & Sams: Association of Florida Community Developers, Inc.

Jonathan Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by the Florida Medical Association: Affordable, safe, patient-centered health care in Florida starts with a physician-led team, with all health care professionals playing valuable and appropriate roles. Learn more here.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Representative Marti Coley.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.