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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

FPL asks appeals court to keep salaries secret

With hours to go before state regulators would have been forced to release Florida Power & Light's executive salary data, the company today filed a petition asking a court to halt the data drop.

The Juno Beach-based electric company filed a lawsuit today in the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee asking the court to stop the Public Service Commission from disclosing the salaries and titles of more than 400 executives who make $165,000 a year or more at the company. The PSC had ruled that FPL and Tampa's Progress Energy must reveal the salary amounts and titles because it deemed it a critical piece of the $1.3 billion rate case. Commissioners allowed the companies to keep secret the names of the employees.

FPL is asking for a 30 percent increase in its base rate beginning next year and Progress Energy is asking for a 31 percent hike, also in the base rate. Progress has not appealed the order as regulators began its rate case today. Download FPL appeal petition (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/fpl-appeal-petition.pdf)

FPL has vehemently argued that the release of the salary data would pose a competitive disadvantage. "The Commission has historically had no problem exercising its responsibilities without publicly releasing specific salary data for individual employees so the only reason for this information to be publicly disclosed now is to distract from the important issues in the case that matter to our customers,'' Mayco Villafana said in a statement today.

The PSC order, however notes that Florida's statute was "unambiguous" and clearly required disclosure. It also notes that any appeal must be made to the Florida Supreme Court for electric companies, not the 1st DCA.

FPL had 30 days from the date of the PSC's Aug. 20 order to file an appeal but, in an unusual development, the PSC said today that because of a "scrivener's error" it had to amend the original order on Sept. 1. PSC staff tells us that gives FPL more time to file its appeal.

Help us find the "scrivener's error. Here's the original order: Download PSC order on salaries (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/psc-order-on-salaries.doc). Here's the amended order: Download PSC amended order on salaries (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/psc-amended-order-on-salaries.doc)

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 10:27:06 PM on September 21, 2009

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Thrasher shakes money tree one more time

A fresh memo to supporters from "Senator-elect John Thrasher" in Jacksonville contains a grateful thank-you to all the people who helped to deliver what he calls his "positive message of lower taxes and conservative values" throughout Northeast Florida's District 8. The former House Speaker from Orange Park is technically not "senator-elect," -- not yet anyway, though it's purely a formality: He faces three write-in candidates on the Oct. 6 general election ballot who have no chance of winning.

Yet Thrasher is using the presence of those three unknown, hopelessly outgunned write-ins to solicit more money from supporters. Check out the invite (http://blogs.tampabay.com/files/john-thrasher-campaign-fundraiser---tallahassee-event---tuesday-september-29th.pdf) to a final fund-raiser, hosted by the Senate Republican leadership, on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at the Florida Association of Realtors in Tallahassee "to adequately defend our candidacy." A lingering loophole in Florida election law blocks Democrats and independents from voting in any one-party GOP primary when write-ins show up. There's no way of knowing whether the absence of those write-ins might have altered the outcome of the Sept. 15 primary, which Thrasher won handily over three GOP rivals.

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 05:39:25 PM on September 21, 2009

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FSU and UF law, alma maters to many lobbyists, top Bar -- again

Continuing a trend of recent years, Florida State University's law school graduates had the highest bar passage rates among all Florida law schools public and private, according to figures just released by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. The passage rates are for the July exam, where the average pass rate was 80 percent.

FSU enjoyed a pass rate of 91.4 percent, while UF was No. 2 with 86.3 percent passing, and Nova was close behind with 86.1 percent. FIU's 6-year-old law school had a pass rate of 80.9 percent, while the FAMU law school that just got full accreditation continues to struggle with lower pass rates: 52.6 percent this time. FAMU pass rates have been in the 50th and 60th percentile pretty consistently, though the dean installed last year has established weekly bar prep and academic success workshops to improve those scores in the years to come.

Florida State graduates have ranked first in the state on five of the past eight administrations of the exam.

This month, the school was ranked the nation's 10th "Best Value" law school by National Jurist magazine and the country's third-best law school for Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine.

"We are very proud that Florida State Law students continue to achieve outstanding results on the Florida Bar exam," said Law Dean Don Weidner. "Special congratulations and thanks go to our recent graduates for their superb accomplishment."

See the full list of pass rates here (http://www.floridabarexam.org/public/main.nsf/ES0909.PDF/$file/ES0909.PDF).

Posted by Shannon Colavecchio at 03:45:51 PM on September 21, 2009

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Jeb praises Marco Rubio; stops short of Senate endorsement

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune (http://politicalinsider.blogs.heraldtribune.com/10455/jeb-bush-on-rubio-obama-and-running-for-president/): Asked if he had a favorite in the race between Gov. Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate, Bush said he did not.

"I admire both of them," Bush said.

But Bush then went on to praise Rubio as having a great life story and as being very articulate. Bush said national party leaders should not be trying to push Crist as aggressively as they have. He said Rubio deserved a fair shot against Crist in a primary.

"I think he should be given a chance. I think that the idea that the national party would pick a winner a year and a half before an election is the wrong way to go."

Posted by Adam Smith at 03:42:44 PM on September 21, 2009

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Col. Julie Jones emerges in Highway Safety job search

One week from Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet have to agree on an interim executive director for one of the largest and most visible state agencies, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. One early contender to replace the departing Electra Bustle is Julie Jones, who holds the rank of colonel as chief of law enforcement for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The decision is one on which the two candidates for governor, CFO Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum, would likely have to agree. McCollum's office said it was not true, contrary to political speculation, that he was championing Jones' appointment. "The AG supports having a candidate with a law enforcement background, but has not made any specific endorsements," McCollum spokeswoman Sandi Copes said.

Jones, 52, a Tallahassee resident, is a 1974 graduate of Coconut Creek High School in Broward County and has worked for the conservation agency since 1983. Her official bio says she oversees a unit with about 900 employees and a budget of $73 million. Highway Safety has about 4,500 employees and a budget of nearly $400 million.

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 03:01:41 PM on September 21, 2009

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Mark Foley weighs in on Charlie Crist vs. Marco Rubio

The former congressman starting a new radio show in South Florida sat down for an interview with the

Conservative Republican Alliance. Here's what Foley said about Florida's U.S. Senate primary:

"If anyone thinks this election for U.S. Senate is over, then they better pay attention. We are in a very unique time in America's political life. É There are no sure bets in politics, and money alone is not the key barometer to electability, just ask Democratic moneybags, and key Clinton Confidant Terry McAuliffe, who ran and lost the Democratic primary in Virginia for governor."

Posted by Adam Smith at 02:59:52 PM on September 21, 2009

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Chamber survey seeks support for 'energy exploration'

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is ratcheting up the oil-drilling debate with a new "survey" of its members that asks whether they would support or oppose cap and trade, renewable energy standards for electric companies and "energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida as long as any permanent structures necessary for oil and natural gas production are not visible from shore?"

Notice it's not called "oil drilling" anymore, but the new jargon is "energy exploration."

Florida Chamber Energy Survey

Survey Start Date: 9/1/2009 Survey End Date: 9/23/2009

Do you support or oppose the state of Florida adopting a cap and trade system to regulate carbon emissions?

Do you support or oppose the United States adopting a cap and trade system to regulate carbon emissions?

Do you support or oppose the state of Florida requiring electric utilities to purchase or generate at least 20% of their electricity from clean or renewable sources, even if utility rates will increase by up to 2% to comply with this requirement?

Do you support or oppose new offshore energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida as long as any permanent structures necessary for oil and natural gas production are not visible from shore?

Do you support or oppose the state of Florida creating new incentives to allow electric utilities to purchase or generate at least 20% of their electricity from clean or renewable sources, even if utility rates will increase by up to 2% to purchase or generate this electricity?

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 02:55:59 PM on September 21, 2009

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Crist breaks fitness regime, eats lunch -- fast food, no less!

Charlie Crist limits himself to a light dinner each day. But the oh-so-polite governor didn't want to be rude to a corporate citizen like Burger King, which employs roughly 20,000 people in Florida.

So during a visit to the Miami headquarters, Crist took small nibbles of three products coming to a Burger King near you: the "Bourbon Whopper" (pictured above), "BK fire-grilled ribs" (pictured below) and funnel cake sticks.

"Oh my word, that is delicious. Get it away from me," after taking a bite of the hamburger with the familiar toppings of lettuce, tomato, onions and mayo and an added kick of bacon, pepperjack cheese and Bourbon sauce. Of the ribs he said, "Unbelievable...that is delicious. Superb." He declared the funnel cake sticks -- which he declined to dip in the icing to save himself a few calories -- "kind of light and flaky, like a beignet." He added, "Probably dangerous for my diet to have come here."

Actually it was his second trip to Burger King this month. A visit on Sept. 2 had to be cut short because his plane was delayed. So he came back, spending yet another day in South Florida (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/columnists/beth-reinhard/story/1241068.html) at a time when his schedule is chock full of fundraising events for his Senate campaign. He's collecting checks in Miami Beach tonight. Download Charlie Crist Invite US Senate (http://miamiherald.typepad.com/files/charlie-crist-invite-us-senate-1.docx) "Isn't that convenient?'' Crist quipped.

Beth Reinhard

Posted by Shannon Colavecchio at 02:35:36 PM on September 21, 2009

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LeMieux heading for Armed Services committee

U.S. Senator George LeMieux will serve on the Armed Services Committee, the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, and the Senate's Special Committee on Aging. The appointments are subject to ratification by the Republican Conference, which votes tomorrow.

Also, Kerry Feehery, former director of Gov. Charlie Crist's Washington office, has joined LeMieux's as a deputy chief of staff, a title Vivian Myrtetus also has. Ken Lundberg, who was Martinez's communications director, is staying on as well. A chief of staff has not yet been named.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on these important committees that oversee and influence areas directly impacting the lives of every Floridian," LeMieux said in a statement. "I will be an active member on each assignment, seeking solutions to the wide range of issues brought before these committees. I thank Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for his assistance in securing these key positions."

"I look forward to George's contributions. He understands the importance of these committees and the Senate's role and responsibility of oversight, especially at a time of war and economic challenge," said U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. "His intelligence, interests and abilities will help him make a significant difference."

LeMieux on his committee assignments:

"I welcome the opportunity to serve on the Armed Services Committee. Florida has more than twenty military installations making our continued representation on this committee vital. National security is one of the primary responsibilities of the Federal government and I will be an active voice for our military men and women and the substantial number of military communities in Florida.

"The Commerce Committee oversees a great number of issues that directly affect Florida's diverse interests, investments and economy. I will use this assignment to ensure Floridians have a strong voice in areas affecting transportation, tourism, aerospace, shipping, and the environment.

"With nearly three million people over the age of 65, Florida leads the nation in elderly population; I will be their voice helping to shape recommendations for health care, financial regulation, retirement options, and other issues pending before the Senate."

Posted by Alex Leary at 02:34:30 PM on September 21, 2009

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Why it's bad for Florida Democrats to have won the presidency

Because it means there are few or no A-list, presidential contenders eager to show up at their state party conventions. The keynote speaker for the party's Oct. 10 "Winning Florida in 2010" is Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, left.

Being big fans of The Wire, we're not knocking the former Baltimore mayor, who supposedly was the inspiration for the Tommy Carcetti character and may be an A-list contender for 2016. But at this point in the '08 cycle, we well remember the speakers courting Florida Democrats at Disney World included Mark Warner, Tom Vilsack, John Edwards -- each of whom eventually went, well, nowhere. Worse than nowhere in the case of Edwards.

But all this raises the question: Who are the top Democratic contenders for 2016?

Posted by Adam Smith at 01:47:40 PM on September 21, 2009

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