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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

Sink feeds legislators suggestions for expanding special session agenda

Will legislators expand the special session to address some needed oil spill issues, or just adjourn and smack the governor? That is the question today as CFO Alex Sink gave legislative leaders some food for thought with an outline of suggested legislation lawmakers could adopt to make it easier for Floridians to be compensated for losses from the oil spill, streamline the claims process and make it clear that Florida won't be depending on the federal government's interpretation of what its businesses and individuals deserve to get from BP.

"Without protecting our state waters through the constitutional amendment process, the Florida we know and love is in critical danger," Sink wrote in a letter to Cretul and Atwater. "But you also should take this session to pass smart, meaningful legislation that will directly impact the lives of so many of our residents and offer critically needed help for our small business owners."

Here's the letter:

July 12, 2010

The Honorable Jeff Atwater

President of the Florida Senate

312 Senate Office Building

404 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1100

The Honorable Larry Cretul

Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives

420 The Capitol

402 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1300

Dear President Atwater and Speaker Cretul:

When the Florida Legislature convenes later this month to guard against future catastrophic threats to our state's economy and environment by passing a constitutional amendment to ban near beach drilling, your members have the added responsibility to ensure that our small business owners, citizens, and way of life are protected.

The need for a ban on near beach drilling to prevent a future catastrophic disaster on our beaches is clear, and the time to make sure our beaches are protected is now. Without protecting our state waters through the constitutional amendment process, the Florida we know and love is in critical danger. But you also should take this session to pass smart, meaningful legislation that will directly impact the lives of so many of our residents and offer critically needed help for our small business owners.

In our fight to save Florida jobs, the need is urgent, and the task at hand trumps all else. The cost of the actions necessary to protect Florida's economy must be the responsibility of BP and the federal government. The cost of inaction would otherwise be shouldered by all Floridians.

As Florida's top fiscal officer, I have outlined the following incentives, claims changes, and environmental initiatives to protect Florida's economy:

Recoup Economic Damages

Enact laws, retroactive if necessary, that will guarantee recovery of the economic damages suffered by businesses, homeowners, and local and state governments resulting from major disasters.

Mandate Speedier Claims Fulfillment

Create a single-point of entry for claimants, including plain language forms, with requirements for review and fulfillment within 15 business days. This process should include a dispute resolution process in the case of denial, with final arbitration overseen by the government.

Tax Relief for Businesses and Residents

Authorize property tax rebates for business and residential property owners whose property values have fallen because of the oil spill, similar to hurricanes, tornados, and fires.

Pass tourism tax incentives, such as a temporary waiver of the bed tax, to help the tourism industry recover and rebound, injecting tourism spending dollars back into our economy.

Provide Job Training and Re-Training

Dedicate federal government resources for job training and re-training in Northwest Florida so that our unemployed fisherman, charter boat operators, marina workers and restaurant and hotel workers have clear opportunities to learn new skills. Include provisions to extend training to other regions if the oil begins to impact other parts of Florida.

Provide direction to Enterprise Florida and the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to focus economic development efforts in Northwest Florida with the near- and long-term goal of creating non-tourism job opportunities.

Florida Environmental Endowment

Create an independently managed Florida Environmental Endowment funded by BP grants or future litigation settlements to provide resources for the study of Florida's aquatic environment.

Constitutional Amendment to Ban Near Beach Drilling

Florida must ban oil drilling in its near shore waters through a constitutional amendment to prevent this type of disaster from ever occurring up to ten miles off our beaches.

The nature and challenge of expanding this special session is unprecedented. It is my hope that the solutions produced will match the size and scope of this disaster.

Sincerely,

Alex Sink

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 11:28:07 AM

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Mel Martinez lands a new gig -- with JPMorgan Chase

Mel Martinez has joined JPMorgan Chase as its chairman for Florida, Mexico, Central America and the Carribean, the company said today.

Martinez will serve as the firm's senior executive in Florida. He is leaving his lobbying job with DLA Piper in Orlando, which he took after resigning from the U.S. Senate 16 months before his term expired.

According to a news release, since acquiring Washington Mutual's banking operations in late 2008, JPMorgan Chase has hired hundreds of bankers to expand its presence in Florida in consumer, commercial, private and investment banking. Chase plans to add at least 20 branches a year to its network of 240 branches and 1,000 ATMs in the state.

Posted by Alex Leary at 11:46:32 AM

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McCollum has $800k left to spend

In a court filing, Bill McCollum's campaign manager, Matt Williams, disclosed that because of Rick Scott's primary challenge, the campaign began advertising on TV weeks earlier than they had planned and that the campaign has $800,000 on hand as of Saturday.

Williams' affidavit -- which is part of Scott's challenge to the state's public financing system -- says McCollum had not planned on advertising until the second week in July. Contrary to Scott's promise to stay under the $24.9 million limit, Williams said that because of the media blitz in the closing weeks of the campaign, Scott "could not keep his promise" and would break the cap.

If Scott prevails and knocks out the state financing system, it could be bad news bears for McCollum, as it seems his campaign was banking on millions in state matching funds.

"If the requested injunction (from Scott) takes effect, the Bill McCollum campaign will have to change its advertising and fund raising strategies in the crucial last six weeks before the election to offset the loss of the additional dollars it expects to receive from the state when Mr. Scott exceeds the spending cap," the affidavit reads.

UPDATE: We should also note that McCollum is in line for more than $2 million under a separate public financing law that rewards candidates up to $250 for each individual contribution from a Florida voter.

Posted by Lee Logan at 12:28:41 PM

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Rubio raises $4.5 million, setting record

Marco Rubio raised more than $4.5 million in the second quarter, his campaign said, beating rival Charlie Crist's previous record.

Crist raised $4.3 million in his first fundraising quarter of the race, back when he was a Republican, a national record for the cycle. Crist has not released his current haul. Democratic challenger Kendrick Meek said last week that he raised $1 million.

Among Rubio's contributors: U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Crist's former right hand man. LeMieux contributed $2,400 through his PAC. Earlier this year, LeMieux gave $2,400 to then-Republican Crist's campaign.

Posted by Alex Leary at 01:08:49 PM

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Florida slow to use troops for oil cleanup

Two months after President Barack Obama authorized 2,500 National Guard troops in Florida to combat the oil disaster, only 100 are being used.

The lack of requests for the troops has frustrated the White House, which has come under withering criticism about its response to the crisis. Yet some counties in Florida that have not requested the assistance that the National Guard could provide.

"Everything is in place to put troops on the target," says Lt. Col. Ron Tittle, director of public affairs for the Florida National Guard. "If we get the mission we'll be there."

However, the Guard has not received many missions. Neither Escambia nor Okaloosa counties - among the hardest hit - have requested any troops.

Posted by Alex Leary at 09:29:23 PM

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