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Business Observer Friday, May 18, 2012 6 years ago

Capitol Chatter: May 18

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The weekly roundup of what's happening in government and how it affects business.

Term limit ruling means revolving chairs
The Florida Supreme Court's ruling allowing voters to impose term limits on county commissioners could have a cascading affect along the Gulf Coast, and will mean considerably more turnover among those counties that have passed such limits.

On the Gulf Coast, Hillsborough and Sarasota counties have term limits and long-serving commissioners. In Sarasota County, commissioner Jon Thaxton's bid for a fourth term ended with the court ruling. But he is considering running for the Legislature, or perhaps another local office.

That will happen much more frequently in coming years, as veteran county commissioners in at least 10 Florida counties — Broward, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Polk, Sarasota and Volusia --¬†are forced out of office.

After ruling in 2002 that term limits were unconstitutional for county constitutional officers, the Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that voters in charter counties could impose term limits via referendum.

Scott re-election fund raised $1 million in April
The Political Action Committee supporting Gov. Rick Scott's re-election plans raised nearly $2 million this year, and more than $1 million in April — pointing to another well-financed gubernatorial bid.

Scott has not officially announced he is running for re-election in 2014, and he has not opened up a personal campaign account yet. But he has said he plans to run for the office. “This is the best job you can imagine,” he said.

The Let's Get To Work Committee brought in $1.06 million in April, which was nearly as much as the Florida Democratic Party raised in the first three months of the year. The committee was a major backer of Scott in his 2010 campaign.

These types of committees can raise huge amounts of money because they are not bound by controversial campaign finance laws that limit what individual donors can give to a candidate. They cannot specifically endorse candidates, but they can promote them and, often more likely, conduct ad campaigns against opponents.

Let's Get To Work reported contributions of more than $100,000 from The Geo Group (which operates private prisons) Progress Energy and a political committee for the Florida Optometric Association. The committee also received $50,000 from Donald Trump and Jacksonville developer David Hutson.

The committee has spent almost none of its money so far.

Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, opened a campaign account last month but has not been required to file a report yet.

Power customers' increases to be small
Businesses and residents will probably not see a significant increase in their power bills in 2013 because of low natural gas prices that fuel many of Florida Power & Light's power plants.

FPL announced that a modest rate increase will mean about a 1.5% increase for users, according to a filing with the Florida Public Service Commission.

However, the company is also asking the PSC to pass on $150.7 million in nuclear power plant costs to customers next year. Most of that, about $130 million, will go for upgrades and the rest toward getting a license to build a nuclear plant the Turkey Point facility in Miami.

Legislator Trudi Williams returns to private sector
Florida State Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, forced to leave the House because of term limits, has dropped out of the race for a new Fort Myers-area Senate seat. The move scratches the potential for a tough primary fight against state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers.

Williams, who owns and operates an engineering firm, told the Fort Myers News-Press that she wants to focus on family and her company.

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