Peter Schorsch - SaintPetersBlog

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.

Medical marijuana’s big Florida win, as voters ‘writ large’ said yes

Florida voters approved medical marijuana with 71 percent of the vote on Election Day, and a new report commissioned by Florida for Care shows just how widespread support for the measure was in every corner of the state.

According to the TLE Analytics report, Amendment 2 reached the 60 percent threshold in each of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, all 40 state Senate districts, and 118 of 120 Florida House districts.

The two House districts where the measure failed, HD 110 and HD 111, were only narrow defeats. HD 110 came in with nearly 59 percent in favor and HD 111 showed about 58 percent supporting the measure.

“The breadth and consistency of these numbers across disparate and diverse parts of the state truly shows the mandate voters gave this law,” said Sean Phillippi of TLE Analytics. “Amendment 2’s was not a regional or even metropolitan victory. Florida voters writ large said ‘yes’ to medical marijuana.”

Medical marijuana also outperformed President-elect Donald Trump across the state, even in counties that are traditionally Republican strongholds – in Collier County, 62 percent of voters backed Trump, while 64 percent backed Amendment 2.

The report also highlighted the vote totals in the home districts of some of the amendment’s biggest critics.

Mel Sembler, the founder of Drug-Free Florida, is registered to vote in HD 68, SD 19 and CD 13, each of which featured a top-10 margin of victory for Amendment 2. In CD 23, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s district, voters approved the measure by a 3-to-1 margin.

Florida for Care Legislative Director Dan Rogers said the numbers are “proof positive that voters delivered a clear mandate for medical marijuana in this election.”

“Legislators of both parties are going to be surprised by how high the support in their own districts actually was,” he said. “This was truly a broad expression of the people’s will and can’t be spun as anything but.”

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.6.16

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

DRIVING THE DAY – PRESIDENT OBAMA TO VISIT ACTIVE MILITARY IN FLORIDA via The Associated Press – Obama is coming to Florida in the final weeks of his presidency … the president will meet with active duty service members at MacDill Air Force Base, the home of the U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command. While in Tampa, President Obama is also expected to deliver remarks on the counterterrorism campaign and meet with uniformed leadership from both commands.

HAPPENING TODAY — ADAM PUTNAM PRESENTS CABINET WITH FLORIDA GROWN CHRISTMAS TREE — Agriculture Commissioner Putnam is scheduled to present Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater with Florida grown Christmas trees at 8:30 a.m. outside of the Executive Office of the Governor on the Plaza Level of the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. The 2016 trees are provided by Ergle Christmas Tree Farm in Dade City. Floridians harvest Christmas trees each year from more than 100 Christmas tree farms across the state.

GOOD NEWS ABOUT A GREAT PERSON – SYDNEY RIDLEY JOINS SOUTHERN STRATEGY GROUP via Florida PoliticsRidley, former right-hand woman to lawmaker Dana Young, is joining the firm‘s Tampa office. The top-tier lobbying concern announced the move Monday. “Sydney represents the future of the lobbying business,” said Seth McKeel, managing partner of SSG’s Tampa Bay office and a former House member. “She’s sharp, respected, energetic, and she’s very excited about delivering for our clients – a perfect fit for our team.” The two had been talking about Ridley, 28, joining the firm “for a little while and the timing prior to session seemed right so we pulled the trigger and couldn’t be more excited,” McKeel said. Ridley will be part of the team traveling back and forth between Tampa Bay and Tallahassee working on behalf of clients as the 2017 Legislative Session cranks up, he added.


On the ways of the Florida House, that is.

State representatives are scheduled to meet in Tallahassee this week for “Legislator University.” The two-day initiative is the brainchild of Speaker Richard Corcoran, and is meant to train new lawmakers on the finer points of policy making.

So what exactly does Corcoran have in store for lawmakers?

Think of Legislator University as one-part TED talk and two parts orientation. There are seminars aimed at giving members insight into how to balance their work and family lives and one providing insight into what senior members wish they had known when they were first starting out. Members will have the chance to attend breakout sessions focused on gaming, Medicaid, and workers’ compensation.

In a memo releasing the schedule, Corcoran said he wanted to give members “the maximum freedom to explore the topics” that interest them the most.

“We hope that you will fully embrace these learning opportunities,” he said in the memo last week.

And just like any university, there are a few mandatory classes. Members are required to attend sessions about civility and professional conduct, sexual harassment, and ethics in the Legislature.

But the mandatory sessions are meant to be both informative and interesting. The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that Shelby Scarbrough, a motivational speaker, is scheduled to talk about civility in politics and applying the same principles to legislating.

The mandatory session on civility — called “Civility and Professional Conduct in the Legislative Process” — kicks off the two-day Legislator University at 9 a.m. in Reed Hall, 102 HOB.

The full schedule can be found here. All of the seminars, except for the ones during the working lunches each day, are expected to be live streamed and archived on The Florida Channel.

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RICHARD CORCORAN SHOWS HIS CARDS: HE’S ON A MISSION TO OVERTURN SUPREME COURT RULINGS, CHANGE COURT via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald —Corcoran had an idea in 2012 when three of the Florida’s Supreme Court’s liberal justices were up for a merit retention vote: raise money to defeat them. The Land O’Lakes Republican was determined that several decisions — from redistricting to school vouchers, to the death penalty and other issues — needed to be reformed. He approached business groups seeking their support. “My pitch was this: that the enemies of business regulations, a good business environment, a small business environment, a good social environment…the enemy is not the House of Representatives, not the state Senate. not the governor. The enemy is the seven individuals who meet in private in black robes,” Corcoran told the Associated Industries of Florida conference in Tallahassee Monday. … He didn’t like the response he got from the business groups. … Now, Corcoran said, he wants to return to those unnamed business groups in the wake of the court’s worker’s compensation ruling and ask: “How do you like Fred Lewis now?” Corcoran wouldn’t name the groups but the implication is that the members of AIF, a business-backed lobbyist group, was complicit in retaining the court’s majority which this year invalidated the limits on legal fees from the 2003 workers compensation reform. … Corcoran now is in a position to influence the future of the state’s highest court by making 9 appointments to the Constitutional Revision Commission, the unique panel that convenes every 20 years to update the state Constitution. He told reporters Monday he has a litmus test: his appointees must support term limits for Florida Supreme Court justices.

IT’S “WHISKEY AND WHEATIES” ALL OVER AGAIN via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – For the fourth year in a row, lawmakers will try to tear down the wall that separates tequila from tangelos. Senate President pro tem Anitere Flores … filed a bill (SB 106) to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida. “As legislators, we shouldn’t burden businesses with archaic regulations when they must be more innovative and forward thinking than ever to compete with the digital marketplace,” the Miami Republican said in a statement. A companion bill will be filed in the House by state Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican. The “whiskey and Wheaties” bill has long been a heavy lift. It’s failed even when watered down to simply allow a door in the wall between a main store and an attached liquor store. The repeal again is supported by Floridians for Fair Business Practices, a coalition that includes Target, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods Market. The measure will add to customer convenience and bolster competition, they say.


JEFF BRANDES FILES COMPUTER CODING AS FOREIGN LANGUAGE BILL via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Sen. Brandes filed legislation Monday to allow Florida high schools to offer computer coding classes that “along with the earning of a related industry certification satisfies two credits of sequential foreign language instruction.” Senate Bill 104 also requires the state college and university system to recognize the credits as foreign language credits. “Software development and coding is one of the largest skill gaps we have in Florida, said Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican. “We believe there is now, and will continue to be, an incredible demand for coders. My goal is to ensure that Florida students have the skills employers value.” … The 2017 measure … requires students and parents to sign a statement acknowledging and accepting that “a computer coding course taken as a foreign language may not meet out-of-state college and university foreign language requirements.” It also allows the Florida Virtual School to offer computer coding courses, and says districts that don’t offer courses “may provide students with access to the courses through the Florida virtual school or through other means.”

BRANDES TO FILE FLOOD MITIGATION BILL via Florida Politics – Brandes says he will file legislation for the 2017 Legislative Session to fund flood mitigation in affected communities. The idea is to lower the cost of flood insurance by decreasing flood severity in areas covered by the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) Community Rating System. The legislation will create a matching grant program, in part through the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund, for “local projects (that) reduce flood risks and acquire conservation land for the purpose of mitigating flood risk,” Brandes’ office said in a statement. The matching grants, to be administered by the Division of Emergency Management, would not exceed $50 million a year for “technical and financial assistance to local governments implementing flood risk reduction policies and projects.” His bill also would authorize the Florida Communities Trust to “undertake, coordinate, or fund flood mitigation projects and to acquire and dispose of real and personal property or specified interest when necessary or appropriate to reduce flood hazards.”

RANDY FINE CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE BUT DROPS PRIVATE COVERAGE FOR STATE PLAN via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Fine … described the health care market as a “disaster” and attributed the situation in part to government involvement. But Fine, a Republican elected in 2016 to represent southern Brevard County, dropped the family health plan that he, his wife and two children were insured under and tapped into Florida’s state group health insurance plan, which is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. “Until I got this great state health insurance, I typically have paid for my own health insurance,” Fine told the crowd at Associated Industries of Florida annual conference in Tallahassee. … A millionaire who founded a casino management company, Fine pays $180 a month to cover himself, his wife and his two sons, That’s $2,160 per year. Florida taxpayers are picking up the remainder of the tab which, according to a cost report for 2014-15, is $15,168 annually. Fine told POLITICO Florida that he dropped his individual health insurance policy and tapped into the sate group health plans to “broaden his perspective on things.” “I wanted to understand what government health insurance is like,” he told POLITICO Florida, when asked why he dropped his plan to enroll in one that was subsidized by taxpayers.

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AIF EMPHASIZES JOB-KILLING ASPECT OF WORKERS’ COMP INCREASES via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Business leaders emphasized the risk rising workers’ compensation costs pose to Florida’s economic competitiveness during an Associated Industries of Florida-sponsored discussion … “There are other governors competing against our governor for the next plant, the next manufacturing facility, the next high-tech jobs,” said Tom Feeney, president and chief executive officer of the business lobby. “They are suddenly able to use our workers’ compensation situation against Florida, the same way our governor uses high taxes and high regulations that other states have to attract businesses,” Feeney said. “It’s putting us at a competitive disadvantage.” Bill Herrle, Florida director for the National Federation of Independent Business, agreed and emphasized that the repercussions will travel throughout the economy. “We know that this is going to be debilitating to small business,” Herrle said. “But we need to carry the message out there that this is affecting every layer of employment, including our very important public sector.” The event coincided with a trial judge’s final order refusing to stay her ruling that a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation premiums were illegal, because they were reached in violation of Florida’s open-government laws. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had issued an oral preliminary ruling Friday refusing to stay that decision. On Monday, she put it in writing. The legal issue remained alive, however, because the 1st District Court of Appeal had blocked Gievers’ order before she even issued it. Proceedings will determine the increase’s legality before that appeal court.

— “Corcoran promises House will pass work comp bill” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION REFORM, REPEALING TAX ON COMMERCIAL LEASES AMONG 2017 FLORIDA RETAIL FEDERATION PRIORITIES — The Florida Retail Federation released its 2017 legislative agenda Monday in preparation for the upcoming legislative session. According to the trade association, the agenda highlights issues that are important to the state’s retailers and business community. “Our legislative agenda, which is determined by our members each year, ensures that FRF is laser-focused on those issues important to retailers statewide, and which play a big factor in the success of our members,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Our governmental affairs team is one of the most talented and influential in this state, and we look forward to working with Governor Scott, his administration and our Senate and House leaders in identifying legislation that will enhance Florida’s businesses.” According to the the 2017 agenda, the association said it supports workers’ compensation reforms that will “decrease rates for Florida’s retailers;” continued efforts to provide retailers renewable energy options; and the repeal of the sales tax on commercial real estate leases. Florida is the only state that assesses a sales tax on commercial leases, and the FRF said it “supports efforts to repeal the tax, reduce the tax rate, modify the taxable base, or any combination thereof, in order to lessen this tax burden.” Among other things, the association said it will oppose efforts to increase the minimum wage, legislation that would require retailers to sell certain products, and online lottery ticket sales.

RICK SCOTT TO MAKE PORT FUNDING TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –”What is the biggest geographical advantage we have? It’s our 15 seaports,” said Scott at the Associated Industries of Florida’s annual meeting. Scott has pushed for increased ports funding since taking office in 2010. The industry scored a big win during last session when Scott signed a bill into law that increased from $15 to $25 million the amount that must be allocated each year to the Florida Seaport Transportation Economic Development program. The FSTED council selects priority seaport projects to help fund. It is a 50-50 match program that also requires local contributions.

SCOTT AND CORCORAN POISED FOR BATTLE OVER STATE’S WELCOME MAT via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Corcoran (has) set his sights on Visit Florida as another agency poised for trimming. Scott on Monday … told reporters he was still optimistic that Visit Florida money would be maintained. “I’m comfortable the Legislature is going to continue to be supportive of Visit Florida,” Scott said. “Let’s look at the numbers. We have increased funding for Visit Florida since I’ve been elected. And look what’s happened: tourism has skyrocketed.”

SCOTT DECLINES TO COMMENT ON PROPOSAL TO REPEAL IMMIGRATION BILL HE SIGNED IN 2014 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Last week, Sarasota state Senator Greg Steube filed a bill (SB 82) that would repeal legislation approved by the GOP-led Legislature in 2014 that offers lower in-state tuition rates in Florida state colleges and universities for undocumented immigrants. Passage of that bill was uncertain until the end of that year’s session, but was strongly supported by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala. “I haven’t seen it,” Scott [told reporters] … “I think there are about 2,000 bill that are being proposed during the session, so as I go through the process if they get to my desk, I’ll review,” he added. “I need to look at the bill.” The legislation is a political power keg, as are most items concerning immigration. Scott campaigned as a tough on immigration candidate in 2010 when first running for governor, getting behind what was then known as an “Arizona style” immigration proposal that asked suspects stopped by the authorities for proof of their citizenship, similar in nature to the conversion SB 1070 immigration law passed earlier that year in Arizona. “We need to come up with an immigration policy that works for the country,’’ Scott told the Miami Herald back in late 2010. “If you’re stopped in our state — no different from if you’re asked for your ID — you should be able to be asked if you’re legal or not.”

AFTER THE PHOTO-OP: HOW AN ENTERPRISE FLORIDA DEAL WENT SOUR via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – In the code-name world of Enterprise Florida, it was known as “Project Assassin.” Altair Training Solutions Inc. was going to do big things for Hendry County, one of the most economically distressed counties in Florida, and its neighbor to the west, Collier. But in a case that likely will only intensify Corcoran‘s criticism of Scott‘s economic incentive programs, Altair’s Florida expansion ended up in a quagmire of liens and lawsuits.

FLORIDA’S PENSION PLAN PERFORMING WELL OVER LONG TERM via The Associated Press — A new state report finds that Florida’s massive retirement account for public employees did not meet its goals over the past year, but that it’s still doing well over the long term. Researchers who work for the Florida Legislature released a report this past week that looked at the performance of the Florida Retirement System pension plan. The pension plan, which is worth about $141 billion, has nearly 1 million active and retired enrolled members. The report found that the State Board of Administration did not meet its investment goals for the pension plan during the fiscal year that ended this past June. The board attributed this to devaluations in Chinese currency as well as turmoil in Europe. However, the state board did meet or exceed investment goals over the last three, five, 20 and 25 years.

FLORIDA MAY BE PONDERING ‘NOVEL’ LETHAL INJECTION CHANGE via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — In a move that would be certain to spur more litigation over the state’s already embattled death penalty, Florida corrections officials appear to be planning what could be a dramatic change to the triple-drug lethal injection process — including the use of a drug never before used for executions. The Department of Corrections has spent more than $12,000 this year stockpiling three drugs likely to be used to kill condemned prisoners, according to records obtained by The News Service of Florida.

DONALD TRUMP MAY DETERMINE FATE OF MEDICAL POT IN FLORIDA via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — More than 71 percent of voters approved an amendment expanding medical marijuana in Florida last month, but the fate of patients who rely on the drug and the burgeoning marijuana industry could largely depend on President-elect Donald Trump. … Florida and 27 other states now have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. But federal law still bans the growth, cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana for any purpose. Yet the marijuana industry has been allowed to grow in recent years because of a memo issued by the Obama administration in October 2009 to federal prosecutors telling them to direct limited federal resources into investigations of large-scale drug dealers that aren’t in compliance with state laws or are involved with foreign drug cartels. The memo said sick patients following state laws shouldn’t be targeted. … Trump’s recent announcement of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions as his pick for attorney general could spell trouble for the industry. Sessions is a former federal prosecutor and harsh anti-drug warrior. During a hearing in April he called marijuana “dangerous” and said “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

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FLORIDA EARLY VOTE, A RETROSPECTIVE via Steve Schale — When early voting started, I thought Presidential turnout would fall about 9.2 million votes. Because of early vote turnout, and based on who was left to vote on Election Day – namely voters who voted on Election Day in 2012, I modified that projection to 9.5 million late during the second week of early voting, and assuming that 3% of those would vote for someone else, this meant slightly over 9.2 million would vote for either Trump or Clinton. I was assuming going into Election Day, we were at about 67-68% of our total turnout, and while the Democrats had a 96,000 lead among registered voters heading into Election Day, I was operating from a place that her lead was between 3-4%, largely due to the overwhelmingly diverse nature of the NPA vote, which would put her raw vote lead between 180-250K votes. This meant Trump had to win Election Day, on the low-end by about 5.8% to upper end of 8%, just to break even. Both of these numbers are above Romney’s Election Day win in 2012 (I can’t remember McCain, but I suspect it is above McCain as well).

… So here are the toplines: 9.42 million Floridians cast a ballot for President. For what it is worth, 9.58 million Floridians cast a ballot, though it was only 9.3 million in the Senate race. 9,122,861 Floridians voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump’s margin was about 113K votes, or roughly 1.2% out of the two-party voters. 69.3% of the vote was cast before Election Day. Of the VBM/early vote, Clinton won by just over 247K votes — roughly a 4 point edge (she won both VBM and early vote) On election day, Trump won by 360K, or a roughly 13 point margin over Clinton. … Clinton’s nearly 250K vote lead was actually at the upper-end of my projections. Honestly, this surprised me. I suspected some of my optimism in the numbers leading up to the election was misplaced, and honestly thought as I put numbers into Excel, that we’d see she had gone into Election Day with a narrower lead. However, almost everything was landing right on target for her to win. As I get more into this, and look at some of the benchmarks I tracked throughout, you can see the pattern for my optimism going into Election Day. However, Trump just crushed Election Day. There is no other way to look at it. And as I discussed in the first look back at the numbers, it really happened in just a handful of places: namely the Tampa and Orlando media markets. … Less than 3 million voted for Bush or Clinton on Election Day, yet he won the day by 360K votes. How big is that? Bush won Florida in 2004 by landslide for Florida proportions: 380K votes — out of 7.6 million cast. Trump’s Election Day margin almost matched it.

ALLEN WEST VISITS TRUMP TOWER, TALKS WITH MIKE PENCE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – According to a pool report, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. West told reporters he met with Pence and with Trump’s incoming national security adviser and deputy national security adviser — Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn and K.T. McFarlandWest, Flynn and McFarland emerged from an elevator about 1:50 p.m. … “We talked about some national security issues, and you know how maybe I can continue to serve my country,” said West, who lost a 2012 re-election bid and is now executive director of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank based in Texas. Asked if any particular job in the Trump administration was offered or discussed, West said: “Nothing was offered. I mean they know my reputation very well. I’m just a simple soldier and I’m the third of four generations that served this country going back to my father in World War II, and we still have a relative of ours that is continuing to serve in the Army now.” West declined to offer an opinion on potential candidates for secretary of State. “He can choose whoever he wants for secretary of State. I’m just considering how I can best serve this country and through this administration,” West said.

THE PLUM BOOK IS HERE FOR THOSE ANGLING FOR JOBS IN TRUMP’S WASHINGTON via Lisa Rein of The Washington Post – The biggest Help Wanted ad in eight years materialized in Washington … A plum-colored paperback listing 9,000 political jobs for those who want to work in Trump’s administration. The 226-page Plum Book — so called for the desirable jobs that change hands at the end of a presidential term — lists every patronage position in the executive and legislative branches that could be filled by Trump supporters. They’re the policymaking and support positions that will form the spine of the real estate developer’s new government, and they’ll be vacated by the Obama administration by Jan. 20. Could be filled, because the president-elect made a campaign promise to shrink the federal bureaucracy — and transition officials say he plans to make good on that pledge. Many of these positions could be abolished after Trump takes office in January. The current tally is 2,000 jobs more than when the George W. Bush administration ended in 2008, a sign that government — at least the political positions that reward supporters — has grown over eight years. Trump officials said it’s safe to say that the entire bureaucracy, including political appointees, will be significantly scaled back. One transition official … described recent conversations on the team as it considers how to shape the federal government in the Trump era. “Oh, they had five people doing that? We’re only going to hire two,” the staff has discussed … “In addition to imposing a hiring freeze on all federal employees, which will reduce the federal workforce through attrition, the number of political appointees will drop significantly,” said Cliff Sims, a Trump spokesman. “‘Drain the swamp’ was not just a campaign slogan. President-elect Trump is building a streamlined, innovative government focused on serving the people, not the special interests.”

JUDGE DISMISSES LAWSUIT CHALLENGING BOBBY POWELL’S ELECTION via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post — A Leon County judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit over the election of Riviera Beach Democratic state Sen. Bobby Powell, apparently avoiding the possibility of a costly do-over contest. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he lacked the legal jurisdiction to hear the claim by Ruben Anderson, a Democrat, and Ron Berman, the Republican who lost to Powell in last month’s election. Robert Hauser, a West Palm Beach attorney representing Anderson, said it would be several days before a decision is reached on whether to appeal Lewis’ ruling. … But in his ruling, Lewis sided with Powell’s attorney, Mark Herron, who argued in a recent hearing that since the lawmaker had already taken office, it was up to the Senate to decide, not a court. Senate rules, though, also require any such election “contests” to be filed before the Legislature’s organizational session, a date which has already passed.

SUSIE WILES ENDORSES BLAISE INGOGLIA’S RE-ELECTION FOR RPOF CHAIR via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – “As Florida’s Chief Strategist for President-Elect Trump’s presidential campaign, I can say that the organization built under Chairman Ingoglia‘s leadership was a crucial element to our success as we worked together with the Republican National Committee to deliver Florida,” said Wiles. “To continue that success in the future, we need a steady hand and consistent leadership who will continue to focus on the grassroots. “I can’t think of anyone to better serve in that role than Blaise Ingoglia,” Wiles continued. “I am proud to support him in his bid for re-election and am excited to see the new levels of success our party will find with him at the helm again.” The endorsement comes on the heels of a highly successful campaign season for Republicans, especially for part-time Florida resident Donald Trump. A veteran campaign strategist, Wiles was largely credited with Trump’s success in the Sunshine State, which carried a crucial 29 electoral votes for the president-elect.

WHAT SHANNON SHEPP IS READING – AFTER A SOUR DECADE, FLORIDA CITRUS MAY BE NEAR A COMEBACK via Greg Allen of NPR – After 11 years of fighting a debilitating disease, Florida’s citrus industry is in a sad state. The disease, called citrus greening, is caused by a bacterium that constricts a tree’s vascular system, shriveling fruit and eventually killing the tree. The bacterium is spread by a tiny insect called a psyllid. Florida’s signature orange crop is now less than a third of what it was 20 years ago because of this disease. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture says this year’s orange crop is expected to be the smallest in more than 50 years. But, at Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, researchers are now optimistic they’ll win the battle to save Florida oranges, thanks in part to recent advances in developing tougher varieties of citrus. For nearly a century, orange and grapefruit growers have planted varieties developed at the Center at Lake Alfred in central Florida. It’s a 600-acre campus that’s part of the University of Florida, where hundreds of staffers are focused on finding a cure for citrus greening. Fred Gmitter, a horticulture scientist, has worked for 30 years developing new varieties for citrus farmers … “But look up ahead there on the right,” Gmitter says. He points to one tree that stands out. Unlike the others, it’s full of fruit and looks healthy. He says, “Our growers wanted to call this variety ‘Bingo.’ ” It’s a small mandarin orange variety, seedless and easy-to-peel, that was developed over years using painstaking conventional breeding Florida growers think the new variety will help them compete for market share with clementines from California and Spain. Gmitter picks an orange from the tree. “I wish the people … could smell this as I’m peeling it,” he says. It’s also delicious — sweet, tart, tender and from a tree that after nine years, is still healthy despite a citrus greening infection.

WHAT CHRIS SPENCER IS READING – FLORIDA POLY INTRODUCES NEW AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES COURSE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MIT More info here –  A brand-new course called “Autonomous Systems and Self-Driving Vehicles” starts in the spring 2017 semester. Dr. Dean Bushey, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel with more than 10 years of experience developing and advancing autonomous systems, will teach the course. Dr. Bushey will partner with professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston where the same course will be taught during the spring semester. MIT professors will provide video conferencing lectures to Florida Poly students … The course breaks students into groups of five to upgrade a small race car. They’ll start with learning basic motion control, then advance to object detection. These building blocks will take students through the final phases as the cars learn to map a course and finally race against each other at the end of the semester. By the end of the semester, the cars will be capable of independently following a yellow line, stopping at a red light and stopping for sudden obstacles. Excitement for the course is building, with 15 students already signed up. The autonomous vehicle course is being launched as Florida Poly prepares for the arrival of SunTrax, a new testing facility being built near the University. SunTrax is a joint venture between Florida Poly and the Florida Department of Transportation designed to test tolling and autonomous vehicle technology.

CORRECTION: in Monday’s Sunburn, we said that Jeb Bush had unsuccessfully campaigned for governor in 1990. In fact, the year was 1994. We apologize for the error.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Vickie Brill.

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Personnel note: Charlie Crist names senior Patrick Murphy aide new Legislative Director

Congressman-elect Charlie Crist announced Monday the appointment of veteran policy adviser Christopher Fisher to Legislative Director in his Capitol Hill office.

“I am excited to have Chris join the team,” the former governor said in a statement. “With his years of experience serving Florida in Washington, working on the issues the people care about, Chris will hit the ground running.”

“Governor Crist’s distinguished career of public service, including as the people’s governor of my home state, truly sets him apart,” Fisher said. “He always puts the people first, and I could not be more honored for the chance to work alongside the governor to serve the people of Pinellas County.”

A graduate of the University of Miami, Fisher has a deep legislative background working on behalf of Floridians, previously serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy for Congressman Patrick Murphy, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Ted Deutch, and Health Policy Fellow for Congressman Robert Wexler.


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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.5.16

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Jeb Bush is bringing his star power to the Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in what is being described as a strategic affiliation through his firm Jeb Bush & Associates.

The two-term Florida governor and former presidential candidate will offer his decades of expertise as a consultant, executive and thought leader, according to a statement by the firm first shared with Florida Politics.

“There are very few people that have the breadth of experience that Governor Bush has both in the public and private sector,” said Buchanan CEO Joseph Dougherty. “We believe his insight will be a tremendous asset to our attorneys and clients.”

“We live in a complex business and political environment,” Bush said. “I believe that putting my knowledge and experience together with Buchanan’s professional acumen will help Buchanan’s clients grow and prosper.”

In his new role, Bush – who will not be lobbying — will focus primarily on guidance for issues concerning Florida, the state he led as governor from 1999 to 2007.

“Those of us who have had the pleasure of working with the Governor in the past now have the opportunity to do so again,” said longtime Bush friend and adviser Mac Stipanovich, who chairs Buchanan’s Florida Government Relations practice. “Those who haven’t can look forward to a truly rewarding experience.

“This is an exciting development for the firm and for our clients,” he added.

In a way, the new partnership is somewhat of a homecoming for Bush.

Bush was a key surrogate when Stipanovich served as Florida’s executive director for the Reagan-Bush 1984 campaign. He was also Secretary of Commerce when Stipanovich was working as Chief of Staff. In a friendship that spans more than 30 years, Stipanovich served as a senior advisor during Bush’s unsuccessful 1994 gubernatorial bid.

Buchanan principal Mike Harrell was Bush’s regular golf partner while he was governor and was behind the initiative to bring the two firms together. Kim McGlynn is another Bush alum; she was on staff in the campaign headquarters for both 1990 and 1994. Jim Magill also was on staff for two sessions in Bush’s second term, after having done advance work on all three campaigns.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 350 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***

TODAY IS #LOVEMYNEWSPAPER DAY – And while we haven’t killed as many trees as traditional newspapers, we do rely on, read, and subscribe to some fantastic journalism supplied by newspapers. So, I’ll be joining in on #LoveMyNewspaper Day this morning by posting a Tweet and Facebook about why I #LoveMyNewspaper. You should, too. It’s a thing.


NEW LAWMAKERS: THE PRESS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND OR FOE via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — A lot has changed since I covered my first session, in 1970. That tall white tower with the twin domes, for instance, wasn’t there then. But unlike most grumpy old guys, I think this generation does it better than we did. I have seen an awful lot of legislators come and go. While their success hasn’t depended on press relations, their dealings with the folks in the glass boxes above the House and Senate chambers are important.

DAYS UNTIL: Premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 10; Inauguration Day – 45; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 71; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 102: Election Day 2017 – 337: Election Day 2018 – 700.


Richard Corcoran: In the House, ‘We are very, very conservative’” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

Richard Corcoran right to look at tourism marketing cash” via the Pensacola News-Journal

Tallahassee knocks lobbyists down a peg” via Michael Joe Murphy of the Orlando Sentinel

LOBBYISTS GET WITH THE PROGRAM — According to the Florida House, 255 individual lobbyists submitted at least one form representing 67 lobbying firms in the first full week of the new House Rules being in effect. Lobbyists have disclosed issues and bills for 788 different principals. The most common issue category as of Saturday morning was the budget at 613 times, followed by health at 434 times and insurance at 256 times. The House reported the 255 registered lobbyists have filed 1,528 separate issue description disclosures and 23 bill disclosures. The House reported 4,123 individual issue or bill records had been filed as of Saturday. Under new House rules, lobbyists are required to file an electronic notice of appearance that identifies the issues and principals represented.

LOOKS LIKE SCOTT MAXWELL’S CRIBBIN’ FROM THE CAPITOLIST – Shot: “Three Volunteer As Tribute For Richard Corcoran’s Hunger Games” via The Capitolist on June 14, 2016. Chaser: “New Speaker vows to make Legislature’s ‘Hunger Games’ ethical, virtuous” on Dec, 2, 2016.

JEFF CLEMENS PROPOSES AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION BILL via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Clemens filed legislation … (SB 72) that would automatically register Floridians to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s license. “The reason is pretty simple – nobody should have to jump through an extra hoop to exercise their constitutional rights,” says Clemens, who edged out Irv Slosberg in a fiercely combative primary in the Democratic-leaning Senate District 31 in August. Clemens says this is either the third or fourth time he’s proposed such a bill, and he says that his fellow Republicans should embrace it. “There’s been an initial skepticism, as if there’s some sort of Democratic plot,” he says. “As we’ve seen in other states, whatever ratio that the people are registering in that state, that’s the same ratio as we increase registration. We have to alleviate the fears that this is some sort of partisan plot.” If passed, Florida would join Oregon and California in passing such legislation.

DANA YOUNG’S ANTI-FRACKING BILL HOLDS PROMISE via Joe Henderson of the Tampa Bay Times –The campaign to represent District 18 in the Florida Senate was nasty, with charges and counter-charges flying to the point where voters might have been tempted to hide under the covers. One of the more virulent exchanges came on the issue of hydraulic fracking … That was the issue opponents tried to stick on Republican Young, and it caused her a lot of problems in the campaign. She was called out in attack ads for her votes as a member of the Florida House that supported fracking, even though she continually said she was against it. It did seem to be quite a contradiction and Young struggled at times to explain it, but she won the race anyway. She now has the chance to prove she was serious with what she said about fracking, and took a first step by promising to introduce a bill when the Legislature opens in 2017 to outlaw that practice throughout the state. This is a big deal. As if we needed another reason to be skittish about the potential for major damage to our water supply, look at recent events in Polk County and the giant Mosaic fertilizer company. A humongous sinkhole opened under a gypsum stack on company property and dumped more than 215 million gallons of tainted water into the aquifer.

UCF STUDENT, 21, WILL JUGGLE LAWMAKING WITH CLASSES via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel – Amber Mariano knows how to juggle. The full-time UCF student ran a campaign on weekends to narrowly defeat an incumbent in her home county north of Tampa last month, becoming the youngest person elected to the Florida House of Representatives. “It was tough … It was a lot of driving,” 21-year-old Mariano said. “I’m really good at handling stress in my life. I just kind of focus on what I have to do that day.” The second juggling act begins next year when committees meetings start up in January and the legislative session convenes in March. Mariano, a senior studying political science at the University of Central Florida, says she will keep pursing her bachelor’s degree by taking online classes while working in Tallahassee. “I’m lucky,” Mariano said. “I only have four classes left.” Politics is in the family as her father, Jack Mariano, has served on the Pasco County Commission for 12 years. Even though her opponent Amanda Murphy — a Democrat who raised $198,000 for the campaign compared with Mariano’s $47,000 — Mariano’s father said he believed in her chances. “I’d tell her … ‘We’re running to win. We’re expecting to win,'” her father said.

PATRICK HENRY’S SON INJURED AFTER SHOOTING, BEATING IN DAYTONA BEACH via Christal Hayes of the Orlando Sentinel –Witnesses saw Henry’s son, whose name is also Patrick Henry, being chased down by a gold Nissan Altima about 10:14 a.m. They stopped near Henry’s home on Thunderbird Drive in Daytona Beach and heard gunshots, police said. A man got out of the car and started to punch and pistol whip Henry in the face, officers said. The man then threw him against a tree in the yard and continued shoving and hitting him, an incident report states. The attacker called for a woman in the car to grab him “big guns,” according to the report. The woman got a second gun and gave it to suspect. He fired about five times at Henry and drove off, authorities said. It’s unclear whether Henry was shot but he had a cut on the side of his face. Police said he went to the hospital on his own.

— “Jayer Williamson learns the ropes in Tallahassee” via Anne Delaney of the Pensacola News-Journal

— “New lawmaker driven by Pulse tragedy” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight his proposal for a 5 percent pay raise for all state law enforcement officers at a 9:30 a.m. news conference at the Florida Highway Patrol station, 11305 N. McKinley Drive in Tampa.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT REJECTS SHIFT IN INSURANCE CLAIMS LAW via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The Florida Supreme Court has overturned a lower-court ruling that would have made it harder for policyholders to collect on insurance policies when there is more than one cause for their losses. At issue in Sebo v. American Home Assurance Co. was competing doctrines for resolving claims under all-risk policies in those circumstances. Under the so-called “efficient proximate cause” theory, if the first cause of any damage — say, construction defects — isn’t explicitly covered, nothing else is. Under the “concurrent law doctrine,” however, a homeowner can collect if any of the damage is covered. “We conclude that when independent perils converge and no single cause can be considered the sole or proximate cause, it is appropriate to apply the concurring cause doctrine,” Justice James E.C. Perry Thursday wrote for a 5-2 majority. That’s been the law in Florida for 30 years, said Richard Hugh Lumpkin of Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin in Miami, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of United Policyholders, a consumer group. Still, the 2nd District Court of Appeal applied the stricter policy in ruling on the case. Other states, including California, use that standard.

PRISON OFFICIAL KEEPS HIGH-PAID JOB EVEN AS STATE SETTLES LAWSUIT AGAINST HIM via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The state takes no blame for what former Florida Department of Corrections inspector general Jeffery Beasley has done, but it is paying $800,00 to end a retaliation lawsuit brought by his former employees and is keeping him in a newly created job that pays $116,500 annually. As “director of intelligence” at the state’s prison agency, Beasley admits that his position was created after the whistleblowers filed their lawsuits and he left the inspector general’s post last fall, according to his deposition in another pending retaliation lawsuit … He is in charge of the department’s K-9 unit and the security threat group, among other things. He draws “special risk” designation as a law enforcement officer, allowing him to collect a higher pension when he retires. His replacement as inspector general, Lester Fernandez, makes $115,000. Meanwhile, the three former inspectors, Doug GlissonJohn Ulm and Aubrey Land who left FDC this week after it agreed to pay them each $133,000 to resolve their claims against Beasley, are forming their own consulting business, “Capitol Connections Consultants.” They will offer to serve as expert witnesses in future lawsuits against the state and advise other law enforcement officers when their employer has violated the Officers’ Bill of Rights. “We will be a thorn in their side,” said Glisson … “We’re not here to protect dirty officers, but if you have someone like us who was getting nailed, we can help. It’s not going to be a full-time job.”

PAYROLL DATA SHOW GULF IN PAY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN AT UF via The Associated Press – New payroll data show that only eight women are among the top 100 highest-paid faculty members at the University of Florida … the top woman earner at Florida earned $524,450 and the top male $984,759. Of the top 20 highest paid faculty, one is a woman. Dr. Shahla Masood, a professor at the College of Medicine, is the fourth-highest paid female faculty member. She told the paper that several factors contribute, including that some female faculty members are fearful of speaking up and being ignored, criticized or retaliated against. Florida State University in Tallahassee did better, boasting 26 women in the top 100 earners there.

FLORIDA-GEORGIA WATER FIGHT NOW IN HANDS OF SPECIAL MASTER via The Associated Press – A monthlong trial aimed at settling a high-stakes water dispute between Georgia and Florida ended … with a special master imploring both sides to negotiate a settlement. Special master Ralph Lancaster reminded both parties that there’s much to be lost by booming metropolitan Atlanta or by residents of tiny Apalachicola, Florida. “Please settle this blasted thing,” Lancaster said. “I can guarantee you that at least one of you is going to be unhappy with my recommendation – and perhaps both of you.” Florida blames the booming Atlanta metropolitan area and agriculture in Georgia for causing low river flows that have imperiled fisheries in Apalachicola Bay … Lancaster was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to make a recommendation to resolve the matter. The Supreme Court will have the final say in the coming year. The dispute focuses on a watershed in western Georgia, eastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The Chattahoochee and Flint rivers flow through Georgia and meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which flows into the Apalachicola Bay. Florida contends Georgia us siphoning away more than its fair share, causing the fresh water flow to dry up, killing endangered mussels, harming tupelo and cypress trees and increasing the salinity of the Apalachicola Bay, causing a die-off of oysters. Georgia contends that it consumes only a small portion of the water and that there’s no clear and convincing evidence to support restrictions that would imperil its economy and drinking water with the goal of helping a much smaller number of residents in Florida.

IS THIS THE FINAL BURN FOR FLORIDA’S ‘CIGAR CITY’? via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post – The last standing cigar factory here, in what was once dubbed “Cigar City,” has survived two world wars, the Great Depression, smoking bans and a Cuban trade embargo that wiped out much of its tobacco supply. The death of Fidel Castro — the most iconic of cigar smokers — marks yet another milestone for the region. Many here wonder whether the once-booming cigar industry may be on its way out as well. Among those most worried: Eric Newman, whose family has been making 31 brands of cigars, including Cuesta-Rey, Diamond Crown and La Unica, for three generations. For 121 years, the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. has churned out millions of cigars and shipped them worldwide — even as, one by one, 149 surrounding factories shuttered their doors, many moving their operations overseas. But now Newman, who owns the company with his brother, Bobby, says cigar manufacturers and retailers in this stretch of town known as Ybor City face hurdles that could deal a final blow to an industry that has, until now, gone largely unregulated. The Food and Drug Administration this year introduced new guidelines that will require cigar manufacturers to get approval for new products, pay increased fees and add prominent warning labels. The FDA says the measures, which will be phased in over three years, are a matter of public safety and are meant to curb underage tobacco use.

Before August, no federal law prohibited the sale of cigars, ­e-cigarettes or hookah tobacco to children under 18. “For years, the unregulated marketplace was like the Wild, Wild West,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. The new rules, Zeller says, will help bring order to a corner of the tobacco industry that has long operated without oversight. Newman, though, says the regulations represent millions of dollars in new costs and increased uncertainty for his factory, which last year had sales of $10 million. On top of that, he says, the Obama administration in October loosened its ban on Cuban cigars, allowing Americans to bring back as many cigars as they like for personal use. Newman says the move, part of the thawing of relations between the nations, introduces another layer of competition at a critical time. “What we’re dealing with right now is the worst it’s ever been,” said Newman, whose grandfather started the business at age 20 in a family barn. “On the one hand, the government is saying, ‘smoking is bad’ and making us jump through all these new hoops. On the other, they’re welcoming Cuban cigars — which haven’t been tested, which aren’t taxed — into the country. They’ve got this backwards.”

SLOW PROGRESS DESPITE EFFORTS TO FIX ORANGE LAKE POLLUTION via Fred Hiers of The Associated Press –The popular fishing and recreational lake is impaired. Florida environmental agencies officially designated it so nearly 15 years ago. Its main problem: high concentrations of polluting nutrients that have flowed in from the watershed and from neighboring waterways. The main culprit is phosphorus, much of it coming from residential and agricultural fertilizers. The pollutants also come from Newnans Lake, making their way to the Orange through River Styx, Prairie Creek and Camps Canal; and from Lochloosa Lake by way of Cross Creek, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In 2003 the FDEP set a total maximum daily load for phosphorus entering Orange Lake. In 2007 it created the Orange Creek Basin Management Action Plan (known as a BMAP, for short,) which covers Orange Lake and its neighboring water bodies. The BMAP is a blueprint to manage and improve the basin’s lakes, including a nutrient-reduction effort for Orange Lake. The Orange Creek Basin covers Orange Lake, Newnans Lake, Lake Wauberg, Hogtown Creek, Sweetwater Branch, Tumblin Creek and Alachua Sink. The FDEP continued and updated the plan in 2015, took stock of its progress, and created new restoration projects. The plans call for a total phosphorus level of 0.031 milligrams per liter (mg/l,) in Orange Lake. That’s equivalent to a 45 percent reduction of the nutrient currently present in the lake. The strategies focus on improving stormwater treatment and control programs; identifying the sources of nutrient discharges and then working to reduce them; and educating the public. But despite the FDEP’s efforts for the past several years to make the lake healthier for the fish and wildlife that depend on it, progress has been incremental at best: Phosphorus levels have remained the same some years and even gotten worse in others. “Water quality in Orange Lake has been declining since 1985,” according to the FDEP. “Annual average (total phosphorus) and (total nitrogen) concentrations have increased between the 1993-2000 total daily maximum daily load data period and the post-BMAP period of 2008-2013.” Area environmentalists, residents and scientists say the state’s efforts are not enough. FDEP’s own data show its efforts don’t appear to be panning out.

STATE WORKER CHARITY CAMPAIGN NOSE-DIVES via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat –Florida’s annual state worker charity drive, which came under fire last year for exorbitant overhead, finished its worst campaign last week in its 36-year history. And once again, the New Jersey company that serves as the campaign’s fiscal agent, Solix, Inc., is set to get most of the money. The Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign, which ran Sept. 1 through Nov. 10, raised only $282,092 in pledges, according to the Department of Management Services. Solix, under its contract with the state, would get $180,000, or nearly 64 percent. The rest — only about $102,000 — would go to charities. “This is another casualty of outsourcing and privatization,” said state Rep. Loranne Ausley … “This is a company outside the state of Florida that has pretty much driven the campaign into the ground.” The FSECC was created by the Florida Cabinet in 1980 and put in statutes the following year as the state workforce’s only official charity drive. In its heyday, when it was overseen by the United Way, it raised nearly $5 million a year from state employees.

NEXT STOP FOR IRV SLOSBERG: TALLAHASSEE OFFICE FOR SLOSBERG FOUNDATION via Kristina Webb of the Palm Beach Post – Slosberg … will go to Florida’s Capitol to represent the Dori Slosberg Foundation — a nonprofit he founded after his daughter was killed in a violent car crash in Boca Raton 20 years ago — before the state Legislature. Florida state law bans former legislators from representing another person, organization or business for compensation for two years following their departure from office. But Slosberg says he’s received the thumbs-up from the Florida Commission on Ethics, which can make exceptions to the law on a case-by-case basis. … Slosberg said working with the foundation in Tallahassee will allow him to continue working to improve traffic safety in Florida. “We’re ready to fight, because unfortunately that’s what this takes,” he said. The foundation’s new office will open Jan. 1 on Monroe Street in Tallahassee, giving the foundation “headquarters both in Boca Raton and Tallahassee,” Slosberg noted.

CHALLENGING AIRBNB – THE NEXT UBER? via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Airbnb … could turn into the next Uber/Lyft-style fracas in the Florida Legislature over how government should regulate emerging online industries. Hillsborough County, as in the Uber battle, may be in the thick of it. County Tax Collector Doug Belden is asking local legislators — including state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Tom Lee — to pass legislation over collecting tourist taxes on rentals by Airbnb and other online, short-term rental services. Belden’s office has been negotiating with Airbnb since March, but he refused conditions sought by the company that he says other counties have agreed to — some of which, he said, would violate state open government laws. The company has sought to keep parts of its agreements with them secret. Belden said that would violate state public records law. He said the company also wants a waiver on collecting back taxes, and wants to avoid providing the names of its renters. That would make it impossible for the tax collector to do audits, as it does on other hospitality businesses, to ensure they’re accurately reporting rental income. Pinellas County, on the other hand, already has signed an agreement with Airbnb and is getting some $63,000 per month in tourist taxes … In that agreement, Airbnb agreed to compromise on the issues that Belden objected to.

SANFORD BURNHAM DOUBLES DOWN AGAINST STATE EFFORTS TO RECOUP INCENTIVE MONEY via William Patrick of – Ten years to create 303 jobs. That straight-forward commitment was a core aspect of an agreement that allowed a California-based biotech nonprofit to secure $350 million in state and Orlando-area taxpayer support. It didn’t happen. Penned in 2006, time has now run out on Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute’s deal with the state. It’s 66 jobs short, according to state records. But rather than pay back some of the money, the research institute is doubling down on its refusal to comply with the state’s accountability efforts – even goading state officials “to help preserve and create more jobs.” In a letter to the Department of Economic Opportunity dated Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving, Sanford Burnham’s senior legal counsel said he was “surprised” that the state had sent the organization a notice of default requesting returned incentive funds. “Sanford Burnham is not in material default of any obligation in the agreement,” he said. “Please regard this letter as Sanford Burnham’s rejection of all the allegations, claims, and demands contained in your Oct. 28 (Notice of Default) letter.” It was the second such correspondence in a month.

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JEFF MILLER, RELENTLESS VA CRITIC, COULD BE TAPPED TO RUN AGENCY via Ledyard King of USA TODAY – Now that the Northwest Florida Republican is leaving Congress — and his post as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — some agency officials might be thinking they will be able to breathe easier. Until they consider their fiercest critic on Capitol Hill might soon be tapped to lead Veterans Affairs under a president-elect who’s determined to shake up the way Washington works. Miller has been mentioned as a favorite for the post but said he hasn’t heard directly from Donald Trump’s transition team about any official interest. He says only that he “would seriously consider serving” as Veterans Affairs secretary, calling it “a noble mission.” … Miller, 57, has a disadvantage: He’s not a military veteran as past secretaries have been. But few are as familiar with the challenges facing the second-largest federal agency (behind Defense) that employs some 350,000 and has a budget of roughly $182 billion. Miller has also been frustrated that the Obama administration hasn’t moved quickly to implement VA whistleblower protections mandated in legislation passed this year. He referenced a Nov. 18 missing letter from VA Chief of Staff Robert Snyder informing Miller the agency wouldn’t meet a 60-day deadline spelled out in the bill due to notification and negotiation requirements in labor contracts with agency employees. It’s why he wants to work for the new commander-in-chief.

DISNEY’S BOB IGER TO JOIN PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP’S ADVISORY GROUP via Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel – A group of CEO advisers that President-elect Trump has established will include Iger, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Co. The President’s Strategic and Policy Forum … will meet with Trump “frequently” starting in February. The 16-member forum will be chaired by Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, which has been a major SeaWorld Entertainment investor. Other members include General Motors’ Mary Barra, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon, and Wal-Mart Stores’ Doug McMillon.

IN A GOP YEAR, STEPHANIE MURPHY VOWS BIPARTISANSHIP via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – Murphy, a 37-year-old former strategy consultant with a background in the U.S. Department of Defense, had never run for political office before, but the Democrats’ gamble paid off. Her victory over [JohnMica on Election Day was bright spot for a Democratic Party reeling from defeats elsewhere. Now, Murphy — a former refugee, and the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress — is preparing to head to Washington as a rising Democratic star in a capital about to become entirely controlled by Republicans. “It’s awe-inspiring and humbling,” Murphy said. “But I’m also excited for the opportunity to serve this district. … My voice and my experience will be one that will be heard in Washington.” … But she’s entering a federal government firmly in the control of Republicans, especially after Donald Trump’s presidential victory — one that came using rhetoric and advancing policies that are concerning many groups nationwide, including Muslims and Hispanics. “You can be sure that if we see President-elect Trump heading in a direction that seeks to isolate and discriminate against some groups of Americans that I will be a vocal opponent of that,” Murphy said. “But again, we haven’t taken our oaths of office yet, and a lot of this remains to be seen. Murphy remains “open-minded,” she said, “and I’m hopeful that we will find our government is willing to work together, regardless of partisanship or party affiliation, in order to advance the needs of the American people. Because I think that is the message that came across loud and strong in this election, that the American people don’t feel like they’re being served by their government anymore.”

— “If walls could talk: Orlando’s new Congress members pick their offices” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

ALAN GRAYSON SAYS GOODBYE TO ORANGE COUNTY DEMOCRATS, FOR NOW via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Grayson … made what’s likely to be his swan song appearance for now before Orange County Democrats … thanking them for backing him so he could “do so much good for so many people.” … “It’s hard to believe I stand before you as the only Orange County Democrat to represent downtown Orlando in the last 42 years. But that changes … when we have three, count them, three, Orange County Democrats in Congress,” Grayson said. “And I want to give credit where credit is due, and that is you all. We have gone through a very difficult time, wandering for 40 years through the desert here. But now we’ve reached the point with organization, teamwork, registrations, absentee ballot requests, and the legwork we all do … have led to the point where we finally are fully represented in the House of Representatives by Democrats.” … “But now we’ve reached the point with organization, teamwork, registrations, absentee ballot requests, and the legwork we all do … have led to the point where we finally are fully represented in the House of Representatives by Democrats.” Despite his loss – and his wife Dena Grayson‘s loss to [DarrenSoto in the CD 9 Democratic primary, he has not ruled out a return to politics, and his appearance Saturday included no suggestion that he was going away. “It turns out you can shame them into any good idea you want when you have might and right on your side,” he said.

SPOTTED strolling along downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront: former George W. Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer.


Slater Bayliss, Chris Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Parters: Bruce Peters

Ron Pierce, Ed Briggs, Natalie King, Terry Lewis, RSA Consulting: Lutz Preparatory School

Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: Zenith Insurance Company

Robert Hosay, Fred Karlinsky, Foley & Lardner: National Strategies

Matt Jordan: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Natalie Kato, Lewis Longman & Walker: Fellere Water Control District

Greg Parks, Parks Advocacy Group: COPsync, Inc.

Amy Young, Ballard Partners: Women’s Care Florida

THE MAYERNICK GROUP LANDS KUSH LOBBYING GIG via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist – Ben Pollara spent his time interviewing top lobbying firms in Tallahassee about representing Florida for Care, the 501(c)(4) advocacy arm of the medical marijuana campaign … Tracy and Frank Mayernick submitted their lobbyist registration on behalf of Florida for Care. “Voters delivered a mandate on the expansion of medical marijuana in Florida and we will work with the legislature to fulfill that mandate with implementing legislation this session,” said Pollara. “Florida for Care intends to be a reasonable actor this spring, while the members of the six-family cartel and lobbyist employment center ‘Dispensing Organizations’ hunker down and try to block true enactment of Amendment 2.” Pollara has hinted that another big name Republican lobbyist will also join the Florida for Care team within the next few days, firepower he’s going to need if he wants to successfully challenge Florida’s new marijuana oligarchy. Pollara knows the “cartel” won’t go down without a fight. His own lobbying budget for this year is nearly a quarter of a million dollars. But it’s going to be an all-out war, and the fighting will be savage. Rumors abound that some lobbyists who represent the six dispensing organizations don’t just have contracts to lobby, they also have equity stakes in the growing operations and stand to reap substantial sums of money by restricting access to the market.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to Sen. Keith Perry, Canaan McCaslin, the great Carrie O’Rourke, Bruce Ritchie, and Jason Rodriguez. Celebrating today is The Edwards Group’s Beth Herendeen.

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Jeb Bush to align with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney law firm as strategic consultant

Jeb Bush is bringing his star power to the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in a strategic affiliation through his firm Jeb Bush & Associates.

The two-term Florida governor and former presidential candidate will be providing expertise as a consultant to the firm and its clients, according to a statement by the firm first shared with

“This move adds to our firm’s distinguished reputation as a leader in providing strategic advice on government, regulatory and business matters,” said Buchanan CEO Joseph Dougherty. “There are very few people that have the breadth of experience that Governor Bush has both in the public and private sector. We believe his insight will be a tremendous asset to our attorneys and clients.”

“Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is an outstanding adviser to its clients, and I look forward to collaborating with them,” Bush said. “We live in a complex business and political environment, and I believe that putting my knowledge and experience together with Buchanan’s professional acumen will help Buchanan’s clients grow and prosper.”

In his new role, Bush — who will not be lobbying — will focus primarily on guidance for issues concerning Florida, the state he led as governor from 1999 to 2007.

“Those of us who have had the pleasure of working with the Governor in the past now have the opportunity to do so again, and those who haven’t can look forward to a truly rewarding experience. This is an exciting development for the firm and for our clients,” said longtime Bush friend and adviser JohnMac” Stipanovich, who chairs Buchanan’s Florida Government Relations practice.

In a way, the new partnership is somewhat of a homecoming for Bush.

Bush was a key surrogate when Stipanovich served as Florida’s executive director for the Reagan-Bush 1984 campaign. He was also Secretary of Commerce when Stipanovich was working as chief of staff. In a friendship that spans more than 30 years, Stipanovich served as a senior adviser during Bush’s unsuccessful 1994 gubernatorial bid.

Buchanan principal Mike Harrell was Bush’s golf partner on Sundays for the eight years while governor and was behind the initiative to bring the two firms together. Kim McGlynn is another Bush alum; she was on staff in the campaign headquarters for both 1990 and 1994. Jim Magill also was on staff for two sessions in Bush’s second term, after having done advance work on all three campaigns.

Bush brings to the firm a long, successful record both in the public and private sectors.

Beginning his career with various roles at the Texas Commerce Bank, Bush moved to Florida and served as the state’s Secretary of Commerce from 1987 to 1988. After a successful run as Florida’s 43rd Governor, Bush returned to private consulting with Jeb Bush & Associates. During his presidential campaign this summer, Bush touted his strong economic record, where Florida added more than 1.3 million jobs and reduced taxes by $19 billion during his watch. When he left office in 2007, the state’s economy had grown by 7.2 percent and its unemployment rate was only 3.4 percent.

In 2015, Bush launched a bid for The White House. Although he raised an impressive war chest, he dropped out of the Republican presidential primary after the South Carolina primary in February.

Earlier this year, Bush announced he would teach a 10-day elective course on governmental leadership at Texas A&M.

Bush is the founder of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a nonprofit public policy organization, as well as the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit charitable think tank to develop solutions for improving education in the U.S. He also chaired the Board for the National Constitution Center, a Philadelphia-based institution for research and education on the U.S. Constitution.

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC employs nearly 500 attorneys and government relations professionals in 17 offices nationwide. The firm provides advice and guidance in a broad range of areas: health care, financial services and banking, litigation, intellectual property, labor and employment, real estate, corporate and business law, tax, energy and government relations.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Takeaways from Tallahassee – Early Christmas presents

And so this is Christmas: Gov. Rick Scott‘s early gift to state law enforcement is a proposed 5 percent pay raise in the 2017-18 budget.

If he can afford it. Which nobody knows yet.

So right now, the raise is like a pretty gift box that’s empty. 

Still, the raise “would be a ‘thank you’ to law enforcement for all they do,” reported’s and Orlando Rising’s Larry Griffin this week, mentioning this year’s hurricanes and the Pulse nightclub shooting as examples.

“They need to be rewarded for their life-saving work,” Scott said Thursday. “We need to show we appreciate their commitment to us.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam quickly issued an attaboy: “Florida’s law enforcement officers put it all on the line for us, and I wholeheartedly support Gov. Scott’s budget that puts them first.”

The problem is the cost, estimated at $11.7 million. The last state financial outlook issued in September showed a paltry $7.5 million left over out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue for next year.

And even that’s already outdated, according to House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“Just looking at the numbers, I can tell you we’re more like – in my estimation – somewhere between a half(-billion) to a billion dollars in the hole,” Corcoran told reporters after last week’s Organization Session.

“It’s going to be one of those things where we go through and look at the funding and the priorities and figure out if the money’s there,” he said to a general question about state worker raises.

On the other side, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala has said it’s his “highest personal priority … to deliver some sort of pay raise for state employees.”

State workers haven’t gotten an increase since 2006.

“Now, I’m not going to get into how much, or how to do it, but I’ve had that conversation with (Senate President Joe Negron, and he’s) well aware of where I’m coming from,” Latvala said in September.

Meantime, the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference is set to meet Dec. 16 to discuss the next long-term revenue analysis. Mark your calendars.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-FoersterMichael MolineJim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

Senate leadership assembled — Senate President Joe Negron unveiled leadership posts this week, giving prominent chairmanships to allies and doling out chairmanships to four Democrats. Sen. Wilton Simpson, who’s in line to become Senate President himself, was named Majority Leader, while Sen. Anitere Flores, the President Pro Tempore, will head the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, and the Banking and Insurance Committee. Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy will chair the Senate Criminal Justice committee, and Sen. Lauren Book will chair the Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee.

Rate hike OK’d — A state appeals court allowed a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation premiums to take effect on schedule Thursday. The decision comes one week after a Leon County Circuit Court judge ruled the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and the National Council on Compensation Insurance failed to abide by Florida’s open government laws in calculating the increase. Business leaders have blasted the increase, and this week the Florida Chamber of Commerce said many businesses have said “they will be forced to delay hiring, or even cut existing jobs, in order to cover” the increase.

New boss —Enterprise Florida has a new chief. The Board of Directors voted unanimously this week to hire Chris Hart IV, the president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, as the CEO of Enterprise Florida. “Chris understands the incredible impact a job can have on a family and the need for EFI to make job creation the number one priority,” said Gov. Scott in a statement. “As President and CEO, I know Chris will immediately get to work to return EFI back to its core mission of creating jobs for our families.” Hart starts on Jan. 3, and will be paid between $175,000 and $200,000 a year.

Fined — The state’s Medicaid HMOs paid more than $1.2 million in fines for more than 150 violations over the past 15 months, POLITICO Florida reported this week. The website reported the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration issued 16 sanctions to managed care plans between July and September of this year, with United Healthcare of Florida receiving the most sanctions during that period. 88 percent of sanctions between July 1 and Sept. 30 of this year stemmed from violations within the state’s managed medical assistance program.

The Final 3 — The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission sent three names to Gov. Scott to be considered to fill the seat being vacated by Justice James Perry. The decision came after the state nominating committee spent a day interviewing 11 applicants for the job. The panel recommended that Scott consider Charles Alan Lawson, the chief judge for the 5th District Court of Appeal, Wendy Berger, a 5th DCA judge, and attorney Daniel Gerber for the high court. Some high-profile names were passed over for consideration, including State Attorney Brad King, the lead prosecutor for five central Florida counties, and State Rep. Larry Metz.

Graham vs. Putnam in 2018?

Democratic political strategist Steve Schale looked ahead to Florida’s 2018 governor’s race during a speech this week to the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club.

On the Democratic side, he likes Gwen Graham’s prospects.

“I think there’s a pretty good chance that 2018 is going to be the year of the anti-Trump,” Schale said. “Gwen is pretty much the opposite of Donald Trump in terms of temperament and approach and everything else.”

He expects Orlando attorney John Morgan to succumb to a draft movement. “It’s either going to be an amazing success or a complete and utter failure. I don’t think it will be anyplace in between.”

Schale said the Democratic race could include well-known Florida mayors: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Much like Morgan, Levine is a “wealthy, self-funder type.”

When it comes to Republicans, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam “is obviously the odds-on favorite. I think a Putnam-Graham race would be a smart, high-minded race,” Schale said.

“Depending on how the party reacts to Trump, Adam could be very poorly positioned in the primary — he’s sort of a very establishment, institutional guy, the definition of a career politician.”

Of course, “Like Rick Scott, there’s probably somebody on their side we haven’t heard from yet who will get in.”

There’s a few new members of the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Gov. Scott recently appointed Dr. Karen Goldberg, Eugenia Haliburton, and Debra Knox to the statewide board. The governor also reappointed Dr. Glenna Ashton, Lois Laibl-Crowe, and Rosie Finigan to the board.

Goldberg, a 52-year-old Brandon resident, is the director of deaf mental health at the University of South Florida. She fills a vacant seat with a term ending July 31, 2020.

Haliburton, a 68-year-old Jacksonville resident, is an instructor at Impact Christian Academy. She also fills a vacant seat with a term ending July 31, 2018. Knox is a 44-year-old speech language pathologist and the clinical director at the University of Central Florida. The Oviedo resident replaces Sherilyn Adler and will serve a term ending July 31, 2020.

Ashton, a 66-year-old Boca Raton resident, is an adjunct professor at the University of Florida. Laibl-Crowe is a 58-year-old volunteer program coordinator for the Florida Deaf and Blind Association. Finigan, a 45-year-old Key West resident, is an occupational therapist and the center manager for Select Physical Therapy. All three were reappointed to terms ending July 31, 2020.

Scott also appointed Candice Brower to the Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel for the First Region.

The 44-year-old Newberry resident currently serves as the Eighth Circuit Civil Division Chief of the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel for the First Region. She previously served as the Assistant State Attorney with the Office of the State Attorney for the Third Judicial Circuit. She then worked as a sole practitioner until she joined the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel in 2008.

Brower’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Calling all kid chefs: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is accepting entries for its “Fresh from Florida” Student Chef Cook-Off.

The contest is open to students in grades 9 through 12. Students can submit an original recipe that features locally grown products for a chance to have their creation served in school cafeterias.

Students will first submit their recipes and pictures to be judged on nutrition, originality, and presentation. Finalists will be chosen to compete in five regional cook-offs, scheduled for March and April 2017. First place winners in each region will continue to the statewide cook-off at the Florida School Nutrition Association annual conference in Orlando in April.

“A healthy diet is the foundation for academic success, and our goal is to get students excited about incorporating Florida’s fresh produce into everyday meals,” said Agriculture Commissioner Putnam.

Florida was just a bit safer in the first half of 2016.

The 2016 semi-annual crime report showed the crime rate was down 3.4 percent compared to the first six months of 2015. According to the report, robbery, aggravated assaults and burglaries were down in the first six months of the year.

“Florida’s steadily decreasing crime rate is a true testament to the hard work and commitment of our brave law enforcement officers,” said Gov. Scott in a statement. “As the crime rate continues to decrease, it is clear that our shared goal of creating safe neighborhoods is working. While this is great news, there is still work to be done and we must continue to focus on reducing crime and making Florida the safest place to raise a family.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, however, reported motor vehicle thefts, rape and murder increased during the same time period.

The report showed there were 3,769 reported rapes in the first half of the year. That’s a nearly 2 percent increase from the first six months of 2016.

There were 561 murders in the first part of 2016, a 15 percent increase from the same time in 2015. That figure includes the 49 people killed during the Orlando Pulse night club shooting in June.

“This report highlights the commitment of Florida’s law enforcement community and our first responders who don’t hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow citizens,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.

BlueGrace Logistics is growing.

The Riverview company has created nearly 300 jobs over the past year and a half, more than doubling the job creation goal announced in 2015. The company is planning to continue its expansion in the Tampa Bay area, the Governor’s Office announced recently.

“I am proud to announce that BlueGrace Logistics more than doubled their job creation goals by creating nearly 300 new jobs for families in the Tampa Bay area over the past year and a half,” said Gov. Scott in a statement. “The company will also continue expanding in Florida by creating an additional 300 new jobs. (This) announcement shows why we work each day to make Florida the most business-friendly state in the nation so more companies like BlueGrace will choose to invest and create new opportunities in our state.”

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace Logistics is one of the fastest growing leaders of transportation services in North America.

“The entire BlueGrace Logistics team is proud to welcome Governor Scott today to celebrate our outstanding success and our ongoing investment in the Tampa Bay community,” said the company’s CEO Bobby Harris.

Congratulations, Rep. MaryLynn Magar.

The Manufacturers Association of Florida presented Magar with the Manufacturing Legislative Excellence Award for her work on behalf of the manufacturers in 2016. Magar led the charge to pass the House bill to permanently eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment.

“I am honored to receive this recognition from the Manufacturers Association of Florida,” said Magar. “I am pleased that this year’s election focused so heavily on returning jobs to America and to Florida specifically, and I’m proud that I have made that issue my top priority since I was first elected. But there is more work to do, and I look forward to continuing to work on improving our business and jobs climate in the coming legislative term.”

The sales tax exemption is expected to save the industry $77 million a year.

“Florida is one of the highest producing states for manufacturing and our state’s leadership has taken great steps to ensure our businesses remain competitive,” said Nancy Stephens, MAF Executive Director. “In the 2016 legislative session, Governor Scott, Senator (Dorothy) Hukill, and Representative Magar fought tirelessly for the needs of our manufacturers. Their leadership has ensured the industry will see additional growth, revenue, and job creation in the coming years.”

Need a place to stay next time you’re in Miami? The Atton Hotel might have a room available.

The Governor’s Office announced this week the Chilean company is opening its first American hotel in Miami. The expansion has created 130 new jobs in South Florida.

“We are incredibly proud of Atton Brickell Miami. Our staff is extremely excited to show our guests each day why we are ranked among the best hotels in the world,” said Claudia Di Gino, the general manager of Atton Hotels. “We want to thank everyone who helped make this day possible and the State of Florida for their support.”

The Atton Miami is located in downtown Miami.

“It’s great news that Atton Hotels chose Florida over every other state in the nation for their first hotel in the United States,” said Gov. Scott in a statement. “I look forward to seeing Atton’s continued success in Florida.”

Barry Moline will soon be California dreaming.

Moline, the veteran executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, is moving to Sacramento to run the California Municipal Utilities Association. His last day at the Florida Municipal Electric Association is Jan. 5.

“Barry brings leadership and passion for our mission, and we’re confident he will be a strong steward engaging the community, our membership, and the industry stakeholders,” said Michelle Bertolino, the group’s president.

California officials told Moline they were looking for someone with strong association management skills, he said.

“Trade associations bring people together,” he said. “We don’t just lobby. It’s a forum to come together and learn from each other, and also to talk about how to serve the customers and communities better.”

Moline starts his new gig on Jan. 23.

Recess for everyone!

Sen. Anitere Flores filed legislation this week to require schools to provide “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free play recess” each week. Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, filed a similar bill in the Florida House.

The mandatory recess would apply to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and would break down to at least 20 minutes each school day.

The bill, Senate Bill 78, is similar to a bill that moved through the Legislature during the 2016 legislative session. That bill received overwhelming support in the Florida House, passing 112-2. But it failed to gain traction in the Senate, despite calls from parents and lawmakers to consider the proposal.

Florida Power & Light Co.’s 4.8 million customers will pay an additional $811 million for electricity under a compromise rate increase approved by the Public Service Commission this week.

The agreement provides for a $400 million rate increase to take effect on Jan. 1. A customer using 1 kilowatt of electricity each month can expect to pay an extra $63.49.

Rates would increase by $211 million in January 2018, which will work out to $65.88 per month. Rates would increase by an additional $200 million on June 1, 2019, to bring online the Okeechobee Clean Energy Center, a new, high-efficiency generating plant.

The deal also encourages investment in alternative energy technology, including solar and battery reserves.

Eric Silagy, president and chief executive officer of FPL, stressed that power bills will remain low relative to other states. “Our bills will still be lower than they were in 2006,” he said.

Rep. Dane Eagle is getting a jump on the 2017 legislative session.

The Cape Coral Republican filed his first two bills of the 2017 legislation session this week, and both are meant to enhance government efficiency and accountability.

With House Bill 23, Eagle is hoping to tacking public assistance programs. The bill makes several revisions to the Temporary Aid to Needy Families Program “to focus aid to the truly needy by strengthening eligibility and to reduce waste, fraud and abuse,” according to Eagle’s office.

A second bill by Eagle, House Bill 49, will allow county property appraisers to reduce the assessed value of residential property damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster. The bill, Eagle said, would provide relief to Lee County residents impacted by the tornadoes earlier this year, as well as communities impacted by Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine

“I am always committed to removing burdensome and unnecessary government red tape, and in this particular case, it will help ease the tax burden on homeowners whose property has been severely affected by natural disaster,” he said in a statement. “It is unfair to require property owners to pay taxes on the full assessed value of a home that has been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable.”

The Florida Department of Health took some time to recognize World AIDS Day this week, and reaffirm its commitment to fighting HIV.

Surgeon General Celeste Philip said the state health department is focusing on four key strategies to make an impact on reducing HIV rates in Florida, including routine screenings and increased testing in high-risk populations.

“Testing all individuals 13-64 years old at least once, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is critical to identifying infections,” she said in a statement. “We can then begin appropriate and effective treatment and help people lead long, healthy and fulfilling lives. I encourage all Floridians to know their status and get tested through your health care provider or your county health department. We are here to help you before, during and after a diagnosis.”

World AIDS Day was Dec. 1. The day Is meant to show support for people living with HIV and commemorate people who have died. More than 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV in the United States, and almost 1 in 8 people are unaware they are infected.

Gov. Scott commended a member of the Florida Highway Patrol this week for his bravery.

Scott presented Lt. Channing Taylor with the Governor’s Medal of Heroism during a stop in Orlando this week. Taylor was recognized for his bravery during a life threatening incident earlier this year.


“In June, during a routine traffic stop, Lt. Taylor was ambushed and suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder before finding cover and returning fire to subdue to aggressor,” said Scott in a statement. “Lt. Taylor’s heroic actions put an end to a very dangerous situation and our state is blessed to have officers like him keeping us safe.”

Taylor was awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest award given by the Highway Patrol, for his “outstanding bravery when faced with great personal danger,” according to the Governor’s Office. He also was awarded the Purple Heart.

Good dog!

PetSmart, the nation’s largest pet specialty retailer, donated 1,000 pet treats to give to pets at the Animal Health Checkpoint in Key Largo. The checkpoint was established as part of the screwworm eradication effort and pets will get a treat when they undergo a quick, physical assessment, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has the best interest of our local animals and pets in mind, and we commend them for being proactive in preventing the spread of this infectious parasite,” said Alex Garcia, district leader for PetSmart in South Florida, in a statement.  “Together, we hope our pet treat donation will ease the examination process for pets and their pet parents.”

The 24-hour Animal Health Check Point is run by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. State officials have checked more than 4,500 animals, including 4,338 dogs. All have been negative.

New World Screwworms can infest warm-blooded animals, like pets, livestock and, in rare cases, people.

“Citizens and visitors have been strong partners in the screwworm eradication efforts underway in Monroe County, and PetSmart’s recent pet treat donation is one way we can make the animal health check a more enjoyable experience,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Thinking of giving this holiday season? Make sure to “Check-a-Charity” before you make the donation.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is encouraging Floridians to use its Check-a-Charity tool throughout the holiday season. The tool allows Floridians to view a charity’s financial information and current registration status.

 Charitable organizations registered in Florida received nearly $79 billion in contributions last year.

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam warned Floridians to be on the lookout for people pretending to to be a real charity. And he also reminded residents to make sure to keep good records when they give.

“During the holiday season, many generous Floridians contribute their hard-earned money to support important causes,” said Putnam. “Before giving, I encourage you to do your homework and make the most of your donation.”

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:


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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.2.16

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

EARLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES to the great Ron Book, who turns 64 on Saturday. Recently, we learned that even this Superman has to slow down at some point. But we know Ron will pull through as he always has. Happy birthday to one of the best in the business, a great father and soon-to-be “Coach,” and a very generous soul. All the best, Ron.

The Florida Senate held their organizational session of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, FL November 22, 2016.
The Florida Senate held their organizational session of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, FL November 22, 2016.

PAM BONDI TO MEET WITH DONALD TRUMP via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times –It is planned for 1 p.m. in Trump Tower. The presidential transition has been silent about what Trump and Bondi, who are personal friends, will discuss. Bondi’s name has been mentioned in connection to several high-level positions, including White House “drug czar” and U.S. trade representative. She could also be nominated as a deputy or assistant U.S. attorney general or as a candidate to chair the Republican National Committee. However, she could also be wary of any job that would require a rigorous Senate confirmation process, as Bondi tends to cringe under critical spotlight. Bondi was an early Trump supporter and appeared alongside him at rallies around the state, as well as at the Republican National Convention. For the last week, Bondi has been out of the public eye, missing ceremonial events in the state Capitol, and her office has refused to respond to questions about where she is.

WE WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED IF BONDI ends up serving out the remainder of her term as Attorney General of Florida. Drug Czar is a thankless, low-wattage position that feels like more of a horizontal move for Bondi than a step up. Does she really want to tour the DEA office in El Paso? Of course, if the president-elect asks you to serve the country, you can’t say ‘no’ to that. But this entire situation seems, at this point, like a lose-lose for Bondi. Give up a statewide office in Florida to serve as a general in the losing War on Drugs or not take a position in the Trump administration and have everyone speculating why she didn’t (she didn’t want to go through the Senate confirmation process, etc.)

TRUMP WANTS JAMES MATTIS FOR DEFENSE SECRETARY – Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be secretary of defense, the Washington Post reports, nominating a former senior military officer who led operations across the Middle East to run the Pentagon less than four years after he hung up his uniform. To take the job, Mattis will need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law stating that defense secretaries must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950.

PRESIDENT OBAMA TO VISIT MACDILL AFB IN TAMPA ON TUESDAY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “While at the base, the President will have an opportunity to meet with uniformed leadership from both Commands as well as with some of the men and women stationed there,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “Among those the President will meet are members of our Special Operations community, who over the past 8 years been a key element of our relentless pursuit of terrorists who would threaten the United States of America. The President will offer his personal gratitude–and that of the nation–for the professionalism, skill, and sacrifice of those American patriots.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 350 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***

DAYS UNTIL: Premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 13; Inauguration Day – 48; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 74; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 105: Election Day 2017 – 340: Election Day 2018 – 703.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference at 8:30 a.m. at St. Mary Cathedral School, 7485 Northwest 2nd Avenue in Miami. Scott is expected to give an update on the Zika virus.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: CFO Jeff Atwater and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier will host a roundtable discussion on the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season at 10 a.m. at the Ringhaver Student Center, 2nd floor Virginia Room at Flagler College, 50 Sevilla Drive in St. Augustine.

A SCOOP FROM OUR NEW GUY – APPEALS COURT ALLOWS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PREMIUM HIKE TO TAKE EFFECT via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The 1st District Court of Appeal acted even before a trial judge could decide on a request to delay her ruling last week invalidating the increase under Florida’s open-government laws. For her part, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled following a brief hearing in her chambers that no stay was warranted. “It would not be appropriate for this court to approve further violation of the Sunshine Law and Public Records Law,” Gievers said. But she bowed to the inevitability that the case would be resolved on appeal. “I’m just trying to get you to the appellate court, where you want to be,” she told attorneys present in person and participating by telephone. Even before resolution of the legal situation, businesses were treating the increase as a fact of life. The Florida Chamber of Commerce, for example, issued a written statement complaining that the increase, as applied to new and renewal policies written during the next 12 months, would cost employers $1.5 billion. “Many businesses are telling us they will be forced to delay hiring, or even cut existing jobs, in order to cover this increase in their premiums,” Carolyn Johnson, director for business policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said in a written statement. “A rate like this puts Florida’s competitiveness and job creation directly at risk.” The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved the increase in September, based on recommendations by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI. The office has designated NCCI as the rating agency for workers’ compensation insurers in the state.

JEFF BRANDES FILES AMENDMENT 4 IMPLEMENTING BILL via Florida Politics — The St. Petersburg Republican filed Senate Bill 90, the implementing bill for Amendment 4. The ballot initiative passed with 73 percent support in August. The amendment removed the state’s tangible personal property tax, which taxes solar equipment installed. It also authorizes the Legislature to prohibit the devices from being considered when assessing the value of the property for tax purposes. “The voters of Florida spoke loud and clear that they expect the sunshine state to make the expansion of solar and renewable energy a priority,” said Brandes in a statement. “I have been committed to diversifying our energy portfolio, and I am excited about the opportunity to bring further investment in solar and renewable energy production. This legislation has broad, bipartisan support and I look forward to an early passage of this important bill in the 2017 Session.”

SOUTH FLORIDA HOUSE DEMOCRAT WANTS TO TOUGHEN PENALTIES FOR TEXTING WHILE DRIVING via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics –Weston Democratic state Representative Richard Stark [filed] bill (HB 47) that would allow law enforcement officers to pull drivers over for distracted driving as a primary offense, not a secondary one, as is current Florida law. “It’s nice for people to know that there’s a law, but the reality is that there’s no teeth in the law,” Stark said. Since the advent of cellphones over the past two decades, Florida has notoriously been behind the curve in passing legislation to deal with this technology and how it affects public safety. When the Legislature passed its current law making it a secondary offense to read or send a text three years ago, it came only after 40 other states had previously done so. “Most of the people I speak to publicly recognize that this is an issue that needs to be taken care, but having public support for something and having legislative support for something are two different things,” Stark says about the possibilities of his proposal passing in the 2017 session.

STATE WORKERS COULD LOSE OUT ON MILLIONS AFTER OVERTIME RULE DECISION via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The Labor Department estimates 331,000 Florida workers are affected, and many of them are state workers. A number of state agencies already have requested more than $12 million combined for either pay raises or increased overtime budgets to comply with the rule, which was to have taken effect on Thursday. State workers who were supposed to be eligible for overtime won’t be, according an email sent Thursday from Jim Parry, an assistant general counsel for the Department of Management Services, to union representatives. “In summary, employees who were to be changed from an ‘excluded’ to ‘included’ designation for overtime purposes due to their pay falling below the new minimum pay required by the proposed regulations are being retained in their ‘excluded’ status,” the email reads.

JEB BUSH CALLS FOR AN EDUCATION ‘EARTHQUAKE’ WITH NEW ADMINISTRATION, CONGRESS via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO Florida – Bush … hopes a new presidential administration and Congress will usher in an “earthquake” when it comes to education and federal education funding. “I keep hearing there’s a big shakeup in Washington, D.C. and I hope that’s true,” he said at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual summit. Bush founded the education reform organization in 2008. “This new administration and Congress have the real opportunity to bring wholesale disruption.” Bush also applauded Betsy DeVos, who has sat on the board of the foundation, as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. “What a phenomenal, strong woman,” he said. “She’ll do an extraordinary job as secretary of education.” People across the country are angry and anxious for a reason, Bush said. “The basic institutions in their lives don’t work, education being front and center,” he said. Bush named three major priorities moving forward: First, Congress needs to “cut strings that come with federal education funding and let states innovate with those dollars,” he said. Bush also stressed the need to direct more federal dollars to charter schools and allow states to expand education savings accounts, which allow parents to use tax dollars to pay for services, including private school tuition or therapy for students with special needs.

PERSONNEL NOTE: CHARLIE CRIST APPOINTS AUSTIN DURRER CHIEF OF STAFF via Florida Politics –Durrer has served in senior roles in both the legislative and executive branches over the past 15 years. He was a longtime aide and Chief of Staff to Congressman Jim Moran, a senior Member of the Appropriations Committee, and currently serves as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), overseeing the Department’s data technology mission. “Austin brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and a strong, steady hand to this important position. He’s an impact player who will build our team in Washington with a laser-like focus on serving the people of Pinellas County,” said Crist … “It’s an honor and a privilege to work for Gov. Crist on behalf of Pinellas County,” said Durrer. “He’s no ordinary freshman, and someone who has dedicated his life to looking out for the little guy. I look forward to helping advance his agenda of bringing common sense solutions to Washington, to bridge the political divide, serving as the voice for the people of Pinellas County on Capitol Hill.”

OFFICE ASSIGNMENTS DON’T GO WELL FOR CRIST via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – As an incoming Democrat coming into his first term in a U.S. Congress controlled by Republicans, Crist knew he was going to get the dregs of offices … new representatives have no claim on the offices that are coveted for their locations, size or other features, so they get assigned the worst of the worst offices via a lottery … How did Crist do? About as bad as can be imagined. That last pick in the lottery pretty much means Crist will be looking at offices in the Longworth House Office Building or the Cannon Office Building. There’s no underground train connecting these buildings to the Capitol, so lawmakers will have to brave the elements.

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RICHARD CORCORAN OFFERS LOBBYIST ‘TRAINING’ TO ADJUST TO NEW LEGISLATIVE LIMITATIONS via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – The lobbyist training will cover contract disclosure requirements for lobbyists who represent public entities as well as other rules. “The Rules are in effect now, and many lobbyists are submitting issue disclosures and working with House members to prepare Appropriations Project Requests,” Corcoran wrote to lobbyists Thursday. “We hope you are able to attend one of the training seminars to answer questions that arise as you operate within these new rules.” The House will also have livestream and YouTube videos as well as a public crowdsourcing to ensure ethics compliance.


Mary Andrews: Lee Memorial Health System

Ron Book: Palmetto Surety Corporation

Pete Buigas: Sero Action Fund

Liz Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: The Nemours Foundation

Chris Dudley, Jerry McDaniel, Paul Mitchell, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: Florida State College at Jacksonville Foundation; Genex Services, LLC

Jody Finklea: Florida Municipal Electric Association

Natalie Kato, Lewis Longman & Walker: Florida Mosquito Control Association, Inc.; Southern Poverty Law Center

Jim McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: The Treatment Center

Tim Meenan, Sarah Niewold, Joy Ryan, Meenan PA: Ethos Group; Infinite Energy, Inc.

Jim Peluso: St. Johns River Water Management District

Ben Wolf, ISF, Inc.

Ed Woodruff: St. Petersburg College

WHAT JEFF SHARKEY IS READING – ELON MUSK’S SOLARCITY EXPANDING IN CLERMONT via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel –The company’s new Florida effort comes just weeks after the defeat of an Election Day amendment critics said would have stifled competition. The company … has begun installing solar energy systems in the Orlando area, will hire more people locally and expects to expand to other parts of the state “in the coming months.” SolarCity recently began making loans to help pay for the systems and installations available to any homeowner. The company right now employs 54 people, who have been working in Florida since last year, installing systems in new homes and military family housing from its Florida headquarters in Clermont. The company employs installers, salespeople and others who support operations there. CEO Lyndon Rive did not say how many people the company would hire in Florida, but said it could be hundreds, depending upon demand.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sen. Debbie Mayfield and Joey Redner. Belated wishes to Brian Bautista and Mitch Wertheimer.

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.01.16

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


The 2016 hype has barely died down, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start talking about 2018.

There’s been plenty of chatter about the gubernatorial race already. The will he or won’t he (or she) has been going on for weeks, and the list of potential candidates seems to grow by the day.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has raised big money, but the Republican hasn’t said whether he’s actually going to make a go of it. Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, is ready to run a 67-county strategy — if she runs, that is. John Morganis, at the least, enjoying flirting with the idea, as are several other Florida politicos.

If a new Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer is any indication, Democrats might have a leg up come Election Day. The poll of 3,250 registered voters showed both Graham and Morgan would defeat several potential Republican foes.

In a hypothetical match-up, Graham would defeat Putnam, 37 percent to 34 percent. Put Attorney General Pam Bondi on the ballot, and Graham’s lead grows. The poll shows she’d receive 44 percent of the vote, while Bondi would get 36 percent.

She also holds an 8-point lead over CFO Jeff Atwater. In a hypothetical match-up between the two, Graham would receive 40 percent compared to Atwater’s 32 percent. The poll shows Graham would trounce outgoing Rep. David Jolly, getting 40 percent of the vote compared to Jolly’s 29 percent.

Morgan, an outspoken Democratic donor and medical marijuana proponent, also comes out on top in head-to-head match-ups. In a race between Morgan and Putnam, the Orlando Democrat would receive 39 percent compared to 35 percent for Putnam. The Gravis Marketing poll shows Morgan leads Atwater, 41 percent to 34 percent.

The bombastic attorney has a double digit lead over Jolly and Bondi in the Gravis Marketing poll. Morgan leads Bondi, 45 percent to 35 percent; and has a 11-point lead (42-31) over Jolly.

We wouldn’t take these numbers to the bank, though. The poll showed between one-quarter and one-third of respondents said they weren’t certain who they would vote for come 2018.

And why should they be? There are still 705 days until the gubernatorial election, after all.

BILL NELSON EARLY FAVORITE IN 2018 U.S. SENATE RACE — The Gravis Marketing poll shows Sen. Nelson could be poised to win re-election in 2018. The poll of 3,250 registered Florida voters showed the Orlando Democrat had a double-digit lead over Attorney General Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott. In a hypothetical race between Nelson and Bondi, Nelson would receive 50 percent of the vote, while Bondi would receive 35 percent. The poll showed 15 percent of respondents said they weren’t certain who they would vote for. In a head-to-head match-up between Nelson and Scott, Nelson would receive 51 percent compared to Scott’s 38 percent. Scott is mulling a 2018 bid, telling reporters in November a run against Nelson was “an option.” In a hypothetical Nelson-Scott race, 11 percent of respondents said didn’t know who they would support.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a law enforcement budget announcement at 9:30 a.m. at the Florida Highway Patrol, 133 S. Semoran Blvd. in Orlando.

HAPPENING TODAY — AIDES MEET AHEAD OF DEC. 6 CABINET MEETING — Cabinet aides for Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and CFO Jeff Atwater will meet at 9 a.m. in the Cabinet meeting room at the Florida Capitol. Aides are expected to discuss issues expected to come up during the Dec. 6 Cabinet meeting.

HAPPENING TODAY – ANALYSTS SET TO DISCUSS COMMUNICATIONS TAX — The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet at 2 p.m. in room 117 of the Knott Building to discuss issues related to the gross receipts tax and the communications service tax.

IN-STATE COLLEGE TUITION RATES FOR FLORIDA’S UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS COULD BE IN DANGER via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — Heralded as a bipartisan victory when it passed, a Florida law granting in-state college tuition rates to undocumented students could now be in danger. A bill filed Wednesday by conservative Florida Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, seeks to erase that 2014 provision. Colleges no longer would have to waive out-of-state fees for undocumented students who attend Florida high schools. “It is certainly a big issue in my district among my constituents, who were frustrated and upset that the state would allow undocumented illegal immigrants to receive taxpayer-supported in-state tuition,” he said. “So I think it’s important to file the bill and have a discussion on it.” … More than a decade of contention preceded the 2014 tuition bill. When it finally passed in a high-profile 26-13 vote in the Senate, Republican Gov. Rick Scott deemed it “a historic day.”

STUDENTS URGE COLLEGES TO ESTABLISH ‘SANCTUARY CAMPUSES’ FOR UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida — Students from at least two higher education institutions in the state have started petitions urging administrators to declare their schools “sanctuary campuses.” … The term is modeled after “sanctuary cities” — municipalities that have adopted policies to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. As of Tuesday evening, a petition at New College of Florida had gained 783 signatures from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, according to its author, Ximena Pedroza. The Sarasota liberal arts school is the smallest in the State University System, enrolling about 850 students. … The petition lists eight demands of the administration, including that it “declare New College of Florida to be a sanctuary campus that will actively refuse to comply with immigration authorities regarding deportations or raids.” … A separate petition calls on Florida International University’s leaders to make the Miami school enrolling 55,000 a “sanctuary campus.”

NEW HOUSE EDUCATION CHAIRMAN WHO OPPOSED SCHOOL RECESS PLAN ‘WILL TAKE A LOOK’ AT IT IN 2017 via Kristen M. Clark of the Miami Herald — After being one of only two Florida House members to oppose it last session, Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca said he’s open to considering a renewed effort to mandate recess time at Florida’s public elementary schools. But he indicated the proposal could still face some potentially tough scrutiny in 2017. “I will take a look at it,” Bileca told the Herald/Times. “The areas I had difficulty with were not changed (last session), so we’ll need to see what’s changed.”… In filing a bill on Tuesday, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, got the ball rolling to revive the Legislature’s recess debate for next session. Rep. Rene Plasencia, the Orlando Republican who advocated for the issue last spring, is drafting the House companion.

LAWMAKERS PREPARE DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO CANNABIS IMPLEMENTATION via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida — After an overwhelming majority of Floridians approved an expansion of medical marijuana in the state, lawmakers are preparing to hash out the regulatory set-up for the growing industry. …Republican State Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg is planning to fill a bill that would likely afford the greatest expansion of medical cannabis availability. It’s a bill that he said “rhymes” with one he filed last year. That effort failed. But this time, he said he has an army of voters backing him up. “This is as close to a mandate as the Legislature can get on this,” he said in an interview with POLITICO Florida. He added that he wants medical marijuana implementation that “looks, acts and feels medical.” While he wants to allow for products that patients can smoke and eat, he said he doesn’t want to allow cannabis products to be packaged like candy or in any way attractive to children.

BARBARA WATSON PROPOSES STATEWIDE COMMISSION TO REVIEW POLICE SHOOTINGS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Miami Beach Gardens Representative Watson filed a bill last week that would create special review commission to reveal fatal use-of-force incidents by law enforcement personnel. “I think there’s a loss of confidence with the community” when it comes to some cases of police shootings, Watson said … “And once the community knows the process and knows what level of that process the investigation is in, I think it kind of restores their confidence in the system this should be a parallel investigation, independent of the police department, and that they can move forward with confidence.” The proposal, HB 43, calls for a 15-member board selected by the attorney general, all of whom would serve a four-year term. The bill says that at least five members must not come from a local law enforcement agency, nor the Florida Departments of Law Enforcement, Corrections, or Legal Affairs. Obviously, that means that as many as 10 officials could be from those agencies. Sitting judges and members of the Legislature would not be allowed to serve on the committee. The bill calls for the head of a local law enforcement agency to contact the commission with 24 hours after a use of force has resulted in the death of a member of the public. That police chief or sheriff would also need to contact the agency within a week after an internal affairs report was completed regarding such an incident. If that report exonerated the officer(s) in question, the commission, after reviewing the case, could call on the Attorney General for “prosecution consideration if the use of force appears unlawful.” The commission would also have subpoena power, something eluding activists who in 2015 called for an independent citizens’ review board in Tampa. Many of those same activists said they intended to put a charter amendment on this November’s ballot to allow such subpoena power, but they failed to do so.

BILL AGAIN TARGETS ATTORNEY FEES IN PUBLIC RECORDS CASES via Florida Politics – New state Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican and lawyer, is again behind the legislation (SB 80). He backed a version of the bill last session as a state representative. It passed the Senate unanimously but died in the House. The measure changes the word “shall” to “may” regarding courts awarding legal fees when an “agency (has) unlawfully refused to permit a public record … to be inspected or copied.” It would also require a “complainant (to) provide written notice of the public records request to the agency’s custodian of public records at least 5 business days before” suing. Records requests are not normally mandated to be in writing. The idea is to cut down on the number of “frivolous” lawsuits at taxpayer expense by eliminating guaranteed attorney fees in cases where public officials made an honest mistake, bill advocates have said, including the Florida League of Cities. Open government watchdogs, such as the First Amendment Foundation, have countered that the bill would instead affect legitimate actions against local governments and state agencies that unreasonably refuse to respond to record requests.

PARKINSON’S WON’T STOP ME, LARRY METZ SAYS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Metz, a Yalaha Republican who represents House District 32 in Lake County, revealed his diagnosis during [an] interview for an opening on the Florida Supreme Court. The 61-year-old, a lawyer in private practice, did not make the final cut. On Tuesday night, he told he didn’t “want to talk about it too extensively because it is a private health issue.” … “Obviously, it’s out there in the public domain because I disclosed it in a context I thought I needed to,” Metz said in a phone interview. But the disease “hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want to do.” Parkinson’s is a “chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time,” according to the Parkinson’s disease Foundation. The disease, which has an unknown cause, often manifests through trembling of the hands, legs and jaw. “I haven’t started taking medication for symptoms at this point, though there will come a time when I do,” Metz said. “It’s usually very effective and there are many examples of people that live with Parkinson’s disease for decades, finding themselves able to do their normal, everyday activities.”

CARLOS GUILLERMO SMITH BRINGS A PROGRESSIVE AGENDA TO THE FLORIDA HOUSE via Monivette Cordeiro of Orlando Weekly – What sets House District 49’s newest representative apart is how easily a bullhorn slips into his hand as he leads chants in a protest against Donald Trump, discrimination or efforts to stymie the minimum wage, all while wearing slim jeans and a fashionable blazer. And he’s also not afraid to be the lone voice of disagreement among friends. When President Barack Obama came to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Orlando, Smith joined with a small group to protest the trans-Pacific Partnership and then later went on to introduce the president to a crowd of thousands. “I’m going to find a way to leverage my unapologetic grass-roots identity with this new role,” he says. “If I have to motivate people to get involved by grabbing a bullhorn or knocking on doors, I’ll do that.” A longtime progressive activist, the 35-year-old Democrat is the first openly queer Latinx to serve in the Florida Legislature. Politics isn’t the first path he imagined his life taking. After being raised by a Canadian mother and Peruvian father in Boca Raton, he moved to Orlando and graduated with a business degree from the University of Central Florida in 2003 … The election of Donald Trump has been a tough pill to swallow for many Democrats in Florida, especially Bernie Sanders supporters like Smith who voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in hopes they could push for progressive policies under her presidency. Still, under a President Trump, Smith hopes to collaborate with his fellow legislators when he can and push for progress, such as by fully funding the Bright Futures scholarship, decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, safeguarding women’s reproductive rights, fighting structural racism and income inequality, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and expanding anti-discrimination workplace protections to include LGBTQ people.

DUVAL DELEGATION ELECTS JAY FANT AS NEW CHAIR, AARON BEAN AS VICE CHAIR via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Duval County Legislative Delegation selected a new chair and vice chair during a meeting in Jacksonville this week. The delegation voted unanimously to appoint Rep. Fant, a Jacksonville Republican, to serve as its chairman for the 2017 legislative session. “I am honored that my colleagues have entrusted me with the responsibility of leading our efforts to make the most of Duval County’s tremendous opportunities,” said Fant in a statement. “I look forward to working with them to make sure our constituents’ interests are vigorously represented in Tallahassee and we enact policies that will strengthen our economy and bring more jobs to our area.” The delegation also selected Sen. Bean to serve as its vice-chairman.

MORE FUNDING TO BATTLE HEROIN EPIDEMIC AMONG PALM BEACH COUNTY’S LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Palm Beach County unveiled a 43-page list of state legislative priorities Tuesday, which includes a call for more funding to battle the prescription drug and heroin epidemic. “This represents the diverse interests of the whole county,” said Rebecca DeLaRosa, director of legislative affairs for Palm Beach County. Commissioners are calling for increased funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment, a dedicated revenue source of homelessness programs and additional dollars to battle mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika. Addressing the prescription drug and heroin overdose epidemic is one of the county’s top priorities, officials say. Commissioners want the state to reimburse agencies that use the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, commonly referred to by its brand name Narcan. The creation of Westlake, Palm Beach County’s 39th city, prompted several items to be included in this year’s list. Developers used a tailor-made law to incorporate the city with only five registered voters. Other priorities include banning the use of e-cigarettes indoors in areas where tobacco use is prohibited, increasing penalties for people who use rental cars to commit crimes and allowing slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. Commissioner Melissa McKinlay is supporting legislation called “Brittany’s Law” named in honor of 18-year-old Brittany Baxter, who was killed in April 2015 when a driver ran a stop sign. The 17-year-old driver had received eight citations in the 33 months he had been authorized to drive.

MARIA SACHS FACES SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew Damsky Monday filed sexual harassment charges against Sachs. He said the three years he worked for the 67-year-old Delray Beach Democrat left him with pain and discomfort. The case was first reported by Gossip Extra in June when Damsky filed a sexual harassment charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sachs denied all the charges then and has repeatedly done so since. A Boca Raton native, Damsky resigned from Sachs’ staff in February after admitting to making about $50,000 in unauthorized charges on an office credit card.

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MIAMI STOP LIKELY ON TRUMP’S VICTORY TOUR via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Trump is expected to visit key states that helped win him the election, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida. Several sources have told the Miami Herald that Trump’s “thank you tour” is planning to hit Miami in the next few weeks, though a date isn’t firm yet. The president-elect is said to miss the energy of his massive campaign rallies.

MARCO RUBIO: ‘BUILDING A WALL IS A PHRASE’ via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “Building a wall is a phrase that is about securing the border and enforcing our immigration laws. And I think that’s something we need to move on first,” Rubio said … in an interview with Sean Hannity. “I’ve — I’ve said now for a long time that it is the key that unlocks the door to be able to do anything else on immigration.” Rubio’s comments reflect what other Republicans on Capitol Hill have said as questions have come up about the cost and feasibility of a wall, at least as Trumpdescribed it. Rubio said he generally agreed with Trump’s domestic agenda but carefully noted potential differences on foreign policy. “We’ll see how that develops. He’s had — as I said, he’s never held public office before, so he said some things on the campaign trail. We’ll see how that translates to foreign policy,” Rubio said. What are those concerns, Hannity asked, nothing Trump’s pledge to get  “rid of” the Iranian deal, “identify radical Islamists” and stay away from “foreign entanglements” like Iraq.

ANOTHER FLORIDIAN WHO WAS ‘DRUG CZAR’ HAS ADVICE FOR PAM BONDI via Steve Bousquet of the Miami Herald – That would be Bob Martinez, the former Republican governor and mayor of Tampa, who held the post in 1991 and 1992 in the last two years of President George H.W. Bush‘s term. When Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, Martinez headed back to Florida. In the alphabet soup of the federal bureaucracy, the Cabinet-level agency is known as ONDCP, the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Martinez, now a lobbyist at Holland & Knight’s Tampa office, knows the route to Senate confirmation. He schmoozed with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, then chaired by Democrat Joe Biden … completed the lengthy Senate questionnaire for high-level appointees; and won Senate confirmation on an 88-12 vote. He also endured his share of negative press coverage along the way, like the 1992 Orlando Sentinel editorial that said: “The drug czar office of Bob Martinez is a joke. It has neither the power nor the right people to fight the nation’s drug war.” He said the job required working with other federal agencies, law enforcement agencies, states and local governments, and to get drug treatment money to where it was needed most. “You do a lot of jawboning to get things done,” Martinez said. “It’s not something that’s direct. Policy is your domain.” Bondi is the subject of much speculation that she’ll be offered a job in Trump’s administration after working to help him win Florida.

BLAISE INGOGLIA TOUTS CONGRESSIONAL ENDORSEMENTS FOR RPOF CHAIR RE-ELECTION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – In an announcement … Ingoglia noted 11 congressmen or future congressmen from all over the state who were willing to go to bat for his second bid at party chair. The congressmen had warm words on Ingoglia, who officially announced his candidacy for the position this week. Many of them honed in on the pivotal role Ingoglia played in Florida’s part of the GOP’s successful election results earlier this month. “The GOP enjoyed great success in Florida in 2016, and Blaise deserves credit for his leadership and vision,” said U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. “I believe he will be able to build on the success from the 2016 cycle and should be elected to another term.” Many of the wins — especially Trump‘s — were hard-fought battles for Republicans, but many ultimately emerged victorious to head to their offices in Tallahassee and in Washington. Grassroots support has been at the forefront of Ingoglia’s mission since taking the job and many attribute Ingoglia’s grassroots movement as a crucial aspect to the GOP’s overall success. “The organization Chairman Blaise Ingoglia put in place this past election cycle was crucial in delivering big wins from President-Elect Trump and Senator Rubio, our Congressional delegation, and the state Senate and state House,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho. “I am proud to support his bid for re-election and with his continued leadership our party will be more than prepared for the 2018 cycle.”

HAPPENING TONIGHT — NEAL DUNN HOSTS “PRIMARY DEBT RETIREMENT” FUNDRAISER — Incoming Rep. Neal Dunn is scheduled to hold a “primary debt retirement breakfast” at 8 a.m. Thursday at The Capitol Hill Club, 300 1st Street, SE in Washington, D.C. The event calls for a $2,500 contribution to be considered a PAC host and $1,000 contribution to be an individual host. The event will benefit Friends of Neal Dunn. Dunn defeated two other Republicans in the Aug. 30 primary in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The doctor defeated Democrat Walter Dartland and Libertarian Rob Lapham in the November general election.

‘THE GIRL RESCUED AT SEA’ STEPHANIE MURPHY RIDES THAT HUMANITARIAN SERVICE INTO CONGRESS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – When she was six months old, her family fled Vietnam on a refugee boat. Stephanie, her mother, father, brother and dozens of mostly strangers, all yearning for freedom and better lives, went adrift when their boat ran out of fuel. Supplies were running low. This was on the South China Sea, in thousands of square miles of open water. Along came her hero, the U.S. Navy, which intercepted their little boat, provided fuel, food, water and other supplies, and helped them make the crossing to Malaysia. The Lutheran Church took it from there, getting them from a Malaysian refugee camp to America, where her family settled in Virginia. ‘The girl rescued at sea,” as a congressional campaign flyer dubbed her, will not forget the humanitarian assistance the sailors provided. Nor does she want to disappoint them … She helped organize the U.S. Navy’s rescue, relief and recovery assistance to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that swept through south Asia, particularly Indonesia, in late 2004. “I always say it was the greatest honor of my life, to be able to work alongside uniformed men and women, knowing that they rescued me at sea,” Murphy said in an interview … “And then to be working alongside them, rescuing other people in Southeast Asia in the aftermath of such a devastating tsunami, the long hours, getting home in the middle of the night, and then turning on the TV, and seeing U.S. men and women in uniform delivering water and caring for the people who had been injured, it was incredibly satisfying, and something I’m so proud of.” She pledged a willingness to work across the aisle and that includes working with a Donald Trump White House, even though her campaign had demonized Trump in an effort to also demonize John Mica by association. “The campaign is over. And as I said throughout the campaign, I’m willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me,” she said. “That’s the approach I’m going to take with this administration.”

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FLORIDA PRISON AGENCY ENDS YEARS OF DENIALS AND AGREES TO PAY WHISTLEBLOWERS $800,000 via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The prison agency also agreed to end lawsuits by three other department whistleblowers, closing a chapter in what has been one of the most tumultuous eras in state prison history. The agreement, filed in Leon County Circuit Court … exonerates investigators of the FDC inspector general’s office, Doug GlissonAubrey Land and John Ulm, after they came forward with evidence that they believed an inmate at Franklin Correctional Institution, Randall Jordan-Aparo, had been gassed to death by prison guards. The Aparo’s family has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the state. The agency does not agree to the allegations but does agree to pay Glisson, Land and Ulm each $133,333 and drop all pending internal investigations. Glisson and Ulm will also receive more than $4,100 in wages lost from a recent demotion, in return for agreeing to leave the agency. The settlement also ends the retaliation claims by employees James PadgettDavid Clark and Christina Bullins, who each will receive $50,000. The attorneys who handled the case, Steven R. Andrews and his son, Ryan Andrews, will be paid $250,000. “They didn’t offer up this settlement because they liked us,” said Glisson, a supervisor whose last day at the agency he has worked at for more than 20 years [was] Wednesday. “They really didn’t want this to go to a jury trial.”

FLORIDA SLAVERY MEMORIAL PROPOSED FOR CAPITOL via the Tallahassee Democrat – A Democratic lawmaker has proposed the creation of a “Florida Slavery Memorial” that would be built at the state Capitol complex. Rep. Kionne McGhee … filed the proposal (HB 27) last week for consideration during the 2017 legislative session, which starts in March. The Department of Management Services would be required to build the memorial after considering recommendations from the Florida Historical Commission, according to the bill. “It is the intent of the Legislature to recognize the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the American Colonies and to honor the nameless and forgotten men, women, and children who have gone unrecognized for their undeniable and weighty contributions to the United States,” part of the bill says.

WHAT CHRIS HUDSON IS READING – DWAYNE JOHNSON’S ‘BALLERS’ MOVES TO CALIFORNIA FROM FLORIDA, WILL GET $8.3 MILLION TAX CREDIT via Dave McNary of Variety – “Ballers” is scheduled to shoot its next 10 episodes in California, where it will employ 135 cast, 209 base crew and 5,700 extras. The series will generate an estimated $33.5 million in “qualified expenditures,” defined as wages paid to below-the-line workers and payments to in-state vendors — making it eligible for a 25 percent tax credit for its first season in California, followed by a 20 percent credit for any successive seasons. “Ballers” is the seventh series to relocate to California under the state’s expanded tax incentive program, launched last year. “We’re thrilled to welcome another TV series and the long-term jobs it will create in-state,” said California Film Commission executive director Amy Lemisch. The 2015-16 fiscal year marked a major expansion of the seven-year-old tax credit program, aimed at halting the erosion of California-based production to states with bigger incentives such as Georgia and New York. The annual allocation rose from $100 million to $330 million, and applications are ranked on how many jobs they will produce, rather than being selected by lottery. The program expansion, enacted in 2014 by California lawmakers, covers five years and $1.65 billion in tax credits. The credit is set at 20 percent, but producers are eligible for an additional 5 percent “uplift” if they shoot outside the Los Angeles zone, commit to music scoring or music track recording in state, or to do visual effects in California. The commission also disclosed … that it had reserved tax credits for 22 recurring series that are already in the program from the most recent tax credit application period, held Nov. 14-29. Lemisch said the specific tax credit allocations have not been determined since it’s uncertain whether all of the series will be picked up. She estimated that the total allocation for “Ballers” and the 22 series would be around $75 million. “The industry responds very favorably whenever we’re able to level the tax credit playing field,” she added.

YES, VIRGINIA, THERE WILL BE A CIGAR PORCH AT THE GOVERNORS CLUB via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Despite years of delays, an outdoor deck in front of the private club at Adams Street and College Avenue “is still a go,” said general manager Barry Shields. The deck, which will hold 10 to 12 outdoor tables under the existing magnolia tree, had been hung up in permitting with the city of Tallahassee. “At this point, I’m still hoping that we’ll have it ready to go by the first day of session,” Shields said. The 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7. It’s been two years since a smoke-free happy hour was instituted in the club’s first-floor lounge, which had been beset with clouds of offending stogie smoke that sent some patrons fleeing. Smoking is prohibited in the club, except on the second-floor balcony, which hosts occasional cigar dinners, and in the lounge after 7 p.m. The building, at 202-1/2 S. Adams St., was built in 1926 to be a Masonic Lodge … After a time, it became an Odd Fellows hall, and Governors Club later took possession of the building. It opened in 1982, where it has been continuously operating since.

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Workers comp rate hike ruling gives trial lawyers reason to cheer. But how long will it last?

Karen Gievers
Karen Gievers

This Thanksgiving, a Leon County judge gave trial lawyers one more reason to be thankful. But that may not last long.

On Nov. 23 – just one day before Thanksgiving — Circuit Judge Karen Gievers put the brakes on a 14.5 percent workers’ compensation rate increase, scheduled to go into effect Dec. 1.

Gievers ruled that in setting the new rate, state officials and the insurers’ rating organization were not in compliance with Florida’s Sunshine Laws and open meeting requirements.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation announced Tuesday it will file an appeal.

In effect, the decision said the rate increase negotiated between the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), which represents insurers, and the state regulators within the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), cannot go into effect and that NCCI must turn over documents requested by the plaintiff in the case.

In a statement, the Florida Chamber said the ruling was not a “victory” for Florida businesses, warning they shouldn’t be “fooled by this classic trial lawyer tactic.”

A closer look finds Givers also has a decades-long history with those above referenced trial lawyers.

As a member of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, Givers served as chair of the public committee from 1984-1986, on the board directors from 1985-1987, and as Treasurer (1988-1989), secretary (1987-1988); President-elect (1989-1990) and President (1990-1991).

One note that could give the Chamber, business groups and the insurance industry a glimmer of hope: Gievers has the distinction of being one of the circuit’s most overturned judges, more than most other sitting judges.

In her opinion, Gievers cited “multiple non-public, secret meetings held by (the National Council on Compensation Insurance) internally and with the (Florida Office of Insurance Regulation)” before a public meeting in August, a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.

NCCI also violated the law after the August meeting, Gievers wrote.

However, if that were truly the case, why hadn’t other judges, as well as the FJA, intervened earlier, particularly when previous rates were set – citing similar Sunshine Law violations?

Paul Jess, general counsel of the Florida Justice Association, applauded the court’s “wise decision to strike down an outrageous, unsupported and indefensible rate hike on Florida’s employers.”

“Workers’ compensation insurance companies have enjoyed profit increases as they’ve flagrantly denied legitimate claims,” Jess told POLITICO Florida. “This greed-driven practice hampers the ability of working Floridians to return to their jobs.”

Putting that statement in context, Jess represents the same trade association where Gievers served as an officer and which the plaintiff in the case is also a member.

Furthermore, trial attorneys are a clear beneficiary of the underlying Castellanos decision, which would garner significantly higher fees for their respective firms.

Perhaps they could use those fees to pay additional premiums; something (ironically) Florida employers can’t do.

Mark Touby, who is president of Florida Workers’ Advocates, said the insurance industry is increasing the rates without explanation. While NCCI is the body requesting rate hikes, the NCCI board of directors is also populated with executives closely tied to the insurance industry.

“The business community needs to recognize that they’ve got the fox guarding the hen house when it comes to rates,” Touby said. “I’m hopeful that once the whole data is made public and in accordance with Sunshine Law that this whole rate increase will be deemed unnecessary.”

It should also be noted that the insurance industry does not set rates. Carriers file data with a state agency, which in turn forward recommendations to the Office of Insurance Regulation.

OIR is ultimately responsible for setting workers’ compensation rates; using data, public hearings, and sworn testimony before promulgating a rule. It is a process that includes compiling information filed before it is made available for public comment.

This means any stakeholder can review the information – or not – before filing. But once data is collected and submitted to the state’s Statistical Agent (NCCI), no carrier is involved further.

The bottom line is this: trial lawyers are asking for a seat at the table during the internal deliberations of private companies. But what private firm would allow public access to its board room?

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 11.30.16

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


I read about late last night and had to share it with Sunburn readers.

This big-picture story from The New York Times’ Amanda Taub on the state of democracy globally — and in the United States — is troubling. Particularly this passage, where Taub writes:

Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ thing had risen to 1-in-6 in 2014, compared with 1-in-16 in 1995.


That trend is particularly strong among young people. For instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers calculated that 43% of older Americans believed it was illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19% of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 53% of older people thought a military takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36% of millennials agreed.”

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DRIVING THE DAY – CHRIS HART TOP PICK FOR NEXT ENTERPRISE FLORIDA HEAD via Florida Politics – Hart, longtime president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, was recommended Tuesday to become the next head of Enterprise Florida (EFI), the state’s public-private economic development organization. EFI’s executive committee unanimously backed Hart; the full board meets Wednesday morning at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa in the Florida Panhandle. The leading candidate, Michael Finney, took his name out of contention to pursue a teaching position. Finney had been president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The other candidate is Richard Biter, a retired assistant secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. Hart, if approved, will be paid $175,000-$200,000 per year, down from former agency leader Bill Johnson’s salary of $265,000. The agency’s head also serves as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce.


The Florida Senate’s ruling class has been crowned.

Senate President Joe Negron unveiled the final members of his leadership team and committee chairs Tuesday. Allies got prime posts. Freshmen senators snagged chairmanships. And for the second term in a row, a future Senate President is now the Majority Leader.

Here are seven things to know about the Senate hierarchy:

Call him “Leader” — Negron tapped Sen. Wilton Simpson to be the Senate Majority Leader for the 2016-18 term. The Trilby Republican is often credited with helping to end the fight for the Senate presidency between Negron and Sen. Jack Latvala, and appears to be handsomely rewarded. Simpson is in line to become the Senate President in 2020-22, as long as Republicans keep the majority. And he’s the second future Senate President to serve in the role in recent years. Sen. Bill Galvano held the position during the 2014-16 term, and is line to ascend to the presidency in two years.

Double duty — Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, will have her hands full for the next few years. Negron picked Flores, a longtime ally, to serve as his Senate President Pro Tempore, and on Tuesday announced she’ll be chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services appropriations subcommittee and the Senate’s Banking and Insurance committee. She’s also the No. 2 on all-powerful Senate Appropriations committee, serving as vice-chair to Latvala’s chairman.

Rule-maker — Negron looked to another top ally, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, to chair the Senate Rules committee. A former Senate Majority Leader, the Fort Myers Republican will now play a big role in deciding which bills make it to the Senate floor. She’ll also be tasked with navigating the occasional — and sometimes sticky — rules dispute.

Pinellas power — One thing was clear Tuesday: Pinellas County lawmakers scored plum assignments. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, had already been installed as the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations committee. But on Tuesday, Negron announced Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, would serve as chairman of the Senate’s Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee. Need money for a project in Pinellas? The next two years might be the best time to ask.

High priority — It’s not a secret that Negron plans to make higher education and criminal justice a top priority for his time as president. He’s vowed to boost the state’s public universities and wants to put an end to what he has called the criminalizing of adolescence. To help accomplish his goals, Negron turned to Galvano and Sen. Randolph Bracy. Galvano will serve as the chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee, where he’ll be responsible for finding cash for help fund Negron’s priorities. Negron tapped Bracy, a freshman Democrat, to chair the Senate Criminal Justice committee. Expect him to tackle policies that will help reduce the number of juveniles who end up behind bars.

Democrats in charge — Bracy isn’t the only Democrat that Negron picked to head a Senate committee. In a show of bipartisanship, Democrats will be at the helm of three other committees. Sen. Lauren Book, a freshman member from South Florida and the daughter of legendary lobbyist Ron Book, will chair the Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee. Negron tapped Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson to serve as the chairwoman of the Military and Veteran Affairs, Space and Domestic Security committee; while Tallahassee Sen. Bill Montford will serve as chairman of the Commerce and Tourism committee.

Pro-gun chairman — An advocate of expanding the rights of gun owners will now oversee the same committee that blocked concealed carry legislation in years past. Negron picked Sen. Greg Steube, a freshman Republican senator from Sarasota, to head the Judiciary Committee. Steube backed bills to expand the rights of concealed weapon permit holders while in the House, but many were blocked by then-Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee. Steube has said he’s planning to file a broad bill to expand the rights of concealed carry permit holders, and legislation has already been filed in the House.

— “Senate Democrats not completely shut out of power in Joe Negron administration” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

— “Senate education committees get makeover, new leaders via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida

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TOM LEE FILES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ON PROPERTY TAXES via Florida Politics – Lee has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to keep “dramatic increases in annual property tax assessments” in check on vacation homes and other properties. “Failure to pass this joint resolution will result in one of the largest tax increases in the history of our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Florida voters will have the ultimate say on the 2018 ballot, but it is the legislature’s responsibility to act in a timely manner so these important provisions don’t expire.” The amendment, which would apply to Section 27 of Article XII of the state constitution, would protect limits now in place on annual tax hikes. Florida voters amended the constitution in 2008 to give property owners some protection, according to a statement from Lee’s office. “The amendment, set to expire in 2019, currently prohibits the assessment of certain non-homestead property, including second homes, rental properties, vacation homes, vacant land or commercial property, from increasing by more than 10 percent per year,” it said. “Sen. Lee’s resolution would extend this provision indefinitely.” Property owners affected by this provision in 2016 will save $776 million, he said.

HAPPENING TODAY – DUVAL LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION MEETS TO SELECT CHAIR — The Duval County legislative delegation will hold an organizational meeting at 1 p.m. in Jacksonville City Council Chambers, 117 W. Duval Street in Jacksonville to elect the incoming 2016-17 delegation chair and vice chair. The committee will also convene for its general legislative public hearing. The meeting is scheduled to go until 5 p.m.

INSURANCE OFFICE APPEALS RULING BLOCKING WORKERS’ COMP PREMIUM HIKE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has appealed a trial court ruling blocking a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, putting that ruling on hold pending review by a state appeals court. The office filed its notice of appeal … with the 1st District Court of Appeal. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled … that the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, which proposes rates for workers’ compensation insurers in Florida, failed to open its deliberations to the public or provide its data to an actuarial expert retained by the plaintiff in the case. That, Gievers concluded, violated Florida’s open-government laws. Miami workers’ compensation attorney James Fee had challenged the rate hike in his capacity as a business owner who buys insurance for his employees. His lawsuit named NCCI and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. The rating agency said it also planned to challenge Gievers’ ruling. The increase, valued at $1.5 billion, was due to begin taking effect Thursday and would roll out over the next 12 months as business owners’ policies come up for renewal. The office approved the increase Oct. 5.

JUDGE FINDS FOR CORRECTIONS IN DRUG-TREATMENT VENDOR DISPUTE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – An administrative law judge is recommending dismissing a challenge to the Department of Corrections seeking outside substance-abuse treatment and other transitioning-back-into-society services in Orange County. Bridges of America, the Orlando-based nonprofit that runs the program, has for months been waging a legal and PR battle to keep its facility open, and another in Broward County. The Broward battle ended in a settlement. Corrections has been letting its agreements with vendors expire as part of a larger plan to reduce services “outside the walls.” The department previously announced a new program called Spectrum, which will offer many of the same services Bridges provides, but inside the state’s prisons. Judge Lisa Shearer Nelson last week found that the department’s invitation for bids was “not contrary to competition, arbitrary or capricious, and (does) not contravene the Department’s governing statutes, the agency’s rules or policies.” … “The successful vendor under the (request for proposal), should there be one, would still be providing a community release center,” she wrote. The order went back to the department, which is expected to adopt its findings. “The department is looking forward to continuing to work with Bridges of America to provide services to inmates and offenders in an effective and efficient manner,” Michelle Glady, FDOC spokewoman, said in a statement.

BONG BAN DOESN’T APPLY TO MEDICAL POT, ADVOCATE SAYS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Florida’s bong ban, as toothless as critics say it may be, now is preempted by the recently approved constitutional amendment on medical marijuana. That’s according to Ben Pollara, campaign manager of United for Care. The group has fought for the ballot initiative, which first failed in 2014 before passing this year with 71 percent of the vote. State law prohibits devices such as “metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic pipes,” commonly known as “bongs,” when used to smoke pot. But the amendment’s language says “medical marijuana treatment centers” can “sell (and) distribute” what it calls “related supplies,” so long as they go to “qualifying patients or their caregivers” and are registered with the state Department of Health. “The plain language of the amendment covers ‘related supplies’ and was written that way precisely because of poorly conceived pieces of public policy such as the law in question.” Pollara said. Lawmakers have tweaked the bong ban over the years, to include ever more inventive ways of smoking. They have outlawed “2-liter-type soda bottles” if used to smoke an illegal substance, and even have banned “balloons” and “duct tape” if used as drug paraphernalia. State Sen. Darryl Rouson … backed a bill when he was in the House that made the sale of all marijuana pipes a first-degree misdemeanor, with second and subsequent violations classified a third-degree felony. The Legislature passed the bill, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott and became law in 2013. But even Rouson has admitted that the amendment, if passed, would basically nullify any bong ban as it relates to medical pot.

FLORIDA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION APPLAUDS DONALD TRUMP FOR HHS PICK via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The president-elect selected Georgia Rep. Tom Price, a critic of the Affordable Care Act, to head the Department of Health and Human Services. If confirmed by the Senate, he is expected to play a critical role in Republican efforts to repeal and replace the current health care law. “As a physician, Dr. Price understands the impact that government policies have on the delivery of care and we believe he will bring common-sense solutions to the challenges facing our health care system,” said Dr. David Becker, president of the Florida Medical Association. Price, a 62-year-old six term congressman and orthopedic surgeon, has chaired the House Budget Committee for the past two years. A conservative from the Atlanta suburbs, he has worked closely with House Speaker Paul Ryan to craft GOP budgets aimed at reducing the deficit. “President-elect Trump has made an excellent decision in nominating Dr. Price,” said FMA CEO Timothy J. Stapleton. “He has spent his entire career serving as an advocate for patients, as both a physician and a legislator. We look forward to working with him to improve our nation’s health care system.”

— “Trump adds Dennis Ross to transition team” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

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HAPPENING TODAY — STEVE SCHALE TALKS TO TALLAHASSEE TIGER BAY CLUB — The Democratic consultant is scheduled to speak at the Capital Tiger Bay Club at 11:30 a.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola in Tallahassee.

HAPPENING THURSDAY — NEAL DUNN HOSTS “PRIMARY DEBT RETIREMENT” FUNDRAISER — Incoming Rep. Neal Dunn is scheduled to hold a “primary debt retirement breakfast” at 8 a.m. Thursday at The Capitol Hill Club, 300 1st Street, SE in Washington, D.C. The event calls for a $2,500 contribution to be considered a PAC host and $1,000 contribution to be an individual host. The event will benefit Friends of Neal Dunn. Dunn defeated two other Republicans in the Aug. 30 primary in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The doctor defeated Democrat Walter Dartland and Libertarian Rob Lapham in the November general election.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Eddie BorregoPhil Compton, former Rep. Keith Fitzgerald.

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