Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
GOOD NEWS FROM THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND
Before we get into all of ‘Castro is dead’ stuff, here are three items worth sharing…
SHE SAID YES! via the Facebook page of Floridian Partners’ Cory Guzzo: “Two big wins yesterday. I got on one knee and @LibbyWhitley said yes plus the Noles put a beat down on the Gators. Good start to this engagement!”
SHE SAID YES, TOO! The world of politics has brought two more love birds together. Former legislative assistants Katherine San Pedro and Brian Delburn are now engaged. Now both legislative affairs directors in Miami, (she’s with AT&T, he’s with Tenet), they met in 2012 as LAs in Tallahassee. She’s Cuban American, he’s from Alabama, and they dated long distance for more than two years until Delburn made the move for love in December 2014. Their favorite city to visit is New Orleans, which Delburn visited often as a child. There’s an old tile street reference just off St. Louis Cathedral for the road “Calle De San Pedro” where they take an obligatory picture every visit, except this time, Delburn added a special message at the end.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD: Madison DeSantis, the daughter of Casey and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who wrote on Facebook. “Casey and I are so happy to welcome our daughter Madison, who was born 7 lbs, 7 ounces and very healthy. Mom and baby are doing great. What a blessing!”
NOW, ON TO FIDEL…
THE OFFICIAL WORD via Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party: Dear people of Cuba: “It is with deep sorrow that I come before you to inform our people, and friends of Our America and the world, that today, November 25, at 10.29pm, Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz passed away. In accordance with his express wishes Compañero Fidel’s remains will be cremated. In the early hours of the morning of Saturday 26, the funeral organizing commission will provide our people with detailed information regarding the posthumous tributes which will be paid to the founder of the Cuban Revolution. ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!”
THE OFFICIAL MIAMI HERALD OBIT (A TRUE MUST-READ) – FIDEL CASTRO IS DEAD via Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald – Castro, who towered over his Caribbean island for nearly five decades, a shaggy-bearded figure in combat fatigues whose long shadow spread across Latin America and the world, is dead at age 90. His brother Raul announced the death late Friday night. Millions cheered Fidel Castro on the day he entered Havana. Millions more fled the communist dictator’s repressive police state, leaving behind their possessions, their families, the island they loved and often their very lives. It’s part of the paradox of Castro that many people belonged to both groups. Few national leaders have inspired such intense loyalty — or such a wrenching feeling of betrayal. Few fired the hearts of the world’s restless youth as Castro did when he was young, and few seemed so irrelevant as Castro when he was old — the last Communist, railing on the empty, decrepit street corner that Cuba became under his rule.
TWEET, TWEET: @mattdpearce: Every time newspapers haul out amazing obits they wrote a decade ago, it’s like uncorking a bottle of wine the vintner hardly makes anymore.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE CASTRO ERA Click here.
— “Behind the scenes: How the Miami Herald’s ‘Cuba plan’ became a reality” via Aminda Marqués Gonzalez of the Miami Herald
— “In Havana, Fidel Castro’s death lays bare a generation gap” via Damien Cave and Hannah Berkeley Cohen of The New York Times
— “Florida Coast Guard not preparing for large Cuban migration” via the Associated Press
RICK SCOTT STATEMENT: “I join Cuban-Americans and Floridians across the country who are incredibly hopeful for the future of Cuba. After decades of oppression, the Cuban people deserve freedom, peace and democracy. I have met so many Cubans who have come to Florida to flee the tyranny, brutality, and communism of the Castro brothers’ oppressive regime and now is the time to look at policy changes that will demand democracy in Cuba. Today’s news should usher in an era of freedom, peace and human dignity for everyone in Cuba and the State of Florida stands ready to assist in that mission. I spoke to President-elect Trump this morning to let him know that the State of Florida will help his administration in any way to support a pro-democracy movement in Cuba.”
COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF REACTIONS FROM FLORIDA POLS Click here.
— @AdamPutnam: Florida is richer for all the families who arrived after Fidel took all they had. More to be done. Cuba libre!
— @LopezCantera: Has it finally come? FIDEL IS DEAD! I pray this is beginning of a free and democratic Cuba.🇨🇺 Wish my Abuelo & Abuela were alive to see this
— @RepCurbelo: The passing of the dictator marks the end of a long, horrifying chapter in #Cuba‘s history. The #Cuban people need our solidarity #Castro
— @SenReneGarcia: Hopefully with the death of the oppressive tyrant #Castro our family’s can finally witness the beginning of an open and free Cuba.
— @JoseFelixDiaz: Tonight we close a dark chapter in the history of Cuba – a day after Thanksgiving – we give thanks and pray for a free Cuba
— @JulioGonzaelezMD: A despot died last night. ¡Viva Cuba libre! With great hope for the future of human rights in #Cuba.
— @RepMannyDiazJr: The death of the despot dictator and thug Fidel Castro marks the end of an era, you will see an emotional response 56 years in the making.
— @DaneEagle: Praying for a #FreeCuba and for all families past & present torn apart by this evil regime. Here’s to paving a better way forward
— @AdamHasner: Castro put his political opponents to death via firing squads. Folks who are romanticizing him should stop and think about that
— @AlbertoMartinez: Here’s all you need to know about Fidel Castro: He was a truly evil monster, among history’s worst.
— @DiazLeyva: A chapter in the tragedy of the #Cuban Revolution has ended. Repression continues. We stand in solidarity with the Cuban people. #Freedom
— @TheRickWilson: Fidel Castro was an evil monster vomited forth from hell to torment the people of Cuba. Don’t sugarcoat it, don’t pretend. Face it. Evil.
— @PatriciaMazzei: For years, the mantra for @MiamiHerald reporters going on vacation was, “Don’t call me…unless Fidel dies.” Happened tonight.
— @JimDeFede: In many ways Fidel’s death is anticlimactic. He lost power long ago. But his death brings a needed emotional release to Cuban-Americans
MUCH UNCERTAINTY AHEAD IN U.S.-CUBA RELATIONSHIP
In death as in life, Castro has divided opinion: a revolutionary who stood up to American aggression or a ruthless dictator whose movement trampled human rights and democratic aspirations.
Raul Castro is 85. Their Communist Party shows no signs of opening up greater political space despite agreeing with the United States to re-establish embassies and facilitate greater trade and investment.
As Barack Obama leaves office in January, his decision to engage rather than pressure Havana in the hopes of forging new bonds could quickly unravel. Trump has hardly championed the effort and Republican leaders in Congress fiercely opposed Obama’s calls to end the 55-year-old U.S. trade embargo of the island.
“We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families and of the Cuban nation,” Obama said.
He offered neither condemnation nor praise for Castro, who outlasted invasion and assassination plots, and presided over the Cuban missile crisis, which took the world to the brink of nuclear war.
“History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” Obama said, adding that U.S.-Cuban relations shouldn’t be defined “by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends.”
Donald Trump didn’t pass off his evaluation to the historians.
“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” Trump said in a statement. “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
Trump expressed hope that Castro’s death would mark a “move away from the horrors” toward a future where Cubans live in freedom. But he said nothing about Obama’s project to reset ties, and even hailed the election support he received from veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion that was backed by the CIA.
Such a statement probably will irritate Havana, coming after a two-year period of intense diplomatic discussions with Washington that have done more to improve relations between the countries than anything in the past 5 ½ decades.
SCOTT SPEAKS WITH DONALD TRUMP, PLEDGES FLORIDA’S HELP TO ‘SUPPORT A PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT IN CUBA’ via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO – … saying Castro’s death should bring a “new era” of freedom to the communist island nation only 90 miles from Florida’s shores. Scott did not lay out any specifics on how the state could assist in such efforts or what else was discussed with Trump. The governor’s public schedule Saturday was dominated by meetings with Cuban-American lawmakers and leaders from South Florida. He spoke with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, along with U.S. Rep.’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo. Scott expressed optimism over Cuba’s future following Castro’s announced death Friday night. The longtime dictator died at age 90, though his 85-year-old brother Raul remains in power as president. “I join Cuban-Americans and Floridians across the country who are incredibly hopeful for the future of Cuba,” said Scott. “After decades of oppression, the Cuban people deserve freedom, peace and democracy.” He said “now is the time to look at policy changes that will demand democracy in Cuba.”
MARCO RUBIO: TIE US.-CUBA CHANGES TO DEMOCRATIC REFORMS ON ISLAND via the Associated Press – The Florida Republican said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that Castro’s death will not by itself usher in major democratic changes. Rubio says current Cuban President Raul Castro is dedicated to protecting the communist system created largely by his brother. Rubio … has opposed much of the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations pushed by President Obama. But Rubio also says he’s not against all such reforms, only those in which the U.S. or the Cuban people get little in return. Rubio says he believes Trump will closely re-examine U.S.-Cuba relations once he takes office in January.
YEARS OF PLANNING PAY OFF FOR CNN AND MIAMI HERALD’S COVERAGE OF CASTRO’S DEATH via Al Tompkins of Poynter – Shortly after Castro‘s death, the Herald’s website was flush with stories about the Cuban dictator, reflecting Miami’s connection with the island. For decades, Herald staffers have known about the “Cuba Plan.” “At one point it was super print-focused,” Executive Editor Mindy Marques told Poynter. “We talked about special print editions, we had it organized around the time of day, what we would do in terms of print.” The plan changed as news consumption habits changed over the decades, taking into account how the story would break online. The politics of Cuba also forced big revisions to the Herald’s “Cuba Plan.” “At one point we planned for an abrupt death that would have resulted in an exodus from the island,” Marques said. “We began planning how we could get with the Coast Guard when people take to the seas. But when the baton was passed from Fidel to Raul, it blunted that.”
Newsrooms have treated rumors of Castro’s death with caution because there have been so many false reports over the years. “It seemed at one point every six months a rumor would start,” Marques said. “Inevitably, somebody would find a picture of him and it would be debunked. We have not had a false alarm in a while. I don’t remember one this year.” The misleading reports did have an upside, though. “The only good thing about those false alarms is we would dust off the plan, go through it again, update them,” she said. The news broke too late for the print editions of the Herald and other East Coast papers, but CNN had a newsflash as Raul Castro made the announcement. The news came on Cuba’s government TV in a dimly lit studio with portraits of Communist leaders in the background.
IN TAMPA, AGREEMENT THAT CASTRO WAS ONE OF A KIND via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics –There was no harsher a critic of the Castro regime in Cuba than Ralph Fernandez. Yet the Tampa attorney who represented a number of former political prisoners in Cuba over the past several decades says that nobody ever challenged the U.S. government as the longtime Cuban leader … “The guy stood up to America like no one could. He represented a shrimp of a country, just a dot on the map, and he was just in our face, and he became the advocate for an entire Third World,” Fernandez said Saturday morning. “We have to acknowledge that he was the most eloquent, articulate speaker of the Spanish language of all time. He was brilliant. He was evil. He was one of a kind.” But Fernandez also compares Castro to some of the most evil men who ever walked the earth. “It’s great news, but it’s way late. Now he’s gone off to spend time with his friends: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot and the rest of the gang, if there’s a hell, he should be there for eternity.”
Al Fox is perhaps the best known advocate in Tampa for advocating for opening up relations with the Cuban government. Since creating the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation in 2001, he’s taken more than 100 trips to the Communist island, and he is fierce in criticizing those who deride Castro’s Cuba as a wasteland for its people. “He took a country that 70 percent of all the land was owned by foreigners, and he gave it to the people,” Fox said. “And he took a country where only the elite were educated, and only the elite had proper medical care, and today you have a country of 11.5 million, and the people of Haiti, El Salvador, Nicarguua, Honduras – they all wish they could live like a Cuban lives, but the perception out there is the complete opposite.”
— “Pain of communist Cuba still vivid for Tampa woman” via Laura Morel of the Tampa Bay Times
IN TAMPA, SOME HOPE DICTATOR’S DEMISE SYMBOLIZES DEATH OF AN IDEA via Paul Guzzo, Kathleen McGrory and William Levesque of the Tampa Bay Times – The death of the former Cuban president brought jubilation to the city’s community of Cuban exiles with dancing and cheering Saturday in the street near a West Tampa club, Casa de Cuba, that serves as a gathering place. Theirs was a restrained response in comparison with the all-night revelry of Miami’s Little Havana. But many of Tampa’s immigrant families had left Cuba long before Castro rose to power. For them, it was less personal.
Some hope his death will herald an improvement of both personal and business ties between the United States and Cuba. “This is something everyone has been waiting for — waiting for change, waiting for the dictator to be gone,” said Rafael Pizano, whose father, Roberto Pizano, spent 18 years in a Cuban prison and was tortured for his efforts to oust Castro. “But now he is dead. I want to see what will happen with Cuba now. Will it remain a dictatorship or will it transition to a democracy that respects the people and works for the people?”
Tampa has had a complicated relationship with the Cuban dictator from his earliest days. Almost 170,000 people of Cuban ancestry live within a two-hour drive of Tampa International Airport, a concentration second only to Miami and New York. Castro visited Tampa exactly 61 years ago, spending five days and staying at the home of a Cuban native at 1614 14th Ave. His travels took him to cities with heavy Cuban-American populations to raise money to overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Tampa figured prominently in the 1950s efforts by Castro supporters to run guns to the guerillas fighting Batista. The news Jan. 1, 1959, that Castro’s revolution had ousted Batista was greeted with unrestrained joy in Ybor City and West Tampa. Drivers blared horns and waved Cuban flags with cries of “Cuba Libre!” That joy would in the coming years turn to despair after it became clear to many that Castro’s turn to communism marked the replacement of one repressive dictator with another. But Saturday, the cheers returned.
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DAYS UNTIL: Premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 17; Inauguration Day – 52; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 78; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 109: Election Day 2017 – 343: Election Day 2018 – 707.
SMART TAKE – RICK SCOTT MAY SERVE AS A MODEL, AND WARNING, FOR DONALD TRUMP via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – He was opposed by the Republican establishment. During a contentious campaign he spoke forcefully about the need to crack down on immigration. And he used millions of his own money to bolster his political career. President-elect Trump? No, Rick Scott, the current governor of Florida. While they are oceans apart in temperament and public demeanor, Scott and Trump were both political neophytes who came from a business background and won elections despite being viewed as longshots unable to convince voters to look past their controversial histories. Scott and Trump, who is vacationing this week at his home in Palm Beach, are also longtime friends. “One of the reasons I always believed he would win Florida … is that Florida had already elected someone similar to him,” Scott said when discussing Trump’s nearly 113,000-vote victory in the Sunshine State…
And as the country gets ready for a Trump administration his friend and political ally Scott may prove a valuable example of the challenges that lie ahead. After being in office for five years Scott has been forced to drop campaign promises, alter his stance on key issues and deal with an ongoing divide with members of his own party. But Scott has also shown that it can be wrong to underestimate him. There are key differences between Scott and Trump, points out Brian Burgess, who started working for Scott when he created a group to oppose President Barack Obama‘s health care overhaul and would later serve as Scott’s first communications director. Burgess calls Scott reserved and extremely disciplined, while Trump is more a showman who speaks off the cuff.
TRUMP TAPS FELLOW FLORIDA RESIDENT WILBUR ROSS FOR COMMERCE SECRETARY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Ross, 78, has a home near Trump in Palm Beach and also resided in New York. He’s a billionaire “king of bankruptcy” investor known for buying companies on the cheap. “Part of the reason why I’m supporting Trump is that I think we need a more radical, new approach to government — at least in the U.S. — from what we’ve had before,” Ross told CNBC in June. For 24 years as a banker at Rothschild, Ross developed a lucrative specialty in bankruptcy and corporate restructurings. He founded his own firm, W.L. Ross, in 2000 and earned part of his fortune from investing in troubled factories in the industrial Midwest and in some instances generating profits by limiting worker benefits.
TRUMP SPENT THANKSGIVING ASKING: MITT OR RUDY? via Emily Smith of the New York Post – The talk at Trump’s Thanksgiving dinner at his Florida club was all about if he should pick Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani for secretary of state. The president-elect held court at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago club at a large table with family members including wife Melania and sons Ericand Barron … Trump took a prime table next to the fireplace in the club’s living room, but spent a lot of time greeting members and asking who they think should be his top diplomat. The spy said, “Donald was walking around asking everybody he could about who should be his secretary of state. There was a lot of criticism about Romney, and a lot of people like Rudy. There are also many people advocating for [former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.] John Bolton.” Guests joining Trump … Christopher Nixon Cox, the grandson of Richard Nixon, who we are told is being lined up to be Trump’s ambassador to China. Also there was Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Newsmax Media Christopher Ruddy, boxing promoter Don King, interior designer William Eubanks and political consultant Mary Ourisman. Attracting almost as much attention as the president-elect was chiseled romance-novel hunk Fabio, who was seated at a table near Trump, and “was asked for pictures nearly as often as Trump himself.”
TRUMP’S WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL PICK NARROWS PAM BONDI’S OPTIONS via Peter Schorsch – Gathered with family at his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach estate for the holiday weekend, Trump named his White House counsel and in doing so, ended the hope of Attorney General Pam Bondi serving in that position.
Although Bondi had been mentioned as a possible Attorney General pick and remains the leading candidate for Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, or Drug Czar, the former Hillsborough County state prosecutor was said to have had her eye on serving as Trump’s chief legal counsel.
“She’s a lawyer and she’s loyal,” said one source close to both Bondi and the president-elect when asked after Jeff Sessions was named Attorney General in which position Bondi might serve.
The possibility of Bondi serving under Sessions as a deputy attorney general is a non-starter for her, sources close to Bondi say.
This leaves Drug Czar as the only and natural place for Bondi to land, although it’s not necessarily a lock that Bondi will trade Tallahassee for Washington, D.C. Still, Bondi’s vigorous crackdown on Florida’s pill mill industry and her hot war efforts against the use of synthetic drugs, along with her early support of Trump’s candidacy and her own political skills, likely means the position is hers if she wants it.
— “If Bondi leaves, here’s early short list for attorney general’s job” via Steve Bousquet offlori the Tampa Bay Times
FLASHBACK: Jesse Panuccio was first mentioned as a possible successor to Bondi in the 11.14.16 edition of Sunburn.
WILL TRUMP OFFER JOE GRUTERS A JOB IN HIS ADMINISTRATION? via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News — Although he’s just been sworn in as one of the newest lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives, Gruters’ eyes could be focusing elsewhere as he ponders life beyond Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C., toying with the possibility of a job with … Trump. … While Gruters tells Sunshine State News he hasn’t accepted any official offers to take a job in the Trump administration just yet, he didn’t rule out the possibility. Trump has to fill more than 4,000 jobs, only a handful of those personally. “We will wait and see what happens,” Gruters told Sunshine State News. “I believe in Trump and the movement he created and any way I can help the movement, here in Washington or anywhere else, [I will.]” It clearly sounded like interest.
— “Gruters likely to retain GOP chair position” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
WHAT WILL FLORIDA EDUCATION LOOK LIKE UNDER A TRUMP PRESIDENCY? via Colleen Wright and Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – School choice appears to be a central theme of Trump‘s agenda for K-12 education. That much is clear, based on the few details he shared during the campaign and his announcement that Betsy DeVos will be his pick for Secretary of Education. But with little else to go on, those who follow education in Florida say there is no telling how schools will be affected by Trump’s presidency. DeVos, a prominent figure in Michigan, is nationally known for pushing to expand and deregulate charter schools, and working to steer public money toward vouchers that allow students to attend private schools. She also has strong ties to Florida, where she sits on the board of Jeb Bush‘s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a strong proponent of school choice. Trump has pledged $20 billion in federal dollars that would follow students to whatever school they choose — public or private … the money would be distributed to favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws. … Key observers suggest that the future of education policy, both nationally and in Florida, is in a wait-and-see mode. Even those most involved in these issues didn’t want to speculate publicly, saying Trump did not make clear during the campaign what he has in mind. “Not sure if or how the Florida model plays into the Trump plan or vice versa,” said former Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson, a member of the president-elect’s transition team.
— “4 ways Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan could affect Palm Beach County” via Kristina Webb of the Palm Beach Post
— “President-elect Trump should intervene in APR Energy dispute” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics
— “What Brevard County wants to see from President Trump” via FLORIDA TODAY
SPOTTED at #2 on this Breitbart story “Beware: Meet Top 6 #NeverTrump GOP insiders“: Al Cardenas, former Florida GOP chairman.
JEB BUSH CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION TO PASS TERM LIMITS via Harper Neidig of The Hill – Writing in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the former Florida governor said that the GOP should use its newfound power to remake the way the government works. “Americans, by wide majorities, agree that Washington is broken, so let’s send power back to the people and back to the states,” Bush wrote. “Republicans should support convening a constitutional convention to pass term limits, a balanced-budget amendment and restraints on the Commerce Clause, which has given the federal government far more regulatory power than the Founders intended.” … He called on Republicans, who will soon control the White House and Congress, to better define their stance in opposition to an overbearing federal government. “The GOP has no excuse for failure,” Bush wrote. “We are in charge of both the executive and legislative branches in Washington, and we dominate in the states like never before.” “We have the power to set the agenda, and we have the responsibility to govern, not merely on behalf of the voters who supported President-elect Trump, but for all Americans.”
MEANWHILE: Hillary Clinton now leads Trump by 2.2 million votes nationally, according to the Cook Political Report. David Wasserman forecasts Clinton’s final lead will be roughly 2.5 to 2.7 million votes, or about 2%.
TWEET, TWEET: @RealDonaldTrump: In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
MANY IN FLORIDA COUNT ON BARACK OBAMA’S HEALTH LAW, EVEN AMID TALK OF ITS DEMISE via Abby Goodnough of The New York Times – Trump and Republicans in Congress are vowing to repeal much or all of the health law, a target of their party’s contempt since the day it passed with only Democratic votes in 2010. If they succeed, they will set in motion an extraordinary dismantling of a major social program in the United States. But for now, with open enrollment for 2017 underway, people are steadily signing up or renewing their coverage, and in conversations last week in South Florida, many refused to believe that a benefit they count on would actually be taken away.
Florida helped hand Trump the presidency when he narrowly won the state, but it has also provided more customers for the federal health insurance marketplace than any other state. This makes Florida a window to the complex and delicate task Trump and congressional Republicans face in deciding whether to scrap the entire law, which has brought coverage to more than 20 million people, and what to replace it with. Even though Gov. Scott fiercely opposes the law, more than 1.5 million Floridians were enrolled in marketplace plans as of March, the last time the Obama administration released data. And some of the problems that have plagued the marketplaces in other states have been less of an issue here: The premium increases and overall prices have been lower than average, and at least in urban areas, a number of insurers are still participating.
***November marks National Home Care Month, which recognizes more than 68,000 Florida nurses, home care aides, therapists, and social workers who provide cost-effective, high-quality health care in the patient-preferred setting. These caregivers represent more than 2,500 home care agencies that serve 180,000 Floridians at home every day. Last year alone, the Florida home care industry created 109,000 jobs at a $3.92 billion net economic growth to the state. Celebrate the home care industry’s contribution to Florida’s families and economy at HomeCareFLA.org***
CAPITOL HOLIDAY DISPLAY WOULD PAY HOMAGE TO POLICE SHOOTING VICTIMS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A South Florida activist and former blogger has again filed to erect a “Festivus” pole in the state Capitol this year as a holiday display. But this year’s pole has a politically charged twist, according to Chaz Stevens‘ application to the state. “The all black, six-foot-tall Festivus-inspired pole will contain the names of all unarmed black men killed by police in 2016,” Stevens wrote. The application has not yet been acted on by the Department of Management Services, which oversees state property. For the last few years, reviewing and approving holiday displays in the Capitol’s plaza-level rotunda has been a thorn in the side of state administrators. The only other application for the 2016 holiday season is from the First Coast Freethought Society in Jacksonville. It wants to display a poster that “explains the astronomy producing the winter solstice and the historical reasons for celebrating at this time of year,” its application says. Other past displays have included a crèche from Florida Prayer Network/Florida Nativity Scene Committee; a 9-foot-tall menorah; a placard with a tongue-in-cheek message to “celebrate the true meaning of Xmas” with “friends,” “fun” and “Chinese food” by American Atheists; and a “Flying Spaghetti Monster” display by Secular Student Alliance and Pastafarian Peter Wood.
JOE NEGRON SHARPENING SALES PITCH FOR LAKE O LAND-BUY AS HOUSE LOOKS TO TIGHTEN SPENDING via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – With new House Speaker Richard Corcoran already calling for reducing state spending, his freshly minted counterpart, Senate President Negron, may have to polish his sales pitch to win his signature priority — a massive land buy south of Lake Okeechobee. Negron has proposed a $2.4 billion plan to buy 60,000 acres, mostly in western Palm Beach County, for a reservoir that would stem the need for discharges which he said “poisoned” the waterways of surrounding communities. “We’ve made a lot of progress, because no one says that the status quo is acceptable,” Negron said, hours after being sworn-in at this week’s organization session of the Legislature. Negron plans to seek $65 million in taxpayer money to bond $1.2 billion over 20 years, using voter-approved Amendment 1 money that produces more than $700 million a year for conservation.
REPEALING PIP, IMPLEMENTING AMENDMENT 4 TOP PRIORITIES FOR JEFF BRANDES IN 2017 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The St. Petersburg Republican said repealing the state’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) system will be one of his top priorities during the 2017 legislative session. The decision to file the bill comes just a few months after a study revealed Floridians could save an average $81 a car if the state drops the system. “We believe that PIP is not the right product for Floridians going forward,” said Brandes. Brandes and Rep. Bill Hager filed legislation in 2016 to repeal the law, which requires drivers to buy $10,000 PIP coverage. The proposal, which would have ended the requirement by 2019, did not receive a hearing during the 2016 legislative session. Brandes is hoping 2017 is different, and thinks a recent analysis that showed consumers could see a savings if the program is repealed will help his cause. Florida is one of 10 states that has personal injury protection auto insurance, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The program was intended to provide injured drivers up to $10,000 in medical coverage in lieu of establishing fault, but in recent years the number of PIP claims have increased. In fact, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported Florida led the nation in PIP Questionable Claim referrals in 2009. And not only was it the highest in the nation, a National Insurance Crime Bureau report found Florida had twice as many claims as the next highest state, New York. In addition to repealing PIP and implementing Amendment 4, Brandes said he will once again take a look at local pension reform. “We don’t file easy legislation … we file things to do with real problems,” he said. “We think pension obligations are a huge untold story in politics, that they are taking down states and nations.”
BROWARD LAWMAKER HEALING AFTER SPINAL CORD INJURY TOOK AWAY HIS ABILITY TO WALK via Kristen M. Clark of the Miami Herald — In early October, Shevrin Jones abruptly lost the ability to walk. The affable 33-year-old state representative from Broward County ruptured part of his lower spinal cord during an accident at the gym, causing a nerve injury that his doctors told him should have left him paralyzed. After emergency surgery, a follow-up procedure and rigorous physical therapy, Jones not only walked again far sooner than expected — seven weeks later, he walks now with assistance only from a cane. “I thought there was a point I’d never walk again,” Jones said. “Through my faith, my determination and by the grace of God, I’m much better.”
NCCI VOWS TO APPEAL COURT RULING ON WORKERS COMPENSATION via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida — The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which sets workers’ compensation rates, will appeal Wednesday’s ruling by Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers to strike down a 14.5 percent increase in rates slated to take effect on Dec. 1. “We continue to believe that NCCI and the Florida OIR have fully complied with the law,” said Dean W. Dimkhe. Amy Bogner, a spokeswoman for the Office of Insurance Regulation, also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, told POLITICO Florida in an email that it was “in the process of reviewing it to determine next steps.” In her 73-page ruling Gievers — who once ran for insurance commissioner — said that the NCCI violated Florida’s sunshine law in developing the proposed rate increases.
SURTERRA, TRULIEVE VIE FOR STATEWIDE MARIJUANA MARKET via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Trulieve, the brand name for Hackney Farms of Quincy, opened the state’s first dispensary in Tallahassee in July. Surterra followed a month later with its first wellness center in Tampa. Surterra and Trulieve are miles ahead of the pack. A year since the licenses were awarded, they were the first to begin distributing their product to a portion of the nearly 1,000 patients who are authorized to receive medical-grade marijuana in Florida. And they are the first to open dispensaries in more than one city with plans to expand statewide. The two companies plan to tap into what will likely be a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business with 250,000 or more potential patients. That potential patient pool becomes even larger with the recent passage of Amendment 2, which makes medical marijuana accessible to a broader range of patients. “We want to make sure patients across Florida don’t have a problem accessing this medicine that is allowable under the law,” said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve. After the passage of the Compassionate Use Act in 2014, the Department of Health created an application process to determine who would win the right to grow, process and distribute medical marijuana in Florida. Of the more than 70 nurseries identified by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as meeting the criteria, only 28 applied. They each paid a nonrefundable $60,000 application fee, had to prove that they could cultivate low-THC marijuana, were in continuous existence for 30 or more years and were certified to cultivate more than 400,000 plants. The winning nurseries had to put up a $5 million security bond. The deadline for the application process was July 8, 2015. Those that applied were scored by three officials, and the top five were awarded dispensary licenses — one for each of the five regions. The five were approved last November.
WHAT ASHLEY WALKER IS READING – ORLANDO GRAPPLES WITH AIRBNB, OTHER RENTAL NETWORKS via The Associated Press – Orlando is one of many cities across the country grappling with how best to regulate services such as Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey, which help homeowners rent out their property on a short-term basis to travelers seeking an alternative to traditional hotels. Though there are hundreds of local listings on these sites in the Orlando area, the city and Orange County consider short-term rentals a code violation in the large majority of residential areas. Both governments currently cite short-term renters only after receiving complaints. Coming up with a policy to more specifically govern these services is complicated by a 2011 state law that restricted cities’ abilities to regulate vacation rentals, officials say. “The unintended consequence was that it ties the cities’ hands from passing new short-term rental ordinances,” said Orlando’s chief planner, Jason Burton. “… We can’t even have that conversation because the state has preempted us.” In a statement, spokesman Ben Breit said Airbnb has “a very positive and productive working relationship with policymakers” in Orlando and Orange County, citing the company’s recent pact with the county to collect hotel tax from its users. Currently, city code defines leases of less than 30 days as vacation rentals, a commercial use banned in all but a few of Orlando’s residential districts, such as Lake Eola Heights, which permits them as bed and breakfasts, but only if the owner lives on-site. Orange’s rules are similar; short-term renting is allowed in about 4 percent of the county. The city and county have received about 15 complaints each in the past six months. Gripes include cars parked along roadways, noise or lost renters arriving at the wrong door.
WHAT KELLY COHEN IS READING – ORLANDO, THE DAY AFTER via Sean Flynn of GQ (with a h/t to Daniel Lippman of POLITICO) — In a year of uncompromising tragedy, the Orlando shooting-a terrorist attack that left 49 dead and 53 wounded, a crime of inhuman design-stands out as among the most difficult to comprehend. This story is not about what happened that night but, rather, what happened in the days and weeks and months that followed, as a community-a community of unbreakable young men and women-found it within themselves to forge ahead.
ENTWINED IN POLITICS, CHRISTIAN ZIEGLER SEEKS STATE POSITION via Zac Anderson of Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Ziegler’s life has been deeply entwined with GOP politics ever since he signed on with Congressman Vern Buchanan’s first campaign a decade ago. Until recently, though, Ziegler mostly stayed in the background. The 33-year-old Sarasota resident worked outside the spotlight to bolster the GOP locally and statewide. He’s been an insider and a role player in a world where competition for the top jobs can be fierce. But over the last few years Ziegler has quietly amassed more clout within the state party and worked to become a public advocate for conservative principles, building up to his recent announcement that he will compete to lead the Florida GOP as its next chairman. In the process he is taking on an incumbent party chairman, Blaise Ingoglia, and stirring up a latent conflict between Ingoglia and Scott that has roiled Florida GOP circles. … If he succeeds, Ziegler would take over one of the most important political party jobs in the country, leading the GOP in a mega state that can swing presidential elections and often is on the national political radar. That might seem like a tall task for someone barely 10 years removed from his first foray into politics as a young campaign intern, but Ziegler’s allies say he shouldn’t be underestimated. “He’s been working very hard behind the scenes and politics is a young man’s sport,” said former Sarasota GOP Chair Eric Robinson.
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FIRST IN SUNBURN – PRIME STRATEGIES ANNOUNCES STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIP WITH TEXAS STAR ALLIANCE — Prime Strategies is joining forces with Texas Star Alliance. The firm announced a strategic relationship with Texas Star Alliance, a top government affairs firm with deep legislative and political expertise in Austin and throughout Texas. “Texas Star Alliance is a top-tier firm stacked with talented professionals with an encyclopedic knowledge of Texas and the unique considerations for anyone trying to do business there,” said Patrick Maloy, the managing partner of Prime Strategies, in a statement. “The bottom line is Texas Star Alliance delivers excellent results for their clients. We are excited about offering their capabilities to our clients and working with them in our national practice.” Established in 2010, Texas Star Alliance is a full service public affairs firm with expertise in direct lobbying, strategic communications, business development, and public relations, among other things. “We at Texas Star Alliance are pleased and honored to establish a strategic relationship and close partnership with Prime Strategies,” said John R. Pitts, the founder and managing principal of Texas Star Alliance, in a statement. “We offer an unparalleled suite of services and level of expertise to our clients, and partnering with Prime Strategies, which exhibits these same skills and is demonstrating significant strategic growth, was an easy decision that will deliver meaningful results for our expanding client base.” The relationship part of Prime Strategies’ vigorous expansion strategy. In addition to Texas, the firm, which launched in February 2016 and an affiliate of Floridian Partners, has an active presence in Florida, California, New York, and Washington, D.C. Last month, Prime Strategies, merged with Los Angeles-based Urban Associates.
PERSONNEL NOTE: ALBERTO MOSCOSO MOVES TO FDEM via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Moscoso, formerly press secretary for the Department of Corrections, now is communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). Moscoso, who also holds the title of Public Information Officer, started the new job Nov. 18 … “We are excited and proud to welcome Alberto,” said Bryan Koon, the state’s director of emergency management. “His experiences serving both our country and our state will provide our team with the diverse skill set essential to accurate and effective communications during times of crisis.” At Corrections, Moscoso “developed and honed the skills of strategic public relations, crisis communications and relationship development with media and community partners.” That department has long had a contentious relationship with the press, including, most recently, a public spat with POLITICO Florida over its report that the agency misled the public about plans to eliminate transitional programs for prisoners and probationers.
PERSONNEL NOTE: DAVE MURZIN JOINS LIBERTY PARTNERS OF TALLAHASSEE AS NW FLORIDA DIRECTOR via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “We are honored to have Dave join forces with the Liberty Partners team.” said firm owner and President Jennifer Green in a statement. “This strategic partnership gives us the opportunity to continue to work with a longtime friend and colleague in a region of the state where we all have a strong connection.” A former state legislator and longtime legislative staffer, Murzin has experience in both the public and private sector. Murzin served in the Florida House from 2002 until 2010. While in the House, Murzin was appointed by former House Speaker Larry Cretul to the Florida Council on Military Base and Mission Support. He also served on the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council, was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush to both the Joint Select Committee on Hurricane Insurance and the Property Tax Reform Committee, was appointed by former House Speaker and current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to the Joint Property Tax Reform Committee, and served on the Escambia County Utilities Authority Administrative Advisory Committee. Before serving in the Florida House, he served as a top staffer to Jeff Miller, a former congressman and member of the Florida House, and former House Majority Leader Jerry Maygarden.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Mark Anderson: Northeast Florida Fair Association
Anthony Cammarata: Office of Financial Regulation
Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, Adams Street Advocates: SEIU 1199 United Health Care Workers
James McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Aurora Diagnostics
Sean Pittman: Florida Association for Care and Ethical Services
Ron Watson: Midwives Association of Florida
SPOTTED: Capitol City Consulting’s Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Jr., Scott Ross, Chris Schoonover, et al, on the Florida House’s new web page detailing lobbyists’ appearances. CCC is the first major firm to embrace Speaker Corcoran’s transparancey reforms.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to my dear friend Mac Stipanovich, as well as Jennifer Krell Davis, POLITICO Florida’s Dan Ducassi, Rep. Jason Fischer, Corcoran & Johnston’s Jeff Johnston, Dan Gelber, Adam Hasner, the Palm Beach Post’s John Kennedy, Ben Pollara, former Rep. Charlie Van Zant, and Mark Zubaly. Celebrating today is Rebecca De La Rosa and Joel Searby.