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Sunburn for 1.4.17 – Birthday thoughts; Rob Johnson’s big move; FDP & RPOF intrigue; Reporter gets punk’d

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

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

THOUGHTS ON MY 41ST BIRTHDAY

If you want to know what’s on my mind as I approach my 41st birthday, read the essay from Andrew Sullivan, “The Distraction Sickness.

As David Brooks writes, “Sullivan was the superstar of what I guess we can call the blogging era, consumed with online volleying all day, every day. Everything else — health, friendships — atrophied: ‘Every minute I was engrossed in a virtual interaction I was not involved in a human encounter. Every second absorbed in some trivia was a second less for any form of reflection, or calm, or spirituality.’ He also came to understand that we don’t really control our time online. Our clicks are seduced by technologists superbly able to suck us in.’ “

I am not as “sick” as Andrew was. Being married to a wonderful woman and being the father to an incredible daughter gives me a perspective Andrew did not have. But I understand what it’s like to live much of life through the screen.

I’d be lying if I said I planned on changing a lot about my life save that, as I enter 2017, I am craving more human interaction and am highly interested in conversation, especially if I can translate those conversations into meaningful content for our outlets.

For a while now, I have been threatening our stable of talented reporters that I have wanted to “slow” everything down, not because I don’t still value being first, but because our analysis is still often the best, regardless of when it is delivered. The insights of an AG Gankarski into Jacksonville politics are unparalleled. Joe Henderson‘s columns are the best in Tampa Bay. Mitch Perry is arguably the best political reporter in the region.

I could go on, but the moral of the story is that I think I am arriving at the position of the old bull — you know the one who told the younger bull to walk down the hill, not run, and have at it with all of the cows.

Of course, I say this now and soon Florida’s Legislative Session will gavel into business and I will be hyperventilating once again.

Remind me then to re-read Sullivan’s essay.

GOOD NEWS ABOUT A GREAT PERSON – ROB JOHNSON EXITS PAM BONDI’S OFFICE FOR THE MAYERNICK GROUP – Johnson, a long-time policy advisor and legislative affairs director, has left the Attorney General’s Office to join The Mayernick Group.

“The Mayernick Group is excited that Rob is joining as a partner in our firm,” said Frank Mayernick in a statement. “We have experienced significant growth and know that as a well-respected professional, Rob has strong relationships and knowledge of the process that will help us continue to serve our current and future clients.

Long on the wish list for private sector recruiters, Johnson served as the Director of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs in the Florida Attorney General’s Office since 2007. He began his time there under Attorney General Bill McCollum, and stayed on after Bondi was elected in 2010. Before joining the Attorney General’s Office, Johnson served as Gov. Jeb Bush’s Deputy Director of Cabinet Affairs.

“I want to thank Rob for his 16 years of service to the State of Florida as a policy advisor, cabinet aide and legislative affairs director,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement. “Rob had a great opportunity in the private sector that he couldn’t pass up and he will be greatly missed.”

Johnson’s last day at the Attorney General’s Office was Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the state agency. His first day at The Mayernick Group is today, said Mayernick in a message.

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BARACK OBAMA’S DECISION AWAITED ON OSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA – TERRORIST OR POLITICAL PRISONER via Florida Politics – Puerto Ricans and other supporters are counting down days until Jan. 20 … waiting to see if President Barack Obama will heed their pleadings to release Oscar López Rivera — a federal prisoner varyingly known as a terrorist, Puerto Rican nationalist freedom fighter, dangerous criminal, political prisoner, avowed enemy of the United States, or a conscience for a people. López … is serving his 36th year in U.S. prison, currently in the Terra Haute (Indiana) Federal Correctional Institution, on a 1981 conviction for several federal crimes, most notably seditious conspiracy, essentially conspiring to levy war against the United States. López is a cause célèbre in the Puerto Rican diaspora in Florida and throughout the United States, and for residents of Puerto Rico. His support extends from the capitol of Puerto Rico, where Gov. Alejandro García Padilla; Gov.-elect Ricardo Rossell, and Secretary of Justice César Miranda all have written and called for his release; to the halls of Congress, where López has near-universal support among the Hispanic Caucus members including U.S. Rep.-elect Darren Soto of Orlando … A petition asking for his release, filed through the White House We The People program, has drawn more than 108,000 signatures. López also has petitioned on his own for clemency. His most ardent supporters, including the ACLU, compare him with Nelson Mandela, portraying him as a jailed freedom fighter and prisoner of conscience. Soto compared his efforts with those of Boston Tea Party patriots. Even those who oppose López’s specific cause of national independence for Puerto Rico find him symbolizing their frustration at being second-class, under a political status imposed on the island.

MARCO RUBIO LANDS APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE SPOT via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rubio, sworn in this afternoon to a second term, has taken on two new committees: Appropriations and the SpecialCommittee on Aging. He retains his posts on the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He will no longer serve on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which had oversight on space issues.

CHARLIE CRIST SAYS “GOD WOULD BE PLEASED” IF DONALD TRUMP SHOWS MORE HEART TOWARD DREAMERS via Florida Politics – Crist is one congressional Democrat who appears to be greeting the incoming Trump administration with an open mind. “Whatever it is that we come to help American workers get back to work and help the middle class and our country, we need to do it together and do it in a spirit of cooperation,” the St. Petersburg Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview broadcast on “State of the Union” … That spirit of cooperation includes embracing a Trump proposal to place a 35 percent tax of tariff on U.S. businesses wanting to take American jobs overseas. “It’s all about jobs and making sure that we have American jobs protected, we protect the American worker, give them the opportunity to be able to provide for their families, get a college education,” Crist said. When asked by Tapper if that appeared to be a backing away from his earlier stance, Crist said yes, and he said he’s glad that’s the case. “Being a nation of immigrants, I think it’s important we embrace that kind of hope,” Crist said. “I would say to the president-elect, I appreciate you showing your heart. And if it’s a little softer, what’s wrong with that? God would be pleased.”

SPOTTED: U.S. Rep Ted Deutch on Tuesday’s edition of Vice News on HBO.

VERN BUCHANAN BEGINS NEW SESSION OF CONGRESS BY INTRODUCING SEVEN NEW BILLS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The seven bills Buchanan will introduce include: The Main Street Fairness Act, a key feature of the tax reform blueprint released by House Republican leaders, ensures that small businesses never pay a higher tax rate than large corporations. The Social Media Screening for Terrorists Act, which directs the secretary of Homeland Security to vet all public records, including Facebook and other forms of social media, before admitting foreign travelers and visa applicants into the country. The Support Our Start-Ups Act, which makes it easier and less costly for an entrepreneur to start a new business. The Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act … aids Florida orange growers in their battle against citrus greening, which is decimating the citrus industry. An amendment to the Constitution of the United States that requires Congress to balance the federal budget. Balancing the budget is an urgent priority as the U.S. is nearing $20 trillion in federal debt. The Thin Blue Line Act, which toughens penalties against anyone who murders police and other first responders. The SAFE Act, which permanently bans the killing of horses for human consumption in America.

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FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR FEUD ERUPTS OVER RESIDENCY via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald  – With the race for Florida Democratic Party chair less than two weeks away, activists are fighting over who is eligible to remain in the running. An activist filed a challenge with the party alleging that Alan Clendenin, who moved counties to keep his chair bid alive, is ineligible to run. When Clendenin lost a race for state committeeman in Hillsborough, he then rented a mobile home in Bradford County and won a similar position there. Patricia Byrd, a state committeewoman in Bay County, wrote in the Dec. 30 complaint that Clendenin has homestead exemptions in Hillsborough and Manatee counties and doesn’t actually live in Bradford. “It appears that Mr. Clendenin has disingenuously played a shell game with residences and homestead exemptions in total violation of state election laws and state homestead laws for the sole purpose of positioning himself to be eligible to run for the state party chairman,” Byrd wrote. “However, despite his best efforts, it is clear that he was not, and is not, a resident of Bradford County.” Clendenin called the complaint “petty gamesmanship.”

ALAN CLENDENIN DETAILS HOW HE WILL ATTEMPT CHANGE IN FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CULTURE via Florida Politics – Clendenin is vowing to work with the State Executive Committee to have them become more empowered and engaged. “As Chair, I will provide State Executive Committee members with regular opportunities to participate in the processes of setting policy, strategic planning and oversight,” he writes … that means holding monthly meetings of the State Executive Committee that will be held via conference call and online … if he’s in charge, the FDP will provide regular training for State Executive Committee members on communications and fundraising … also provide Finance Committee members with copies of budgets in advance of the meetings at which they are submitted for approval. “I will open meetings of the FDP’s Finance Committee to any State Executive Committee members that wish to attend,” … Clendenin … he will ensure that Committee members be given access to all FDP budgets, not just the operating budget … upon taking office, he will order an immediate review of the FDP’s relationship with outside providers and issue a report to State Executive Committee members … his staff will create a request-for-proposal process for future vendors that rewards contracts based on electoral results, “not relationships.” … institute an immediate ban on staff and contractual vendors from receiving commissions or kickbacks from other vendors for work done on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party, and prohibit staff from participating in outside employment or contractual work that “presents a real or perceived conflict of interest.”

CHRISTIAN ZIEGLER CONTENDS THE RACE FOR FLORIDA GOP CHAIR WILL BE A CLOSE CONTEST via Florida Politics – Ziegler says the idea of challenging Blaise Ingoglia for leadership of the Republican Party of Florida first came to his mind … As he was presiding over a gathering of the state’s Republican committeemen and committeewomen at the party’s quarterly meeting in Tampa. That’s when he said a slight case of pandemonium erupted when he began distributing approximately 150 “Make America Great Again” Donald Trump caps to the 134-member caucus … he said that the level of excitement that ensued was absent from the rest of the two-day meeting. “I had so many members after come up to me, and say, ‘Look, the energy that you had, that’s the kind of energy we should have had throughout the quarterly meeting’” … he heard from Republicans that “we need leaders who are going to accept who our nominee is going to be, and accept who are candidates are and are going to waive the flag as high as you can, and we really need to lead with the energy you generated in that room.” From there, he says that “a ton of members” then began lobbying him directly to challenge Ingoglia, claiming that leadership was lacking at the top of the RPOF …  “Blaise is a friend,” Ziegler says, ” But I think the party deserves a full-time chairman that’s focused on the party full-time, because we are the most important political state in the entire country.”

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a public safety announcement at 10 a.m. at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 500 W. Robinson Street in Orlando.

RICK SCOTT REJECTS BAR’S NOMINEES FOR STATE’S JUDICIAL PANELS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Scott has rejected all suggestions from The Florida Bar to fill vacancies in several of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNC), the panels that recommend lawyers for judgeships. The latest rejections now add up to at least 90 of the Bar’s recommendations for JNC openings that Scott has turned down since taking office in 2011, according to Bar records. Other names that Scott rejected over the years include Vero Beach lawyer Erin Grall, now a Republican state representative, and nationally known civil-rights attorney Ben Crump of Tallahassee. On Dec. 27, William Spicola, Scott’s general counsel, wrote a letter to Bar President William J. Schifino Jr., saying the governor wanted the Bar to start over and offer different recommendations for all the current openings. He did not give a reason.

LEGISLATORS SAY THEY’LL REQUIRE COMPANIES TO DISCLOSE POLLUTION SPILLS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald  –  …Florida legislators are drafting a law to require companies and local officials to notify the public when pollution threatens public drinking water. The legislation, being drafted by Sen. Bill Galvano … and Rep. Kathleen Peters … is in response to a judge’s ruling that rejected an emergency rule imposed by Gov. Scott in September. … The rule … was challenged by business groups … But Judge Bram D. E. Canter said in the 19-page order on Friday that DEP had overstepped its authority in approving the new rule and that only the state Legislature can enact such a change in how the public is notified regarding pollution.

TOM LEE WANTS TO ELIMINATE AGENCY DESIGNED TO USE TAXPAYERS FUNDS ON SPORTS FACILITIES via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Less than three years after Gov. Scott signed legislation providing for state revenues to go toward constructing or improving professional sports franchise facilities, Republican state Sen. Tom Lee wants to eliminate the agency created to distribute those funds. “The Sports Development Program was ill-conceived and based on the false premise that these capital improvements are a boon for economic development,” Lee said … “Professional teams are vying for taxpayer funds to pay for largely superficial facility upgrades, many of which are already in progress or completed. History has shown that team owners will make these investments without hardworking families having to foot the bill.” … it will undoubtedly be backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has historically opposed giving sales-tax dollars to professional sports facilities.

JEFF BRANDES BILL CREATES PROGRAM FOR ORDERS FOR LIFE SUSTAINING TREATMENT IN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH via FloridaPolitics.com – Brandes‘ bill, SB 228, would make a new program in the Florida Department of Health dealing solely with Physicians’ Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLSTs), which provide directions on patients with terminal conditions. Brandes’ bill establishes a laundry list of small rules and regulations to cement the way POLSTs should be used and regulated. The new rules would make clear that an absence of a POLST form doesn’t mean medical professionals can withhold resuscitation or care.

BILL WOULD HELP MUSIC HALL IN CLEARWATER TO SECURE TOURISM TAX REVENUE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The bill, sponsored by Sen. Denise Grimsley  would allow auditoriums that are publicly owned but operated by a nonprofit to have access to tourist development taxes, which is levied on things like vacation rentals or leases. Grimsley says the bill is aimed to help Ruth Eckerd Hall, a Clearwater performing arts center that has tried in the past to get access to the tax revenue. “If this were to pass, they would still have to go through the process at the local level to get any funding,” Grimsley said. She said the bill is aimed at addressing issues with Ruth Eckard Hall, but would also apply to performing arts centers run by nonprofits in Pembroke Pines and Fort Lauderdale.

HAPPENING TODAY – LEGISLATIVE DELEGATIONS ACROSS THE STATE MEET — The Baker, Columbia, Escambia, Palm Beach, and Suwannee legislative delegations will meet ahead of the 2017 Legislative session. The Suwannee County legislative delegation will meet for a hearing at 9 a.m. at Oak City Hall Commission Room, 101 White Ave. S.E. in Live Oak. The Palm Beach County legislative delegation will hold its annual workshop with the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to discuss legislative priorities at 10 a.m. at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach. The Columbia County legislative delegation will hold a delegation meeting at 1:30 p.m. in the trustees’ board room at the FL Gateway College Administration Building 149 SE College Pl in Lake City. The Baker County legislative delegation will hold its meeting at 4 p.m. at in the council chamber at Macclenny City Hall, 118 E. Macclenny Ave. in Macclenny. The Escambia County legislative delegation meeting is also scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. at WSRE at Pensacola State College, 1000 College Blvd. in Pensacola.

HAPPENING THIS WEEK – BOBBY POWELL HOLDS TOWN HALL MEETING — State Sen. Powell will host the second in a series of town hall meetings at 6 p.m. at the Mary V. McDonald Wilson Center, 1501 N. Australian Ave. in West Palm Beach. Powell will be joined by Rep. Al JacquetOn Thursday, Powell will hold a town hall meeting at the Jupiter Community Center, 200 Military Trail in Jupiter. Jupiter Vice-Mayor Ilan Kaufer is also scheduled to attend.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Division of Workers’ Compensation will review its three-member panel 2017 biennial report and its annual report on reimbursement disputes and overutilization for 2016 at 3 p.m. at the Larson Building, 200 East Gaines Street.

RON BOOK IS RUNAWAY LEADER IN GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – For the first time, the Florida House is posting copies of contracts between lobbyists and local governments online and more than a third of the first set of contracts posted are with one lobbying firm, Ron Book of Aventura. … He is among the first lobbyists in Tallahassee to comply with a new requirement to disclose all local lobbying activity. House Speaker Richard Corcoran … is a vocal critic of the practice. He has called it a “disgrace” that cities, counties, school boards, sheriffs and others spend tax dollars on hired lobbyists to represent their interests in Tallahassee. Corcoran says local elected officials should be doing that work themselves, and that legislators should be able to look out for local interests without the help of hired guns. But the practice is common and has grown over the past decade.

PERSONNEL NOTE: PETER F. MURRAY TO COLODNY FASS via Florida Politics – The law firm has snagged another “policy and legislative strategy veteran” with the hire of Peter F. Murray, the firm announced Tuesday. Murray was Director of Legislative Affairs for the Florida Commission on Offender Review, formerly the Florida Parole Commission. He also was Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs for the Florida Department of Corrections, and has worked in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget. Before that, Murray was a Senior Program Analyst under then-Gov. Charlie Crist, focusing on energy and climate issues.

STEVEN GELLER LEAVES GREENSPOON MARDER, CITES ETHICS REQUIREMENT via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Geller marked his election to the Broward County Commission in November by resigning from the Greenspoon Marder law firm and launching a solo legal and lobbying practice. Geller had been warned that under the Florida Commission on Ethics’ interpretation of state law, his continued presence at Greenspoon could prevent any of the firm’s attorneys from appearing before the commission. So he launched the Geller Law Firm and began reregistering for his lobbying clients to reflect his changed status. All but one of his clients have followed him to his new firm, he said. “Most local governments interpret it differently,” Geller said in a telephone interview. “Most local governments believe that if you recuse yourself, you’ve resolved the conflict. The Ethics Commission feels differently.”

BEN NEWMAN NEW YEAR’S PRANK: LEAVING GRAYROBINSON FOR POSSIBLE POLITICAL RUN, NOT LOVE OF BURRITOS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Newman has left GrayRobinson, where he’s been a shareholder for seven years, but not to feed the hungry masses yearning for queso, he said … Instead, he’s moving on to a national law firm, Wilson Elser, and thinking about running for office. “Sorry about that,” he told FloridaPolitics.com, politely but not entirely suppressing a well-deserved laugh. FloridaPolitics.com and OrlandoRising – I – bought Newman’s trail of posts on Facebook declaring he was quitting law to pursue his lifelong dream of running a food truck. Among other things (Photoshopping a picture of a food truck with his name on it), he changed his status to CBO (Chief Burrito Officer) at El Queso Loco Burrito Company. My texts and calls to Newman before I wrote went unanswered … apparently because the numbers I had were old and out of date (his GrayRobinson numbers); and while they still recorded messages they did so for someone who wasn’t around anymore to retrieve them. I also Facebook messaged him, but that was too late. Turned out I also had a private, valid email address available for him. But in a full disclosure of incompetence, I didn’t come across that until too late, and went ahead and wrote before I had his or anyone else’s confirmation. Full mud bath for my face, please.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my birthday twin, the always cool Sydney Ridley.

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Sunburn for 1.5.16 – Jeb skipping inaugural; Andrew Gillum’s new project; Lee Constantine for CFO?; Ambassador Carlos Trujillo?; Big change at the FJA

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

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

THANK YOU for all of the kind and considerate well-wishes on my birthday. It was a great day, spent with Michelle and Ella Joyce. Our dinner at Cafe Ponte was pitch-perfect. And the Lego-themed cake Michelle had made was delicious.

If only the political gods had blessed me with a slow news day…

WE’RE ONLY HIGHLIGHTING THIS STORY BECAUSE WE WANT TO HIGHLIGHT FREDERICA WILSON’S HAT – Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson was at President Obama‘s side Wednesday morning as he arrived on Capitol Hill to strategize with Democrats how to protect the Affordable Care Act, reports Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times. More Floridians have enrolled in Obamacare than any other state and South Florida is a big driver of that. But that hasn’t stopped criticism of the cost and Donald Trump won the state in November, vowing to “repeal and replace” the law. Gov. Rick Scott has said he wants to play a role in the dismantling, serving as a bridge between Washington and the states.

JEB BUSH WON’T ATTEND DONALD TRUMP INAUGURATION via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – George W. and Laura Bush will attend, as will Bill and Hillary ClintonJeb Bush has had positive things to say about Trump’s personnel moves and has taken some heat online. But there is some context. Some, including Scott Pruitt (EPA) and Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State) supported Bush during the presidential primary. Others, such as Betsy DeVos (Education) Andy Puzder (Labor) have personal ties to Bush.

— “Bush to give speech in Texas same night as Obama’s farewell address” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald

MARCO RUBIO LANDS APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE SPOT via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rubio, sworn in this afternoon to a second term, has taken on two new committees: Appropriations and the Special Committee on Aging. He retains his posts on the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He will no longer serve on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which had oversight on space issues.

CARLOS CUBELO GETS SEAT ON POWERFUL HOUSE TAX-WRITING COMMITTEE via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Curbelo … was rewarded Wednesday with an appointment to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax law. “This new position will allow me to advocate for many issues of importance to my constituents and our South Florida community, such as strengthening Social Security and Medicare by reducing fraud and making these programs sustainable for all generations of Americans and also the promotion of free and fair trade — a major economic driver in our community,” Curbelo said in a statement.

— “Congressman Darren Soto leases historic downtown Kissimmee building for district office” via GrowthSpotter.com

— “Tom Rooney looks ahead to new congressional session as 2018 looms” via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

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RICK SCOTT WANTS TO HIRE COUNTERTERRORISM AGENTS via The Associated Press – Scott wants to spend nearly $6 million to boost the number of state agents dedicated to counterterrorism efforts … Scott will ask legislators to include enough money in the annual budget to hire agents who will be stationed in seven regions across the state. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen last fall first recommended hiring 46 additional agents.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Scott will hold a press conference to highlight his proposal to add $5.8 million to the budget for 46 counterterrorism agents at 10 a.m. at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 4211 North Lois Avenue in Tampa.

IS RICK SCOTT CO-OPTING FLORIDA’S JUDICIAL NOMINATING PROCESS? via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Christian D. Searcy doesn’t consider himself “the most political person” but suggests you don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing on Florida’s judicial nominating panels. Searcy, president of the Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley personal-injury law firm, reacted to Tuesday’s news about the state’s Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs). Gov. Scott had summarily rejected all suggestions from The Florida Bar to fill vacancies in several JNCs, the panels that recommend lawyers for judgeships. Searcy once was on a slate of three people recommended by the Bar to serve on West Palm Beach’s 4th District Court of Appeal nominating commission. They were rejected by Scott in November 2015, according to Bar records. He was never given a reason why, Searcy said. “It would seem to any fair-minded person (that) what’s happening to these slates is just plain wrong,” he said. “It seems as though this governor aims to make the judiciary just another branch of the Governor’s Office.”

SCOTT TO HOST INAUGURAL BALL IN D.C. via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Scott and his wife, Ann, will host an inaugural ball to be held in Washington D.C. two days before Trump is sworn in as president. … Though state political parties often organize inaugural balls, this one is being put together by Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work.

2018 WATCH – ANDREW GILLUM, POSSIBLE 2018 GOVERNOR CANDIDATE, LAUNCHES ‘CAMPAIGN TO DEFEND LOCAL SOLUTIONS’ via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is fighting for local rights, announcing this week he’s launched a statewide campaign to “defend local solutions.” A rising star in the Democratic Party, Gillum has been mentioned as possible 2018 gubernatorial contender. He announced today he’s launched the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, a nonpartisan, grassroots effort aimed at bringing together “individuals, organizations, and elected officials concerned about the erosion of local rights.” And this new organization could help boost his profile across the state, especially when it comes to red meat issues for Democrats. “This effort …  will send a message to state lawmakers, and give citizens around the country the tools to push back against special interest groups and large corporations, and maintain their right to put forward local solutions to the issues facing their community,” said Gillum. Among other things, Gillum said the group will “hold events to rise against looming threats on issues like minimum wage and health benefits, the environment, local hiring practices, and water quality.” … The announcement comes just days before the 1st District Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in a case involving Gillum and the city of Tallahassee after the City Commission decided not to repeal city codes regulating firearms.

CENTRAL FLORIDA’S LEE CONSTANTINE COULD RUN FOR CFO via Jacob Engels of the Seminole County Post – As the sun sets on Jeff Atwater‘s reign as Florida’s most visible and successful Chief Financial Officer … Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine may be a leading contender to replace him. Constantine, who has held varying public offices during his 36-year career in public service, spent time as a State Representative and State Senator, representing locales in both Seminole and Orange County. During his time in the state legislator, Constantine was a fiscal hawk and crafted important legislation tackling high interest rates from predatory fly-by-night pay-day lenders … He also protected consumers with a piece of legislation that stopped gift card providers from charging monthly fees … Before that, he served as Mayor and Commissioner in the City of Altamonte Springs, also located in the all important I-4 corridor.

FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR FEUD ERUPTS OVER RESIDENCY via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – With the race for Florida Democratic Party chair less than two weeks away, activists are fighting over who is eligible to remain in the running. An activist filed a challenge with the party alleging that Alan Clendenin, who moved counties to keep his chair bid alive, is ineligible to run. When Clendenin lost a race for state committeeman in Hillsborough, he then rented a mobile home in Bradford County and won a similar position there. Patricia Byrd, a state committeewoman in Bay County, wrote in the Dec. 30 complaint that Clendenin has homestead exemptions in Hillsborough and Manatee counties and doesn’t actually live in Bradford. Clendenin called the complaint “petty gamesmanship.”

ALAN CLENDENIN DISMISSES COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST HIM AS ‘BASELESS’ via Florida Politics – “Instead of making the case for why he’s the best person for the job, it appears as though this candidate is trying to win by clearing the field using baseless and unfounded complaints to disqualify his opponents,” Clendenin says about Bittel. “I want to be clear – the complaint filed today with Chair Tant is baseless,” Clendenin continued.

13 MEMBERS OF MIAMI-DADE DEC FILE COMPLAINT OVER STEPHEN BITTEL’S ELECTION AS STATE COMMITTEEMAN via Florida Politics – Thirteen members of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee filed a complaint to the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) regarding the special election held on Dec. 20 during which Bittel was voted as Miami-Dade State Committeeman, defeating former state Sen. Dwight Bullard. Bittel’s election made his eligible to run for the state party chair position next week in Orlando. The complaint charges Miami-Dade DEC Chair Juan Cuba with violating the bylaws of the Miami-Dade DEC, the bylaws of the Florida Democratic Party, and rules of parliamentary procedure “in order to conspire with several known and unknown individuals to bend and break the rules regarding the Special Election held on Dec. 20 and the events leading up to the aforementioned election.”

STEVE SCHALE blog post on the Florida Democratic Party here.

— “Florida Democrats and the State Senate in 2016 – a massive missed opportunity” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Florida Squeeze

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

AMBASSADOR CARLOS TRUJILLO? TRUMP IS RECRUITING MIAMI STATE LEGISLATOR FOR FOREIGN POST via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Trujillo, 33, the son of Cuban immigrants, is … being recruited by the Trump administration to serve as ambassador to a Latin American country somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, the details of which are still being negotiated. “It’s a great opportunity to serve your country,” Trujillo told the Herald/Times. “It’s humbling. But it has to be the right country and the right time.” Trujillo, who is a member of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s inner circle, was recently named to the powerful post of House Appropriations Committee chairman. He expects an announcement from the Trump administration in early February and, if it happens. he will remain in office long enough to serve through this legislative session because of the lengthy vetting and Senate confirmation process.

LAWMAKERS HEADING TO ARIZONA FOR GAMBLING CONFERENCE via Florida Politics –Eight Florida lawmakers have signed up to attend this weekend’s meeting of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States in Scottsdale, Arizona. On the RSVP list: State Rep. Halsey Beshears … State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz … He chairs the House Commerce Committee, which oversees gambling policy. State Sen. Bill Galvano … Galvano has long been involved in gambling issues … State Rep. Joe Geller … the Democratic Ranking Member of the House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee. State Sen. Audrey Gibson … a member of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, which oversees gambling-related legislation. State Rep. Mike LaRosa … chairs the House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee. State Rep. David Richardson … State Sen. Perry Thurston … also a member of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, and is chair of the Council’s Committee on State-Federal Relations … the conference is “organized and produced” by New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group.

FANTASY SPORTS BILL FILED AGAIN IN LEGISLATURE via Florida Politics – A bill to exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation has again been filed in the Florida Legislature. State Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, filed the measure on Wednesday. The bill would clarify that fantasy contests “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants” and are not games of chance – and thus potentially illegal gambling. (Similar bills didn’t move last year.) … “The millions of Floridians who play fantasy games deserve to know that what they’re doing is not a crime,” Brodeur said in a phone interview.

JUDGE SAYS NO TO GRETNA TRACK IN GAMBLING DISPUTE via Florida Politics – A federal judge has turned down a request by a North Florida race track to alter his ruling allowing the Seminole Tribe of Florida to keep blackjack at its casinos. But the loss turned out to be a win for the track’s own card games. Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said … “(t)he judgment in this case has no binding effect on Gretna.” His decision, then, in the Tribe’s case has no effect on Gretna’s or other tracks’ card game operations. “We are certainly appreciative of the judge’s consideration,” (attorney Marc) Dunbar said.

PEDIATRIC CARDIAC CARE BILL COULD PUT FORMER AHCA SECRETARY-TURNED-LOBBYIST AT ODDS WITH GOVERNOR via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida — Former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek may find herself at odds with her former boss, Gov Rick Scott, this session and working alongside people in her past life she often opposed: pediatric cardiologists. Now a lobbyist with Greenberg Traurig, Dudek has been hired by the Nemours Foundation to help secure passage of SB 62, filed by Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican. The bill would re-establish a pediatric cardiac advisory council within the state Department of Health and authorize the department, along with the agency that Dudek once headed, to coordinate and develop rules related to pediatric cardiac facilities participating in the Children’s Medical Services Network, a Medicaid program for children with complex health care needs.

HOUSE BILL WOULD AFFECT PUBLIC RECORDS LAWSUITS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State Rep. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican and lawyer, filed the measure (HB 163) … It would require a judge to determine that a public agency “unlawfully refused to permit a public record to be inspected or copied” and that the complainant “provided written notice identifying the public record request to the agency’s custodian … at least five business days before filing the civil action.” The bill also says attorney fees can’t be awarded if the court finds “the request to inspect or copy the public record was made primarily to harass the agency.”

HAPPENING TODAY – LEGISLATIVE DELEGATIONS ACROSS THE STATE MEET — The Martin, Lafayette, Gilchrist, St. Lucie, Dixie, Nassau, Gulf and Franklin legislative delegations will meet ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session. The Martin County legislative delegation will meet at 9 a.m. at Stuart City Hall, 121 SW Flagler Ave. in Stuart. At 10 a.m., the Lafayette County legislative delegation will hold its meeting in the County Commission Chamber at the Lafayette County Courthouse, 120 W. Main Street in Mayor. The Gilchrist County legislative delegation will hold its meeting at the County Commission room at the County Commission Meeting Facility, 209 SE 1st Street in Trenton; while the St. Lucie County legislative delegation will hold its meeting at 2 p.m. at Indian River State College, 3209 Virginia Ave. in Fort Pierce. The Dixie County legislative delegation will hold its meeting in the county commission chamber at the courthouse, 214 Northeast Highway 351 in Cross City. The Nassau County delegation will also meet at 2 p.m. in Nassau County Commission chambers at the James S. Page Governmental Complex, 96135 Nassau Place in Yulee. The Gulf County legislative delegation is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. at the Robert M. Moore Administrative Building, 1000 Cecil G. Costin Sr. Blvd. in Port St. Joe. At 7 p.m., the Franklin County legislative delegation will meet at the Franklin County Courthouse Annex, 37 Forbes Street in Apalachicola.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Sen. Linda Stewart, both Orlando Democrats, will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. at the Orange County Courthouse, 425 N. Orange Ave. in Orlando to announce proposed gun safety legislation. The two lawmakers will be joined by members of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and survivors of the Pulse shooting. Members of the media should RSVP to ida.eskamani@myfloridahouse.gov.

SUPREME COURT RESCINDS ORDER BLOCKING DEATH SENTENCES IN FLORIDA via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The court took an unusual step in rescinding an order that said Florida’s death sentencing laws, ruled unconstitutional in October because they did not require a unanimous jury vote for the death penalty, could not be used to prosecute cases. The court also deleted the earlier order from its website. The … ruling was vacated because of a “clerical error,” said Craig Waters, a spokesman for the court. It’s not clear what that error is. However, Public Defender Rex Dimmig, who serves Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, said the court referenced the wrong statute in its earlier ruling. He does not know for certain why the court rescinded its order, but he says he has one idea: Instead of writing that death penalty laws in section 921.141 of Florida Statutes was unconstitutional, the court identified section 941.141 — a statute which does not exist.

FLORIDA BOARD OF EDUCATION EXPECTED TO SET RULES ON NEW PRINCIPAL PROGRAM via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – A new school leadership program aimed at giving more flexibility to principals running some of Florida’s most struggling schools could soon have more defined guidelines for its operations. The State Board of Education is poised to consider a new rule for the “principal autonomy pilot” that Rep. Manny Diaz, incoming chairman of the House PreK-12 Appropriations committee, pushed through the Legislature in 2016. The Pinellas County school district is one of seven set forth in law as eligible to participate.

FLORIDA-GEORGIA WATER CASE OFFICIAL ORDERS SETTLEMENT TALKS via Kathleen Foody of The Associated Press – Special Master Ralph Lancaster gave the states until Jan. 24 to meet and encouraged them to use a mediator. He also ordered the states to file a confidential report to him by Jan. 26 summarizing their efforts to reach a settlement. 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. Alabama isn’t directly involved in this case but has sided with Florida, encouraging a cap on Georgia’s use. After Florida filed the suit against Georgia, Lancaster was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to make a recommendation. The Supreme Court has the final say.

FLORIDA PANTHER DEATHS STILL AT RECORD HIGH via The Associated Press – A record number of endangered Florida panthers died again last year – 42 of the remaining big cats were killed, matching the 2015 record. Thirty-four were hit by vehicles in southwest Florida, where development is shrinking what’s left of their habitat. The tally kept by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission includes six new litters, with a total of 14 cubs born in 2016. But the state estimates that only 100 to 180 of the big cats remain in the wild.

MAJOR FLAW IN FLORIDA’S NEWEST RED LIGHT CAM ANALYSIS via Noah Pransky of WTSP – Despite 108 fewer cameras at 48 fewer intersections statewide, the number of violations issued has actually climbed for a second straight year, according to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). The 1,227,927 violations issued in FY16 represent a 22 percent increase from FY15 … the increase could either be interpreted as proof red-light running requires more resources to eradicate; or, it could show the cameras aren’t doing their job in reducing violations. However, a major flaw in the DHSMV report appears to be an assessment that only 12 percent of citations last year went to repeat offenders. A 10Investigates analysis of the state’s raw data suggests the repeat offender figure could be drastically undercounted since the state’s 12 percent calculation only includes offenders who are ticketed twice in the same municipality. So, if a driver receives a red-light camera ticket by cameras in both Tampa and Hillsborough County, he or she would not be counted as a “repeat offender.”

OP-ED: HOME SHARING HELPS BOLSTER OUR FAMILY FRIENDLY TOURIST BRAND via Tom Martinelli for the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Home sharing helps our community cast a wider net to prospective travelers whose budgets simply cannot accommodate higher hotel rates. It also allows visitors to authentically experience Broward as we locals do, while driving tourist dollars and activating economies in neighborhoods that lack hotels. Ultimately, the power of the Airbnb platform is that it motivates guests to blend into neighborhoods, belong anywhere and live like locals. Our mission is to welcome visitors while maintaining the fabric of what makes these communities so special. Our Airbnb hosts want to serve as steadfast partners to bolster Broward’s family friendly tourist brand. The home sharing movement has already instilled community economic development while offering visitors a genuine — if temporary — home away from home. A collaborative partnership between Airbnb, our hosts and policymakers will promote responsible tourism consistent with Broward’s brand and values.

WHAT JACK LATVALA IS READING – PSTA, HART TAKE STEPS TO FORMAL WORKING PARTNERSHIP via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics – The general goal is to streamline services to save money and provide better service for transit riders, PSTA CEO Brad Miller said. The agreement sets out areas in which the two agencies already collaborate, such as a regional fare collection that uses one informational app that applies whether the customer is in Pinellas or Hillsborough. The regional fare collection app includes not only PSTA and HART, the Hillsborough transit authority, but Sarasota, Pasco and Hernando counties as well. PSTA and HART are also partnering on such items as the purchase of some equipment and on goal-setting and legislative priorities. The two would continue collaborating on those items and would research areas that could benefit from joint ventures. That could eventually mean the merger of some departments, Miller said.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

SAVE THE DATE:

BRIAN BURGESS: MY POLITICAL PREDICTIONS FOR 2017 via The Capitolist — If there’s one thing about Florida politics that is utterly predictable, it’s the utterly unpredictable nature of Florida politics. … What follows are predictions based on the best available information we have as of January 4th, 2017Adam Putnam won’t be Bill McCollum … Putnam’s team is smart – if a bit overly cautious – and they are well aware of the whispering going on in Tallahassee comparing the 2010 cycle to how things are shaping up for 2018. They are aware of the similarities, they are aware of McCollum’s mistakes, and they are aware of just how radically different the 2017-2018 cycle will be compared with how things were in 2009-2010. … Putnam isn’t going to take anything for granted, nor should he. And he’s better funded, better informed, and better equipped as a candidate than McCollum ever was. Gwen Graham and John Morgan will negotiate a deal – both are media darlings, neither wants to engage in the sort of trench warfare necessary for one of them to emerge as the Democratic nominee for Florida governor in 2018. … Rick Scott won’t announce a run for Senate in 2017 – Scott has mastered the art of the talking point, and he can easily push off questions about his political future until the week before the filing deadline in the spring of 2018. …There’s nothing to be gained by making it widely known that he has ambitions beyond the governor’s office.

One Burgess prediction we’re fond of: Strapped for funds, some Florida newspapers will strike a syndication deal with Peter Schorch’s FloridaPolitics.com … While some people in Tallahassee (the press corps included) can’t get past the fact that Schorsch’s operation started as a blog, it has long since evolved away from that. He employs a number of experienced political reporters and he gives them free reign over the beats they cover. He produces more free content than most of the rest of the capital press corps combined. And it’s effective, too.

SPEAKING OF EFFECTIVE…

SHOT: “Doesn’t the City of St. Pete have better things to do than mess around with Uber & Lyft?” via Florida Politics

SHOT #2: “… And another thing about the City of St. Pete’s efforts to regulate Uber and Lyft” via Florida Politics

CHASER: “St. Pete vote on new Uber rules canceled, for now” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

HELP WANTED: CONTRIBUTION LINK IS HIRING — Contribution Link is looking to immediately fill up to three part-time positions. The detail-oriented support positions are based in Tallahassee and assist account coordinators with client servicing, research, data base maintenance and graphic design. Compensation is based on individual skill; $10 an hour and up. Each position allows for 15-25 hours per week with the possibility of more and can reasonably accommodate school schedules. Requirements include working well with others, reliability and discretion with information. Ideally, applicants would have experience/ proficiency in one or more of the following areas: MS excel, statistics, social media or graphic design. Interested? Email Brittney Prahlow at Brittney@contributionlink.com.

FACEBOOK AGAIN HIRES SEBASTIAN ALEKSANDER FOR 2017 SESSION via Florida Politics – This makes the third year in a row that Aleksander will have represented the social media behemoth, based in Menlo Park, California. Among other major websites, he also represents Yahoo! Inc., records show. Facebook’s last significant interest in Florida legislation was a “digital assets” bill backed by state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican. Facebook at first was against the bill because, the company said, it conflicted with federal online privacy laws. Hukill later amended the measure so that someone has to give “explicit consent” to someone else to access and control a particular account. The digital assets legislation (SB 494) became law earlier this year.

PERSONNEL NOTE: CHRIS SMITH JOINS TRIPP SCOTT via Florida Politics – Smith has joined Tripp Scott, the Fort Lauderdale-based law firm announced this week. “We’re so excited to have you here,” said Edward J. Pozzuoli, the president of Tripp Scott, in a video interview with Smith. The 46-year-old Fort Lauderdale Democrat got his start at Tripp Scott, working as a law clerk at the firm for two summers. He later joined the firm, working in the contract department writing leases and doing other contract work. In a video announcing his hire, Smith said his decision to join Tripp Scott brings him “back to where I started, back to where I got my roots, my legal roots especially.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: DEBRA HENLEY OUT AT FJA, PAUL JESS IN via Florida Politics – Henley left her job as executive director of the Florida Justice Association last month and is temporarily being replaced by her deputy, Jess … Jess, who was called a “veteran association executive and attorney,” is now interim executive director … Florida Justice Association President Jimmy Gustafson is calling Jess “an outstanding leader who has a deep understanding of the important issues facing civil justice in Florida.” Jess, a U.S. Navy veteran, has been with the association for 28 years, serving as deputy executive director and general counsel.

RIDE UBER FREE DURING COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND via WFLA – Here’s how it works: Riders can open the Uber app and request “FOOTBALL” from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. SaturdaySunday and Monday as Tampa celebrates the College Football Championship weekend … Select riders will be given the ability to watch live football action via onboard Samsung tablets powered by the AT&T network. Be patient. Demand is expected to be high and availability to be limited. The service is available to anyone, not just AT&T customers.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to former state Rep. Doc Renuart, Bruce Cotton, and Christie Pontis of Century Link.

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Sunburn for 1.3.17 – First day for Amend. 2; Fla’s new US Reps take DC; Bill Nelson’s money man; Darryl Rouson targets Electoral College; A new job for Amy Zubaly

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

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

AMENDMENT 2 NOW IN EFFECT

Medical marijuana might be legal in Florida, but don’t rush out to buy a bong quite yet.

Approved by 71 percent of voters, Amendment 2 allows patients with debilitating medical conditions (think cancer, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder) to use higher strength medical marijuana than previously allowed under state law.

Even though the constitutional amendment goes into effect today, it will be months before new rules are adopted and implemented by the Florida Legislature and the state health department. And even then, getting medical marijuana won’t be as simple as popping into your neighborhood pot shop.

Under the constitutional amendment, patients need to be under the care of a licensed physician for at least three months. But that might not be as straight forward as getting an appointment at your family doctor. Physicians need to take an eight-hour course and pass an exam before they can order medical marijuana for a patient.

The Associated Press reported 340 physicians are currently registered with the Department of Health to order medical marijuana. That number is expected to increase significantly in the first quarter of 2017. And so are the number of patients in state compassionate use registry. So far there are nearly 1,500 patients in the state registry, according to the Associated Press.

Getting pot might prove problematic for some patients, at least in the short term. Five dispensing organizations have been authorized to distribute medical marijuana. There’s dispensaries in Tallahassee, Clearwater and Tampa, and some are offering in-home delivery.

Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, one of the state’s first medical marijuana dispensing organizations, said she and others in the business in Florida are excited about the progress being made, but are “eager to enter the next phase.”

The Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Health will be tasked with coming up with the regulatory framework. And they might want to act fast: A recent report estimates Florida’s medical marijuana industry will rival Colorado’s by 2020.

New Frontier Data and Arcview Market Research report projected Florida’s market will grow to $1.6 billion by 2020. That growth would make it about half the size of California’s estimated $2.6 billion market and slight more than Colorado’s expected $1.5 billion market, according to Forbes.

Last month, Forbes reported Florida could end up making up 14 percent of the medical marijuana market by 2020.

“The opportunity for good jobs, tax money and wealth creation created by Amendment 2 passing cannot be understated,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of The Arcview Group, in a statement last month. “Savvy entrepreneurs and pioneering investors are rightfully exuberant about the Florida market. And, thankfully, seriously ill patients will no longer need to go to high school parking lots or drug dealers to get their medicine.”

— Expansion of medical marijuana business is necessary and prudent” via Ben Pollara for Florida Politics

FLORIDA HEALTH DEPARTMENT APPROVES SEVENTH MARIJUANA LICENSE via Florida Politics – … and could be on the verge of adding at least one more. Department spokeswoman Sarah Revell said they have reached an agreement with McRory’s Sunny Hill Nursery for the seventh license. The nursery is affiliated with GrowHealthy and will operate an indoor facility in Lake Worth. The department also agreed to settle with Plants of Ruskin and 3 Boys Farm. Both nurseries are working on potential terms to present to the department. That would resolve the last of the 13 administrative challenges filed by nurseries not selected for the first five licenses last December by the Office of Compassionate Use. Through settlements and administrative challenges, two additional licenses have been awarded so far. The state’s Division of Administrative Hearings ruled in February that a Northeast Florida nursery should have received a license due to a background check being wrongly disqualified. The state registry currently has 340 physicians and 1,495 registered patients but state officials anticipate a significant increase once the amendment is implemented.

ALSO DRIVING THE DAY — FRESHMEN TAKE D.C. – The 115th Congress kicks off its two-year term with swearing-in ceremonies, welcoming dozens of new members to the nation’s capital. Florida’s congressional delegation will welcome 10 new members, including a former ambassador, three former state legislators, and a former governor. The new members of the congressional delegation are Republicans Matt GaetzNeal DunnJohn RutherfordBrian Mast and Francis Rooney, and Democrats Al LawsonStephanie MurphyDarren SotoVal Demings and Charlie Crist.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice, and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

FIRST IN SUNBURN – GREG GODDARD TO BECOME BILL NELSON’S FINANCE DIRECTOR — Greg Goddard, the former Florida finance director at Hillary for America, has been named finance director for Sen. Bill Nelson. Goddard knows a thing or two about fundraising in Florida. Prior to joining Hillary Clinton’s finance team, the University of Central Florida graduate served as the Florida finance director for Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial bid. Goddard also served as the deputy finance director for the Florida Democratic Party and spent seven months as the finance director for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. And Goddard is no stranger to Nelson, working as the Orlando Democrat’s North Florida finance director from April 2011 until December 2012. “I have joined the campaign in a finance role for 2018, and am excited to be back on Team Nelson,” said Goddard in a statement. Nelson is gearing up for a 2018 re-election bid, where he could face Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

>>>Christina Diamond is also raising coin for Nelson as a fundraising consultant.

>>>With Goddard to Nelson, who will serve as finance director for the expected statewide campaigns of Gwen Graham or Phil Levine? Sunburn hears Stephanie McClung of Ruth’s List is a top candidate.

STEPHANIE MURPHY, VAL DEMINGS NAME SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL STAFF via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Demings begins with Wendy Anderson as the Orlando Democrat’s chief of staff, and includes  Caroline Rowland as her communications director and Sonja White as her district director in Central Florida. Murphy, the Winter Park Democrat elected to represent Florida’s 7th Congressional District, announced that Brad Howard will serve as her chief of staff, John Laufer as her deputy chief and legislative director, and Lauren Grabell Allen as her district manager …  Howard, who ran Murphy’s campaign, spent five years on Capitol Hill as a communications director for a member of Congress and then the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, which Congresswoman-Elect Murphy will join. Allen most recently served as the executive director for Support Our Scholars, a Winter Park-based nonprofit organization that financially and emotionally assists young women from underprivileged backgrounds with extraordinary academic potential. Allen previously worked as a government affairs specialist for Siemens Corporation in its D.C. office, and has also served in the district offices of two U.S. senators. Laufer spent the last eight years as legislative director for U.S. Rep. Pedro Pierluis of Puerto Rico, and has served in a New York law firm and for a federal judge. Anderson has both Central Florida and Capitol Hill experience, having served as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, a New York Democrat; and in lobbying positions for Florida Hospital and the African-American Chamber of Commerce. Rowland served as communications director for Demings campaign. White spent 29 years at the Orlando Police Department, where Demings once was chief of police, and also has played significant community service rolls with the Oasis Preparatory Academy, Harbor House of Central Florida, Central Florida YMCA Achievers, Leadership of Orlando and other organizations. Among other Demings’ key positions, Erin Waldron was named community and economic development director, Wendy Featherson as scheduler and executive assistant, Aimee Collins-Mandeville as senior legislative assistant, and Chester Glover and Gladys Morales Smith as constituent services caseworkers.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

THE WORST THING YOU’LL READ TODAY – HOW A 6-YEAR-OLD GOT LOCKED ON A PSYCH WARD via Rosalind Adams of BuzzFeed News — In September, a 6-year-old Northeast Florida boy was taken from his school by police cruiser to River Point Behavior Health, a troubled unity of the nation’s largest psychiatric hospital chain Universal Health Services. According to a BuzzFeed News report, the school’s counselor decided to send the boy — identified by BuzzFeed as Nicholas — to a psychiatric hospital after he had been kicking and biting. The child was locked up under the state’s Baker Act law, which allows someone to be sent to a psychiatric hospital for an examination if the person appears mentally ill and appears to be causing severe harm to themselves or others. The hospital can hold a patient for up to 72 hours. According to BuzzFeed, Nicholas’ parents asked to take their child home at least three times. At the facility, the boy “would be given a bloody nose by get locked in a “seclusion” room at 3 in the morning, and wait more than 24 hours to see a psychiatrist, according to medical records provided by his parents.” The hospital, BuzzFeed reported, also “filed a petition to get a court order to hold him for longer. Nicholas was released only after a lawyer intervened on his behalf.” UHS was the subject of a recent BuzzFeed News investigation, and River Point is under criminal investigation for Medicare fraud as part of a wider federal probe into UHS as a corporate entity, the company told investors. Federal regulators have been looking into whether River Point misused Florida’s involuntary commitment laws to hold patients at the hospital who did not need treatment.

DONALD POLMANN JOINS PSC via Florida Politics – Engineer Donald Polmann joins the state’s Public Service Commission this week. The commission regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. Gov. Scott chose Polmann, of Dunedin, to replace Commissioner Lisa Edgar, who decided not to reapply. (She has since become director of state parks.) Polmann is a registered professional engineer with three degrees, including a doctorate in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He wrote a chapter for a scholarly book on water use and supply. He had been a senior manager at Atkins, an international design and engineering firm, specializing in water projects. His appointment, which must be confirmed by the Florida Senate, runs from this Monday to Jan. 1, 2021.

SEMINOLE TRIBE OBJECTS TO GRETNA TRACK’S INTERVENTION IN GAMBLING DISPUTE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Greenberg Traurig attorney Barry Richard, who represents the Tribe, filed his memorandum in opposition to Gretna Racing’s motion to intervene last week, court records show. Its attorneys, David Romanik and Marc Dunbar, had asked Hinkle to remove the part of his ruling they say could make it a “crime” for the track’s cardroom to continue offering certain card games. Romanik and Dunbar also are part-owners of Gretna Racing. The track has a case pending before the state Supreme Court on whether to expand slot machines in the state. Voters in Gadsden County, where the track is located, and six other counties passed local referendums to approve slots. At immediate issue, however, is the track’s offering certain card games that Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinklebased his decision on. Hinkle had ruled that regulators working under Gov. Rick Scott allowed certain Florida dog and horse tracks to offer card games that mimicked ones that were supposed to be exclusive to tribe-owned casinos for a five-year period. The judge decided the Tribe could keep its blackjack tables till 2030. The state wanted Hinkle to instead order the tribe to remove the games because a blackjack provision in an agreement between the state and tribe expired last year.

SPACE FLORIDA ‘STEELES’ ITSELF FOR THE WINTER THAT’S COMING via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Good on you, Jason Steele, for being the first person in the Space Florida boardroom to talk about the elephant. “We have not had a target on our back, but I promise you, and my crystal ball is very clear, the target will be on our back,” Steele told his fellow Space Florida directors, as they reaffirmed a one-million-dollar line of credit for the folks behind a secret-something called Project Ice. For all the public knew, the loan was going to Vanilla Ice, at a time when secret deals with rappers have fallen out of favor. Steele’s warning seems to have had an effect. Within days, Space Florida revealed that the line of credit is for Made in Space,” a Silicon Valley company with a growing Florida presence, for a project that aims to produce a higher-quality optical fiber aboard the International Space Station.” Steele noted VISIT Florida’s claim that the public got 9-bucks on the dollar rate of return on its trade-secret intensive investment with Pitbull. We now know that the Miami rapper was paid a cool million to encourage millennials to come to Florida to get drunk and screw, an idea that might not otherwise have occurred to the kids. Steele warned that rate of return questions would be coming Space Florida’s way, too, and they’d best be prepared with answers that don’t make people laugh out loud.

NEW LAWS TARGET COUGH-SYRUP ABUSE, OPIOID ABUSE, LEGAL PROCESS via Florida Politics – SB 938 makes it illegal for manufacturers, distributors, or retailers to supply medicines containing dextromethorphan, or DXM, to anyone under 18. Anyone who looks younger than 25 would have to supply proof of age. The law forbids local governments from setting up their own restrictions. Another new law, SB 422, is intended to increase the availability of “abuse deterrent” opioids. Addicts often crush opioids, such as Hydrocodone, so they can snort, smoke or inject them. New manufacturing techniques deter abuse by making them very difficult to tamper with. The new law would prevent health insurers from requiring pre-approval to substitute abuse-deterrent drugs for those more liable to abuse. SB 1104 allows financial institutions to designate a central location or a person as the place or agent for the service of process — that is, for delivery of subpoenas, summonses or writs in lawsuits.

FOREBODING TWEET OF THE DAY: @TravisJHutson: In 2017 the @FLSenate regulated industries committee will look to shake up the status quo. Fireworks will start early.

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO HEAR OPEN CARRY BILL via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The legislation, SB 140, is sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube … who introduced the measure last year when he was a state representative. If passed, the bill would allow Florida’s 1.7 million concealed carry permit holders to openly carry their firearms. The more sweeping part of the measure, however, would eliminate gun-free zones in places like secondary schools, local centers and government meeting areas. The bill would not allow CCW permit holders to carry their firearms on college or athletic events and restrictions would still exist on carrying guns to restaurants and bars. Any permit holder in violation of the restrictions in the bill would face a misdemeanor charge. The Judiciary Committee is the first stop for the bill, and the odds are in its favor this year since Steube chairs that committee … Pro-gun groups have asked their members to write to state lawmakers to make the case for passing the bill.

DARRYL ROUSON FILES BILL TO ELIMINATE ELECTORAL COLLEGE via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – In the wake of Donald Trump’s winning the presidency while losing the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million, State Sen. Rouson … is filing legislation to include Florida in a national movement to elect the president by popular vote. The goal of the movement, known as the National Popular Vote interstate compact, is to eliminate the Electoral College’s decisive role in presidential elections, but without requiring a constitutional amendment to abolish it. “It’s about the voters and their votes being counted and respected,” Rouson said of his bill … The bill would require the state’s presidential electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, but it would take effect only if and when enough states sign on to total a majority of 270 Electoral College votes. At that point, the law would kick in for those states that have passed it, and the popular vote winner would be guaranteed an Electoral College majority. So far, according to the movement’s website, www.nationalpopularvote.com, 11 states totaling 165 votes have passed the bill: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

LEGISLATORS DIVIDED BY PARTY LOOK TO BLACK CAUCUS TO FIND COMMON GROUND via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – After he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, Byron Donalds had a decision to make. Would he, the only African-American Republican in the Legislature, join the Black Caucus? All of the other roughly 25 members of the caucus are Democrats. Rep. Mike Hill, a black Republican who served in the House from 2013 to 2016, chose not to affiliate with the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. The group meets regularly to discuss issues and push a legislative agenda that benefits African-Americans. Sometimes members are asked vote as a bloc on a bill that is of particular importance to black people in Florida. Jennifer Carroll, who stepped down from the Legislature after eight years to serve as Rick Scott’s lieutenant governor, was an active member of the caucus. Colleagues credited her with using her leadership positions in the GOP to accomplish things that otherwise could have languished with only Democrats’ support. Donalds, 38, a 38-year-old financial adviser who lives in Naples, is a product of the Tea Party movement serving in his first elected office. He knew his conservative leanings would not always mesh with the progressive agenda the Black Caucus often pursues. He decided to join anyway.

SPOTTED at FarmTable Kitchen at Locale Market, enjoying a New Year’s Eve feats: state Sen. Darryl Rouson, his wife Angela and their family, and political consultant Barry Edwards.

SPOTTED over the holiday break: State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen in her winter best at the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel in St. Petersburg.

FLORIDA REPUBLICAN LEGISLATIVE LEADERS HOST JANUARY FUNDRAISER FOR FRANK ARTILES, MANNY DIAZ via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Newly elected Miami state Sen. Artiles and Hialeah state Rep. Diaz — who’s running for a Florida Senate seat in 2018 — are planning a joint fundraising reception for Jan. 10 at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee … The host committee for the reception includes five influential Republicans, four of whom are current or future chamber leaders: current Senate President Joe Negron … Bill Galvano … Wilton Simpson … Jose Oliva and … René García. As Senate president, Negron is in charge of the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raises money to assist top party candidates. Galvano and Simpson are both on track to be future Senate presidents after Negron: Galvano in the 2018-2020 term and Simpson in 2020-2022. And, Oliva is poised to take over as House speaker in 2018. García’s presence on the host committee indicates an endorsement of Diaz as his successor. García is in his final term representing Senate District 36 and Diaz, a three-term representative, is running for that seat.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On: Lindsey Locke is now administrative support for the House Commerce Committee and its related subcommittees (Agriculture & Property Rights, Careers & Competition, Energy & Utilities, Insurance & Banking, and Tourism & Gaming Control).

On: Anna Higgins is a new legislative aide for Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White.

On: Ashley Jeffrey has become district secretary for Santa Rosa Republican Rep. Jayer Williamson.

Off and on: Brian Pierce has stepped down as district secretary for Panama City Republican Rep. Jay TrumbullCooper Harrison is Trumbull’s new district secretary.

Off: Michael Bowen is no longer district secretary for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

On: Samuel Wagoner is legislative assistant and Tammy Still is district secretary for Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne.

On: Christina Castillo is the new legislative assistant for Miami Republican Rep. Jeanette Nunez.

On: Dewayne Mallory is legislative assistant, and Gabriel Powell Legros is district secretary for St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton.

On: Charles Smith is a new district secretary for Broward Republican Rep. George Moraitis.

On: Christopher Melvin is legislative assistant for Rep. Ralph Massullo.

Off: Isabela Dorneles is no longer legislative assistant for Broward Democratic Rep. Kristin Jacobs.

On: Gina Wells is the new district secretary for Volusia Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry.

On: Maria Wimberly is new district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon.

On: Rachel Lockhart is the new legislative assistant for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer.

On: Kathy Johnson is the new district secretary for Orlando Republican Rep. Eric Eisnaugle.

On: Zachary Allen is now district secretary for Naples Republican Rep. Byron Donalds.

On: Ellen Boukari is the new legislative assistant Newberry Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons.

On and off: Sydnie Tiseo switched from district secretary to legislative assistant for Sanford Republican Rep. Jason Bodeur.

On: Kesnel Theus has become legislative assistant for Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet.

On: Ashley Alvarez is the new district secretary and Daniel Martinez the new legislative assistant for Hialeah Gardens Republican Rep. Manny Diaz.

On: Kelly McClure has become legislative assistant and Rosana Fonseca district secretary for Orlando Democratic Rep. Amy Mercado.

On: Roshanda Jackson is the new district secretary for Duval County Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels.

On: Thomas Valeo has become district secretary for Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite.

Off and on: Caitlin Butler is no longer district secretary for Altamonte Springs Republican Rep. Bob CortesDavid Casto is replacing Butler.

On: Michael Scimeca is the new district secretary for Titusville Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia.

On: Josh Barnhill is the new legislative assistant for Orlando Republican Rep. Mike Miller.

On: Jacob Hawkes has become the new district secretary for Neptune Beach Republican Rep. Cord Byrd.

On: Kaly Fox is now a secretary at Pensacola Republican Sen. Doug Broxson’s local district office.

On: Max Flugrath is new deputy communications director for the House Democratic Caucus.

On: Shawn Hall has become legislative assistant for Palm Beach Democrat Rep. Joseph Abruzzo.

Off and on: Brian McManus is no longer legislative analyst for the Senate Majority office. He has now become legislative assistant for Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young.

On: Elizabeth Honorat and Isabela Dorneles have now become legislative assistants for Miami-Dade Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell.

On: Kayla Bailey is a new legislative assistant to Vero Beach Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

On: Travaris McCurdy is the new legislative assistant for Ocoee Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy.

On: Nicholas Alvarez and Demi Busatta are new legislative assistants for Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.

On:  La’Toya Jones is a new legislative assistant for Broward Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston.

On: Lance Clemons is new legislative assistant for Starke Republican Sen. Rob Bradley.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

BALLARD PARTNERS WILL CONTINUE REPPING DAILY FANTASY SPORTS SITES via Florida Politics – Brian Ballard and the lobbyists who work for him, including former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, have begun registering their representation for the 2017 Legislative Session, some effective as early as this week. Chief among those interests are DraftKings and FanDuel, the DFS giants who announced their merger in November. It still requires federal approval. In the online games, players pick teams of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games. Florida struggled with fantasy sports last legislative session, ultimately letting die a measure that would have explicitly legalized online fantasy play. A 2006 federal law banned online gambling but specifically exempted fantasy sports, paving the way for the creation of the niche industry that’s since exploded in popularity. But several states continue to grapple with whether the games are mere entertainment or illegal sports betting.

CRAFT DISTILLERIES HIRE LOBBYISTS FOR UPCOMING SESSION via Florida Politics – Some craft liquor makers have hired or re-hired representation for the upcoming session: Ron Book and Kelly Mallette, for Florida Distillers of Lake Alfred. Foley & Lardner’s Christian CaballeroPaul LowellJon Yapo and Jonathan Kilman, for American Freedom Distillery of Tampa. GrayRobinson’s Jason Unger and Robert Stuart, for the Florida Distillers Guild, the St. Augustine-based trade group. Republican state Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota already has filed a bill (SB 166) that would change state law to craft distillers’ benefit. The House companion (HB 141) was filed by state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, a St. Johns Republican. One provision in the measure expands how much booze they can produce and still be considered “craft,” raising the limit from 75,000 gallons per year to 250,000 gallons. Another repeals limits on how many bottles distillers can sell directly to consumers, though it maintains a limit on bottles being no bigger than 1.75 liters.

PERSONNEL NOTE: AMY ZUBALY NOW INTERIM HEAD OF FMEA via Florida Politics – Zubaly is now interim executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA). The board of directors tapped Zubaly, deputy executive director of public affairs and strategic communications, to helm the association while it looks for a new head. She’s been with the group for 17 years. Longtime FMEA executive director Barry Moline resigned last month to lead the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) in Sacramento. “We are fortunate to have someone who has the longevity and knowledge of the industry and association that can lead us through the transition period,” FMEA President Clay Lindstrom said in a statement.

AIRBNB HOPES TO PARTNER WITH ESCAMBIA COUNTY IN 2017 via Joseph Baucum of the Pensacola News Journal – The company has already secured partnerships with 32 counties, but it will attempt to finalize deals with the remaining 35 next year — Escambia County among those who have so far abstained. A spokesman for the company said the primary benefit of the agreement is it ensures counties receive all the tax due to them. Tourist development tax is charged on rentals of less than six months. It is collected and administered at the county level and is largely generated through hotel stays, but also on bookings through short-term rentals such as Airbnb. Escambia County’s TDT rate is 4 percent. County Commissioner Doug Underhill said in regards to identifying property owners who owe the tax from short-term rentals, the county monitors the listings that are advertised. But he conceded there is difficulty in tracking all who owe the tax. “To a great extent, we rely on the accountability of property owners,” Underhill said. “For the most part, our citizens are responsible about reporting their taxes.”

U.S. OFFICIALS HAVE OK TO STUDY BRINGING BAHAMAS SAND TO FLORIDA BEACHES via Eric Staats of the Naples Daily News – The 2016 Water Resources Development Act authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to study the potential of using foreign sand, such as from the Bahamas, to widen shorelines and protect coasts from hurricanes like the ones that lashed the Big Bend and northeastern Florida last summer. In its “Shrinking Shores” investigation last year, the Naples Daily News reported Miami-Dade and Broward counties have exhausted their deposits of available offshore sand, leaving only sand that is too far offshore to retrieve or is nestled among protected reefs or other underwater marine features. A federal search found enough sand to last 50 years, but beach project managers told the Daily News the sand is too dark and risks triggering sand wars with other coastal counties. Project managers said Bahamian sand is the region’s best chance to end expensive and inefficient sand hauls from inland mines. But a ban, backed by the U.S. dredging industry, on spending federal money on beach projects that use foreign sand stands in the way. Coastal communities can ill afford to forgo federal money for their beaches, the Daily News found. Florida members of Congress tried again last year, unsuccessfully, to lift the ban.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dunedin’s Julie Ward Bujaiski, and Hillsborough’s Ella Coffee and Ed Turanchik.

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Sunburn for 1.2.17 – Welcome back; Jeb’s consolation prize; Adam Goodman switching sides?; Charlie Crist’s new boat; Bill filings galore

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

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

WELCOME BACK

It was supposed to be the time for a long winter’s nap, but instead Florida politicos continued to stir and create their own kind of clatter.

There were 2018 announcements, key Supreme Court rulings, and a series of elections that could shape the future of the Florida Democratic Party. Dozens of bills have been filed, including ones taking aim at judicial reform, Enterprise Florida, and decriminalizing youthful indiscretions.

If you’ve spent the past two weeks avoiding The Process, don’t worry. We have you covered. Here’s just a few of the stories that helped Florida bid farewell to 2016.

— House Speaker Will Weatherford put an end to the speculation, announcing just days before Christmas that he wouldn’t run for Governor in 2018. The Wesley Chapel Republican said he is focused on “raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” He wasn’t the only one making a 2018 proclamation, though. Orlando Republican Paul Paulson also threw his hat in the race — for Agriculture Commissioner, that is.

— The Miami-Dade Democratic Party elected Stephen Bittel as state committeeman, paving the way for Bittel to mount a bid as the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. His election was just one in a series of twist and turns in the race to lead the state party. Bittel defeated former Sen. Dwight Bullard in the Miami-Dade race, but that doesn’t mean Bullard is out of the running. One week after Bittel secured his seat, Bullard was elected as state committeeman from Gadsden County.

— Stephen Auger, the executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp., resigned amid controversy (isn’t that always how it happens), after an audit showed the organization spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on lavish meals and awarded more than $440,000 in employee bonuses. His last day is Jan. 5.

— Gov. Rick Scott assigned Stephen Russell, the state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit, to look into a complaint filed against Florida Attorney Pam Bondi. Russel now has one year to decide whether the complaint — which stems from a $25,000 contribution Bondi received in 2013 from President-elect Donald Trump’s foundation — has any merit.

— Bills, bills, bills. There was no rest for the weary (or bill drafting) as the holidays neared. Sen. Anitere Flores filed legislation aimed a decriminalizing youthful transgressions, a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron; while Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez filed a bill to reform Enterprise Florida. Over in the House, Rep. Julio Gonzalez filed two bills that would let lawmakers override court decisions they don’t like.

With 2016 now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward to 2017. There might not be any major elections on the ballot, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a crazy year. Election watchers can expect the 2018 buzz to get louder, while the fight to land a spot on the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission is starting to heat up.

And although there’s 67 days left until the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, the first full week of House and Senate committee weeks kicks off on Jan. 9.

Starting to wish you took that long winter’s nap? Yeah, so are we.

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MARCO RUBIO CLASHES WITH DONALD TRUMP’S RUSSIA RHETORIC via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO – Rubio put more distance between himself and Trump when he criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin in a statement … welcoming President Obama’s newly released sanctions “From his repression of the Russian people and the assassination of his critics, to his dangerous invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea, to his threats against our NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe, to the war crimes committed by Russian forces and their Syrian and Iranian allies in Aleppo, Putin’s Russia is a threat to global stability,” Rubio said in a statement … The statement was critical of Obama, calling the sanctions “long overdue” following “years of weakness that have invited and encouraged Russian aggression.” But it also clashed sharply with Trump’s consistently positive outlook on Putin and the Russian Federation.

WHEN A LOCAL BECOMES PRESIDENT, NEIGHBORS FEEL THE EVERYDAY EFFECTS via Tony Doris of the Palm Beach Post – Don’t ask Palm Beach Town Manager Tom Bradford how life has changed since a certain part-time resident became President-elect of the United States of America. Since the second Tuesday in November and even before, Bradford has been fielding inquiries from residents and calls and visits to his office from reporters from New York, Los Angeles, Germany, France and beyond. “I could spend my entire day answering people’s questions about the president and the impact and I wouldn’t be able to get any work done,” he said. south of town hall, where South Ocean approaches Mar-a-Lago and makes its sharp westward curve toward the causeway named for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, the mansion’s former owner, the changes become evident: A Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office cruiser is stationed in a median. There’s another in a driveway. Then, two outside Mar-a-Lago’s closed gates. One more at the round-about. An extendable PBSO watch tower perches above the club’s southern perimeter.

Still, bicyclists, joggers and a seasonably heavy flow of cars make their way easily past and around what will serve as a southern White House, even with its ever-more-famous owner in residence for the holidays. The causeway’s beach and parking areas remain open for the public to swim, walk dogs and enjoy views of the Lake Worth Lagoon, just a stone’s throw from… er… let’s make that within eye shot of… Mar-a-Lago. A steady flow of visitors pause next to a small encampment of media tents and a CNN satellite truck, to snap photos of themselves with the orange estate as a backdrop. Meanwhile, Coast Guard inflatables with flashing blue lights zip along the Intracoastal Waterway, shadowing boats that make their way past the newly designated restricted zone and through the causeway drawbridge. Roads, waterways aren’t so accessible anymore.

GOOD, LONG READ – HOW TRUMP BEAT PALM BEACH SOCIETY AND WON THE FIGHT FOR MAR-A-LAGO via Mark Seal of Vanity Fair – From the moment Trump set eyes on Mar-a-Lago, the grand palace of old Palm Beach, he was on a collision course with one of the richest and most insular towns in America. Mark Seal chronicles how the president-elect created his ‘Winter White House’ with brash ploys, lawsuits, and by turning Palm Beach’s exclusivity against it.

JEB BUSH’S CONSOLATION PRIZE via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — There may be a silver lining to the 2016 presidential election for Bush — the elevation of his longtime friend, patron and political ally, Betsy DeVos, as education secretary. If DeVos is confirmed by the Senate as most expect, Bush could see his views on education — repeatedly ridiculed on the campaign trail by Donald Trump — given new life as she turns their shared vision into national policy. For years, the former Florida governor and DeVos worked side-by-side to push “school choice” policies that steer taxpayer funding to charter and private schools — and which critics blame for undermining traditional public schools. They served together on the board of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, to which DeVos and her husband gave large contributions. The DeVoses also contributed to Bush’s presidential campaign. … A member of Bush’s inner circle, Josh Venable, who has worked as national director for advocacy and legislation at his foundation, is helping DeVos prepare for her confirmation hearing. Bush’s former deputy commissioner of education in Florida, Hanna Skandera, is also being considered for a top position beneath DeVos.

BILL NELSON CONFIDENT BUT EXPECTS A FIGHT FOR HIS SENATE SEAT via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – “No. I feel good,” Nelson said when asked by reporters in Tallahassee recently if he has a target on his back as anticipation grows that Gov. Scott … will challenge him for re-election in 2016. Nelson said he knows he’s going to get a Republican challenger no matter what because of the fact that he is one of 10 incumbent U.S. senators living in states that Trump won. “That’s nothing new, Florida is always going to be a state that is contested,” said Nelson, 74. He said what gives him confidence is that in years past, Florida voters have looked beyond party labels and judged candidates on whether they have done the job they were elected to do. He said historically he’s been able to win over some Republican voters and thinks he can do it again … He said he’s going to run the same as he always does: “Like a scared jackrabbit.”

RICK SCOTT’S POLITICAL COMMITTEE RAISES MORE THAN $2.9M IN 2016 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — State records show Let’s Get to Work — the political committee that fueled Scott’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial races — raised more than $2.9 million in 2016. And that sum will likely rise, since the most recent campaign finance data does not include money raised in December. The committee spent more than $2.5 million this year, including $227,666 for political consulting and $76,264 on surveys and research.

ADAM PUTNAM POLITICAL COMMITTEE BRINGS IN MORE THAN $2.3 MILLION IN 2016 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — State records show Florida Grown, Putnam’s political committee, raised more than $2.3 million through Nov. 30. The committee has raised more than $6.3 million since February 2015, according to state campaign finance records. Records show Florida Grown spent nearly $1.4 million in 2016, including at least $240,000 for political consulting and $51,450 for advertising and advertising design work.

ADAM GOODMAN COULD WORK FOR A DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE IN 2018 GOVERNOR RACE via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – If Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine makes a run for governor, as he’s widely expected to, he may have a surprising media strategist – Goodman of Tampa. Goodman is a nationally prominent Republican media strategist whose clients have included John McCain‘s presidential campaign, Republican governor and Senate candidates in a half-dozen states, Attorney General Bondi and numerous Florida GOP congressional candidates. Goodman has worked for Democrats in non-partisan races — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Levine — but never for a Democrat seeking a partisan office. The two got to be close friends when Goodman worked on Levine’s 2013 race, he said. “He’s a phenomenal guy,” Goodman said of Levine. “He’s the kind of Democrat Republicans should worry about … a modern, post-partisan leader whose trademark is ‘get it done.’ … If he runs, I’d be tremendously interested in working for him.”

GOODMAN NAMED MURROW CENTER FELLOW via a release from The Fletcher School of Tufts University – Goodman … was appointed the first Senior Strategic Fellow at the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World. In this role, Goodman will contribute to the many activities of the Center, as well as be available to students for guidance on research and career options.

BOB BUCKHORN CALLS RUNNING FOR STATE CFO ‘AN OPTION’ via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – There’s been insider chatter in Tampa lately that … Buckhorn, facing a potentially tough primary for Governor in 2018, could switch his sights to the race for chief financial officer. To which Buckhorn this week said, in effect, yes and no. Sort of. What he actually said: “Certainly it is an option, but it’s not an option because I fear competition (in the governor’s race). It does offer an alternative, but not an alternative that I have spent a lot of time thinking about recently. If people are out there blabbering, it’s not because they’ve had a conversation with me.”

FORMER ORLANDO MAYORAL CANDIDATE PAULSON RUNNING FOR STATE AG COMMISSONER via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The race to succeed Putnam in 2018 has already kicked off – and it’s with an unexpected name out of Orlando. Paul Paulson, the newly elected Orange County state Republican committeeman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate in 2015, said that he filed paperwork with the state to run for agriculture commissioner. Paulson, an Orlando real estate executive, said that his father owned a cattle farm in Minnesota and he was familiar with agricultural issues. But he stressed that the department has “a broad umbrella of many responsibilities” including issuing concealed weapons permits.

FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR FORUM SET IN BROWARD via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – The drama of the race to lead the Florida Democratic Party will travel to left-leaning Broward when the candidates convene at a forum in Pompano Beach Jan. 11. Wealthy donor/developer Stephen Bittel, activist Alan Clendenin, former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, Duval County’s Lisa King and Osceola Democratic chair Leah Carius have all confirmed they will attend, said Tim Canova, one of the organizers. The forum gives Democratic activists in Broward — the county with the highest number of registered Democrats — a chance to hear how the candidates hope to reinvigorate the party after its crushing defeat in November with an eye toward 2018 races for Senate and governor. But ultimately, the opinion of only two Democrats in Broward matter — state committeeman Ken Evans and committeewoman Grace Carrington — who get a powerful vote in the chair election in Orlando Jan. 14. Evans said he hasn’t decided who he will vote for but said he will base his decision on who Broward Democrats coalesce around. Carrington said in a text to the Miami Herald “I’m not making my decision until 10 minutes before the vote.” Votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats in each county which means that Broward and Miami-Dade get a major say in the chair election to replace Allison Tant.

— “With support from State Senators, Blaise Ingoglia moves to debunk myth of fractured RPOF” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist

— “RPOF chairman’s race: Facing Blaise Ingoglia’s Endorsement Onslaught, Christian Ziegler says math doesn’t add up” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist

SPOTTED in The Hill’s list of “10 freshmen to watch in the new Congress:” Democrats Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy, and Republican Brian Mast.

CHARLIE CRIST’S NEW BOAT – “Golden Rule”

BRIAN MAST GETS CELEBRITY RECEPTION IN CONGRESS via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm.com – Newly elected Republican Mast is causing a buzz, even before he takes House office Tuesday. The Army veteran, who lost his legs in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan, has a strong story of sacrifice for the country that has garnered him popularity among congressional Republicans and several appearances in national news outlets. Republicans gave him a standing ovation during a recent congressional caucus meeting and several of the lawmakers he introduced himself to already know who he is, he said. Mast, 36, will be one of the youngest House members and was named one of 10 House freshmen to watch by D.C. newspaper The Hill. Mast’s popularity goes beyond his military service. He helped the GOP pick up three House seats nationwide in 2016 and conservative super PACs invested heavily to carry him to a victory against businessman Randy Perkins in November.

FRANCIS ROONEY GOES TO WASHINGTON via Ledyard King of News-Press.com – Rooney has been in charge for much of his professional life as the chairman of an international investment company with real estate, energy and construction holdings. Come Tuesday, the Oklahoma native who lives in Naples will be simply one of 435 members of the House. And one of the most junior ones at that. “This is a new page,” said Rooney, 63. “I don’t know much about legislating, I’ve never been in a legislative body. (But) I’m really looking forward to it. In our company, you get respect by doing a good job. And this may be a little different. I’ve got to learn, but I seem to do OK with most of the challenges I’ve had.” Rooney … won an open seat in November to succeed another GOP businessman, Curt Clawson, who decided not to seek re-election… Unlike Clawson who embraced his “outsider” status and skirmished with the GOP establishment, Rooney said he plans to play ball with party leaders. He said he’ll back the re-election of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as Speaker and will raise money for the party as lawmakers are expected to do. That’s not a reach for Rooney who has been – along with his wife Kathleen – a prolific Republican fundraiser for years.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENTS COULD BRING CHAOS via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – A quirk in the state constitution means Florida could be headed to a bruising legal brawl over the ideological balance of the Florida Supreme Court that would decide the future of the court for decades to come. Three justices – Barbara ParienteFred Lewis and Peggy Quince – will be forced under the state constitution’s age limits to retire Jan. 8, 2019, Gov. Scott‘s last day in office. The justices are reliable members of the liberal voting bloc that holds a 4-3 majority on the bench. Even though the appointments are two years away, both sides are gearing up for a fight. Scott, a Republican, believes he’ll be able to appoint their replacements on his final day in office. Not so fast, Democrats say. Whoever wins the 2018 gubernatorial race and succeeds Scott should have a say, they claim. The appointments are not subject to confirmation by the Legislature. If Scott names the replacements for Pariente, Lewis and Quince, the court could have a solid conservative majority until at least 2025. That’s when justices Ricky Polston and Charles Canady, the other conservatives on the bench, face mandatory retirement. In 2014, GOP lawmakers tried to settle the judicial-appointment question by putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would have given Scott clear authority to fill “prospective” vacancies. But 52 percent of the electorate voted against it.

FLORIDA’S DEATH PENALTY SYSTEM WILL FACE RENEWED STRESS IN 2017 via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A series of federal and state court rulings will bring upheaval to a system long criticized for racial disparities and for seemingly endless and unjust delays. Now the state must confront the enormous impact of a case known as Hurst versus Florida, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that constitutional rights of defendants were violated because their juries had too little say in recommending sentences of death. Applying the Hurst case to Florida — the state with the second most death row inmates at 383 — the state Supreme Court decided that about half of those inmates should still face execution. Those inmates were sentenced before 2002, when another case, Ring versus Arizona, found that it was unconstitutional for a judge instead of a jury to find the facts necessary to impose the death penalty. At the time, the Florida Supreme Court decided the Ring decision did not apply because Florida had a different sentencing scheme and that in another case, the nation’s highest court upheld the constitutionality of Florida’s system. But the other half of the death row population — most inmates sentenced after Ring in 2002 — could be resentenced to life without parole, depending on the facts in each case, because they were condemned to die under a law ruled unconstitutional by the Hurst case. Attorney General Bondi will continue to seek to carry out as many death sentences as possible, arguing that any previous sentencing errors were legally harmless. But as a flurry of post-Hurst appeals clogs the courts, legal experts foresee an expensive and, for the families of victims, agonizingly painful review of as many as 200 cases in which defendants seek sentences of life without parole.

NEW PROSECUTOR WILL INVESTIGATE COMPLAINT AGAINST PAM BONDI via The Associated Press – Gov. Scott has assigned a complaint filed against Attorney General Bondi to a prosecutor in southwest Florida. The complaint stems from scrutiny this year over a $25,000 campaign contribution Bondi received from President-elect Trump in 2013. Bondi asked for the donation around the same time her office was being asked about a New York investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University. A Massachusetts attorney filed numerous complaints against Bondi, including one that asked State Attorney Mark Ober to investigate Trump’s donation. Ober asked Scott in September to appoint a different prosecutor because Bondi used to work for him. Scott assigned the case to State Attorney Stephen Russell, who has one year to decide whether the complaint has any merit.

FLORIDA CANCELS ROBUST INSURANCE PLAN FOR KIDS WITH FEW OTHER OPTIONS via Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida Healthy Kids, a public-private organization, offers health insurance to children ages 5 to 18 whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In 2016, the program covered about 167,500 children across the state. … Families who make more can also buy coverage, but must pay the full premiums. In 2016, about 1,700 full-pay children were enrolled in a plan called Sunshine Health Stars that cost $205 per month, or $220 per month with dental coverage. Another 9,620 children had a more robust plan known as Sunshine Health Stars Plus. Its benefits included a $0 deductible, a $10 co-pay for emergency room services and a $5 co-pay for all therapy services. The monthly premium for a full-pay child was $284, or $299 with dental. … The last several years, however, have been challenging for Florida Healthy Kids. In 2015, plan administrators had to make changes because of new insurance regulations associated with the Affordable Care Act. The new rules required that plans cover more benefits, including emergency-room visits and preventive screenings and vaccines. They also prevented plans from limiting spending on essential health benefits for children. Federal health officials said the new regulations improved coverage. But they came with a cost. Florida Healthy Kids said the changes caused premiums for self-pay families to double from 2015 to 2016. The Stars Plus plan would have become even more expensive in 2017, Florida Healthy Kids said in a statement Tuesday: “As a result, the plan will end on December 31, 2016.”

FLORIDA REPORTS MORE LOCAL ZIKA CASES via Lisa Schnirring of the University of Minnesota – The Florida Department of Health … announced three more locally acquired Zika cases … [Involving] Miami-Dade County, and investigations are underway to determine where exposure occurred. However, it added that Florida still doesn’t have any identified active transmission areas … Officials said they expect to see isolated cases of local transmission, “so it is important for residents and visitors in Miami-Dade County to remain vigilant about mosquito bite protection. The illnesses are the first to be reported since Dec. 21 and lift Florida’s local case total to 256, Florida Health said in today’s report. Health officials also announced two more Zika infections in Miami-Dade residents who also had exposure overseas in areas with ongoing active transmission. The state now has 19 cases that involve undetermined exposure to the virus. Meanwhile, Florida’s number of travel-related cases is still growing, with three more reported … two from Polk County and one from Palm Beach County. The state now has 1,011 travel-linked Zika infections.

— “Keys plan field trial for bacteria-infected mosquitoes” via The Associated Press

JUDGE INVALIDATES POLLUTION NOTIFICATION RULE via The Associated Press – A Florida administrative law judge says a rule requiring companies to notify the public of pollution events within 24 hours is invalid. The new rule was pushed by Gov. Scott after it took weeks for the public to be notified about a giant sinkhole at a fertilizer plant that sent millions of gallons of polluted water into the state’s main drinking water aquifer … the new rule, which would result in fines for companies who failed to report pollution within a day, was “an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.” Five business groups – Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Trucking Association and the National Federation of Independent Business – challenged the rule in court, saying it would create excessive regulatory costs.

WHAT CHRIS FLACK IS READING – JUDGE: DUKE ENERGY IS OFF THE HOOK FOR $352 MILLION FOR CANCELED LEVY COUNTY NUKE PLANT via William Levesque of the Tampa Bay Times – A federal judge in North Carolina ruled … the Florida utility does not owe the Westinghouse Electric Co. $352 million for disputed costs associated with the 2013 cancellation of a Levy County nuclear power plant. But federal Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. said in a 29-page order that Duke is contractually obligated to pay Westinghouse a $30-million termination fee plus $4 million in interest. The judge’s decision, after a bench trial, is a rare dose of good news for Duke over the controversial Levy project, which Duke inherited when it acquired Progress Energy in 2012. Duke’s 1.7 million Florida ratepayers were forced to cover about $1.5 billion of Duke’s costs in developing the project. And the utility had been expected to seek approval from the Florida Public Service Commission to pass on the $352 million bill to its customers had Westinghouse prevailed. It remains unclear if consumers will be asked to cover the $34 million.

WHAT STEPHANIE SMITH IS READING – IN 2017, UBER AND LYFT’S NEXT REGULATORY FIGHT COULD BE IN ST. PETE via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – Uber and Lyft currently hold the upper hand in Hillsborough. After a long fight with the county’s Public Transportation Commission, they can legally operate through 2017. But legislators appear poised to do away with the PTC altogether next year. The agency regulates Hillsborough’s for-hire vehicles like taxis, but never got Uber or Lyft to play by the same rules. That’s why ridesharing’s next battle could be in St. Petersburg in 2017. The companies may not agree to a measure that Mayor Rick Kriseman says will level the playing field between the rideshares and taxi companies. The city’s revamped vehicle-for-hire ordinance, first discussed in February 2015, has taken an unusual twist: it satisfies neither the ridesharing firms nor the taxi cab companies. “It’s one of these intractable issues,” said the mayor’s chief of staff, Kevin King. The ride-sharing companies have objected to paying the city’s $65 per vehicle business tax, which taxi cab companies have done for years. Instead, Uber, the dominant firm in the rideshare industry, wants to pay a $5,000 annual fee for all its drivers. Kriseman hasn’t budged on the tax. The St. Petersburg City Council is poised to vote on the issue Thursday.

SENATE WILL DETERMINE WHETHER BOBBY POWELL STAYS OR GOES via Florida Politics It’s now up to his new colleagues whether Powell gets to stay a state senator. The Riviera Beach Democrat was elected to Senate District 30 this year after serving four years in the House. But his opponent, Republican candidate Ron Berman, challenged the results with a “notice of contest,” according to reports. Because the Senate is the ultimate judge of its members, Senate President Joe Negron appointed a “credentials committee” to review the matter. That panel will be chaired by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. It will meet Jan. 12 during the regularly scheduled committee week in preparation for the 2017 Legislative Session.

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS SAY THEY’RE WILLING TO COMPROMISE ON EXPANDING GAMBLING via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – With a lawsuit pending in the Florida Supreme Court, the House and Senate still disagree on whether to allow slot machines in eight counties where voters approved gambling expansion. But leaders from the two chambers said they are willing to compromise for a lucrative gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe … House Commerce Committee Chairman Jose Felix Diaz said the House would not support slot machines in eight counties that approved expanded gambling if it meant more gambling sites in the state. “At some point last year, there was a proposal that would have massively and indiscriminately expanded slot-machine gaming in various counties across the state,” said Diaz. “The House said then that our goals are twofold: a contraction in gaming and a long-term solution.” Senate President Negron said the Legislature should follow the will of the people who spoke out through local referendums. But approving a compact with the Seminoles was a top priority for next year’s legislative session.

WHAT RICHARD CORCORAN’S OFFICE THINKS OF THAT HEADLINE: “Wishful thinking”

BILL SEEKS TO INCREASE OVERSIGHT FOR ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Troy Kinsey of Bay News 9 – The measure, SB 216, by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, would require annual audits of incentive deals brokered between Enterprise Florida and companies that promise to create a specified number of jobs. In recent years, taxpayers have been on the losing end of such arrangements, providing seed money for jobs that never materialized. The legislation would also require Enterprise Florida’s president to be confirmed by the Florida Senate. Such a move would effectively strip Gov. Scott of his prerogative as chairman of the Enterprise Florida board of directors to hire and fire the agency’s chief. Incentive deals would need to be approved by a two-thirds vote by the board, reducing the potential for cronyism.

BILL WOULD MAKE CRIME OF ‘BALLOT SELFIES’ IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics – State law now says, “No photography is permitted in the polling room or early voting area,” but doesn’t include an enforcement provision. State Sen. Frank Artiles‘ bill (SB 224) would make it a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. The bill would make other changes to the state’s election code, including also making it a first-degree misdemeanor to “solicit” someone inside the 100-foot exclusion zone “of the entrance to any polling place (or) early voting site.” State law defines “soliciting” as trying to influence a vote but does not prohibit exit polling. Artiles’ bill does not yet have a House companion.

BILLS GALORE

— “Anitere Flores files bill aimed at decriminalizing youth” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

— “Bill: Businesses hiring vets would get tax breaks” via Florida Politics

— “Cyndi Stevenson ‘excited’ to carry craft distillery bill in House” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

— “Equal rights amendment gets another introduction in Legislature” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

— “Future sales tax referendum bills could be restricted to general election ballot” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

— “Helmets would be required for motorcyclists under proposed bill” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

— “Legislation would allow lawmakers to override judges’ rulings” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

— “Linda Stewart files bill to stop short-handed contamination votes” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “Nick DiCeglie blasts Darryl Rouson’s electoral College reform bill” via Florida Politics

DISNEY DECISION TO EXPAND ALCOHOL SALES COULD IMPACT LEGISLATIVE SESSION via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist – The move by Disney could have a broader impact on this year’s legislative session as lawmakers consider whether or not to repeal a law preventing grocery stores … to expand alcohol sales inside their existing locations. The 80-year old law, dating back to the Prohibition-era, blocks retail stores from selling liquor and distilled spirits on their premises. In the past, one of the primary arguments against repealing the law has been based on the idea that kids – especially teens – could more easily access liquor and drink illegally. It’s fascinating that Disney … rejects that kind of thinking … Disney announced plans last week to expand wine and beer sales to four restaurants inside the Magic Kingdom, and for years has sold distilled spirits and liquor at its other parks – including bottled alcohol on sale at specific locations around Epcot. … Disney says there’s reason for the change in policy: consumer demand … here is no way the company would make a change like this if there existed a shred of evidence suggesting the company had decided to prioritize profits over public safety. That’s why Disney’s decision effectively guts one of the common arguments against repealing the law.

PERSONNEL NOTE: LOGAN PIKE NOW WITH JMI via Florida Politics – Pike, formerly State Government Relations Manager at The Heartland Institute, is now Director of Public Affairs at The James Madison Institute. Pike, a former JMI intern, is “responsible for building and maintaining the Institute’s relationships with government officials and civic leaders on the federal, state and local levels,” according to a post on JMI’s website … Pike has dual undergraduate degrees in Political Science and International Affairs from Florida State University.

PERSONNEL NOTE: JESSICA CARY JOINS FDLE AS SPOKESWOMAN via Florida Politics – Cary, a former Department of Corrections communications director, is now communications coordinator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen announced the hire Dec. 21. Cary will work with longtime FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger in the statewide law enforcement agency’s Tallahassee headquarters. Cary replaces the retiring Steve Arthur in the agency’s press office.

ANOTHER POLITICIAN CHARGED WITH BRIBERY IN CORRUPTION-WEARY OPA-LOCKA via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald – … the fourth defendant to be prosecuted in the still-widening probe. Luis Santiago, 55, lost his city commission seat in November after a series of Miami Herald stories reported he was the main target of an alleged extortion scheme involving payoffs for official favors. News of his arrest spread quickly through Opa-locka, a poor city whose government since June has been under the control of a state oversight board that must approve all spending by the city commission due to a financial emergency. Santiago, perhaps best known around Opa-locka for sponsoring bingo nights and raising money for the city’s Fourth of July celebration, was once an influential member of the commission because of his alliance with Mayor Myra Taylor.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

FAPL RE-ELECTS BOARD MEMBERS FOR 2017 TERM via Florida Politics – The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists has selected board members for the next term. According to an email from the group, the Nominating Committee forwarded a slate of seven candidates, each a current Board member seeking re-election for another two-year term. FAPL members overwhelmingly approved the slate. The following members were each re-elected for a two-year term: Eric Eikenberg, Jose Gonzalez, Jennifer J. Green, Jeff Kottkamp, David Mica, John Wayne Smith, Doug Wheeler. 

MEDIA LAWYER ALISON STEELE LEAVING RAHDERT, GOING SOLO via Florida Politics – The longtime media attorney is leaving the St. Petersburg law firm she has helped build for the last quarter-century and starting her own solo firm. Steele, a name partner in the firm of Rahdert, Steele, Reynolds & Driscoll, said she was sending out announcements of her new practice. She will continue to focus on media and employment law and civil litigation. Steele has represented the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald, the New York Times, the First Amendment Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union, according to a bio. Steele said she’s leaving her old firm on good terms: “I started out with George (Rahdert) in 1987, then took a year and a half for a federal clerkship, then returned to practice with George in 1990 … We have coming up on 30 years of friendship, more than 25 practicing law together. We built a great firm together. We have a great legacy together. We’re going to continue to be great colleagues and friends.”

— “AFSCME hires Rubin Group to lobby Legislature, governor” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Florida Network of Children Advocacy Centers

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: AFSCME Florida, UrbanPromise Miami, Inc.

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Smallwood Prison Dental Services

Dean Cannon, David Griffin, Todd Steibly, GrayRobinson: Florida Girl Scouts Legislative Network

Michael Cusick, Michael Cusick and Associates: Opportunity Solutions Project

Claudia Davant, Adams St. Advocates: Take Stock in Children

Christopher Carmody, Christopher Dawson, GrayRobinson: Coronal Energy

Scott Dick, SKD Consulting Group: Southwest Florida Enterprises, Inc.

Rob Fields, One Eighty Consulting: Dell Technologies

Nicole Fried: San Felasco Nurseries, Inc.

Jasmyne Henderson, Pittman Law Group: Peoples Gas System, Inc.; Tampa Electric Company

Douglas Arlington Holder Jr., The Legis Group: Martin County Sheriff Office; Sarasota Memorial Health System

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: LKQ Corporation

Paul Lowell, Foley & Lardner: National Strategies, LLC.; Streamlink Software; Zenefits

Larry Overton, Larry J. Overton & Associates: Mary Mifflin-Gee

William Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: AFSCME Florida

Douglas Russell, D. Russell & Associates: Greenwich Biosciences, Inc.

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Martin County Sheriff Office; MCNA Dental Plans; Ultimate Health Plans, Inc.

Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Margaret Timmins, Timmins Consulting: The Florida Providers for Traffic Safety

SPOTTED on Roger Stone’s 11th annual list of the best dressed: Foley & Lardner’s Jon Yapo, GrayRobinson’s Chris Carmody, and Southern Strategy Group’s Alex Setzer.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Brian Crowley, Charlie Dudley, Natalie Kato, Rep. Chris Latvala, Brock Mikosky, Rep. Carlos Guillemo Smith, Eddie Thompson.

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.20.16

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

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

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE … 2018

If you already know who you’re backing in 2018, you might be the only one.

A new Florida Chamber Political Institute poll found most Florida voters were undecided when it comes to the upcoming gubernatorial election. But with 685 days until Election Day 2018, it’s never too early to start ponder who will next take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion.

“It may seem that we have a long time before we need to address the election for Governor and Cabinet, but time will fly by and before we know it, we will be in the midst of campaigns that will affect Florida’s future,” wrote Marian Johnson, the executive director of the Florida Political Institute.

A bevy of names have already been bandied about. Gwen Graham, the one-term Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, is considering a run. Ditto, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The same goes for Democrats John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

But if the primaries were held today, “undecided” would come out the resounding victor.

According to the Florida Chamber’s survey, 45 percent of Democratic voters and 64 percent of Republican voters said they were “undecided” about the 2018 gubernatorial race.

If the Democratic primary was held today, the poll showed Graham would be locked in a tight race with Morgan. The poll found Graham received 16 percent support, followed by Morgan at 15 percent. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum would get 8 percent, while Buckhorn and Levine would each get 5 percent of the vote.

Four percent of Democrat voters said they’d back “someone else” in the 2018 primary.

When it comes to the GOP primary, the Florida Chamber found 22 percent of Republican voters said they would support Putnam.

The Republican would fare well in the general election, according to analysis by the Florida Chamber Political Institute. In a hypothetical head-to-head match-up, Putnam holds a small lead over both Graham and Morgan.

The survey found Putnam leads Graham 39 percent to 36 percent; while he leads Morgan 40 percent to 37 percent.

Those numbers are a flip of Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer that showed the Democrats holding slight edges in head-to-head races. In that poll, Graham led Putnam 37 percent to 34 percent in a hypothetical match-up; while Morgan led Putnam 39 percent to 35 percent.

But really at this point, anyone who has truly decided who they are voting for is probably related to a 2018 hopeful … or clairvoyant.

AND WE’LL SEE YOU IN 2017: The team that produces Sunburn will be enjoying a long winter’s nap through the holidays. Sunburn will return to inboxes January 2.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice, and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

DAYS UNTIL: Shopping days until Christmas – 4; FSU vs. Michigan/Orange Bowl – 10; Inauguration Day – 30; Super Bowl – 47; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 56; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 87: Election Day 2017 – 321: Election Day 2018 – 688.

WITH HELP FROM FLORIDA’S 29 ELECTORAL VOTES, DONALD TRUMP GETS 270 NEEDED TO BECOME PRESIDENT via Steve Bousquet and Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – The ceremony ended weeks of efforts by disappointed and angry voters across the country who wrote letters, fired off emails, filed lawsuits and finally staged protests in an effort to prevent Trump from becoming the nation’s 45th president Jan. 20, 2017. “I know it was a long hard haul,” said Rep. Blaise Ingoglia … chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, as he thanked fellow electors for standing by Trump despite the many “harassing” messages. “We were part of history.” About 200 demonstrators assembled in the rotunda outside as electors gathered in the state Capitol’s newly remodeled Senate chamber in a ceremony under the direction of Gov. Scott‘s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Florida’s awarding of electors to Trump was celebrated — inside the Senate chamber. Seated in alphabetical order, each of the 29 electors cast separate paper ballots for Trump and for Vice President-elect Mike Pence. They applauded loudly when Detzner announced the anticlimactic results.

— “You’re hired! Trump picks Florida Panthers owner for Army Secretary” via John Pacenti of the Palm Beach Post

GWEN GRAHAM, IN FINAL NEWS CONFERENCE, CLAIMS $2.5 MILLION IN BENEFITS TO CONSTITUENTS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – “Our office is an example that you can get a lot done and still be fiscally conservative,” the Democrat said during a news conference at Tallahassee City Hall, where she maintains a district office. Aides said it would be her final meeting with reporters before leaving office early next year. “We made constituent service or No. 1 priority,” Graham said. So much so that she has discussed its importance with Neal Dunn, the Republican from Panama City elected in November to replace Graham in a radically redistricted Congressional District 2. “I will work with him on that,” Graham said. “I hope he continues that focus on constituent services. Because, of all the things you do in Congress, there is nothing more important that helping people back home. I have had that conversation with him I know that, in his heart, he wants to do the same.” Graham said her office helped constituents secure $489,000 in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits; $293,000 in Veterans Affairs benefits; $118,000 from the IRS; and $100,000 in Deepwater Horizon claims. Of her office’s operating budget, Graham in prepared remarks that, “with smart management, government can provide essential services to help people while also being fiscally responsible.”

ALAN GRAYSON: FLORIDA DEMOCRATS NEED SOMEONE WITH A MESSAGE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Grayson is wrapping up his third and, for now, final term as a Democratic congressman from Orlando, a never apologetic liberal lion with perhaps as much name recognition in California and New York as he does in Florida. While looking ahead to his announced plans to run a legal or Florida constitutional amendment campaign to restore civil rights for felons, Grayson also reflected on his own accomplishments, his collapsed campaign for the U.S. Senate, and his opinions for what it would take for the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and other Democratic establishments to win. Grayson is calling, really wishing, for a new approach …  “Unless there is substantial structural change, the Blue Dogs will continue to make the argument that a populist Democrat, or for that matter a progressive Democrat, which is not exactly the same thing, has no chance of winning – because that’s the way they continue to dominate the statewide machinery,” Grayson said. “Even though they’ve been proved wrong in every single race except for Alex Sink’s race for CFO, every single race for a quarter century.” … “There are populist issues that would actually bring the whole state together and galvanize the groups that we did extremely poorly with in the national election, for instance high school dropouts, where the Democratic Party got wiped out,” Grayson said. “The polls showed Bernie did 40 points better than Clinton with high school dropouts. 40.”

— “The Democratic Party: Evolution or Extinction” via Scott Arceneaux for Medium

FEA FACE-SLAPS DWIGHT BULLARD, ENDORSES MEGADONOR STEPHEN BITTEL via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Florida Education Association added its name to the growing list of names supporting his bid for Miami-Dade Democratic Party State Committeeman, a springboard position to take the reins of the struggling FDP. In the endorsement, the FEA called Bittel a “strong advocate” for Florida’s teachers and education professionals. “A product of the Miami-Dade Public Schools, his commitment to protecting and improving our public-school system is well-established,” said the FEA. “Stephen Bittel’s progressive values are displayed in his actions and with every campaign and issue he champions. We believe that Stephen has the best combination of experience and leadership to help rebuild the Florida Democratic Party.” The FEA sent a rallying cry to its 140,000 members, asking them to join in their support for Bittel. Bittel, whose wife is a teacher, vowed to make the party inclusive and representative of “all Florida Democrats” … “We’ve received the support of South Florida progressives because they understand what’s at stake and they want a Democratic Party leader who isn’t afraid to shake things up to ensure more voices are heard and more Florida Democrats win elections,” said the candidate for Miami Dade Democratic State Committeeman.

FOURTH TIME FILING BILL, SENATOR HOPES SURVIVING CHILD ABUSE VICTIM WILL GET MONEY OWED via Sasha Cordner of WFSU – Victor Barahona already received $1.25 million for the abuse he suffered at the hands of his adoptive parents, under the state child welfare agency’s supervision. His twin sister, Nubia, didn’t survive. Now, through a claims bill, Sen. Anitere Flores … is seeking to get Victor $3.75 million—the rest of the agreed settlement with the Florida Department of Children and Families. “It should be one of the poster childs of why we have claims cases,” Flores said. “There is a small opportunity or the state to try and help the life of this child, the brother who survived. I’m hopeful that we’re able to do that. And, so, I won’t stop fighting, until we do that. I do think that this year will be a little bit more open to claims bills.” Since it’s her fourth consecutive year filing the bill, Flores is hopeful it’ll pass in 2017. And, she says it doesn’t hurt she’s now the Senate President’s Second-in-Command. “I think that it helps … the facts of this case are just very compelling and they pull at the heartstrings of anybody that hears it,” Flores added. Flores calls the claims bill “a top priority.” So far, there’s no House sponsor.

EDITORIAL: facKEEP PARTISAN REVENGE OUT OF STATE CONSTITUTION via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Florida voters had to be aware of a sneaky constitutional amendment this year. They may have to be even more informed and focused in 2018. The 2016 subterfuge was an amendment related to solar energy that advertised itself as consumer-friendly. In fact, Florida’s investor-owned utilities financed the amendment with $26 million in hopes of securing a monopoly on solar power. Voters, however, wised up. The amendment fell far short of the 60 percent needed for approval. For 2018, the looming danger is amendments that seek to undermine Florida’s independent judiciary. This issue may not sound as sexy as energy from the sun, but it’s far more important. Florida is the only state in which an appointed body — the Constitution Revision Commission — can put amendments on the ballot without court review. The 37-member commission meets every 20 years, and the next iteration starts in 2017 to decide which amendments — if any — go on the 2018 ballot. Though he claims that conservatives “get the separation of powers,” [RichardCorcoran is not acting like such a conservative. He wants to make the Florida Supreme Court subservient to the Legislature because he opposes the court’s rulings on, to name a few, school vouchers, workers’ compensation insurance and, especially, redistricting. In 2010, voters approved constitutional amendments that prohibited the Legislature from drawing gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts to favor parties and incumbents. Last year, the groups that sponsored the amendments successfully challenged the congressional and state Senate maps the Republican-controlled Legislature drew in 2012. Both amendments got nearly 63 percent of the vote. Evidence showed that, despite promises of transparency, Republican leaders had worked in secret with party operatives to draw maps that favored the GOP. The legal challenge ensured that the amendments would work as voters intended. Corcoran now wants the Constitutional Revision Commission to go after “bad decisions” — translation: his side lost — by the Florida Supreme Court. He wants proposals to neuter the Fair Districts Amendments and impose 12-year-term limits on Supreme Court justices. It takes 22 votes to get an amendment on the ballot. We don’t know what the commission will produce. Based on the early comments, however, we know that there’s reason for Floridians to start worrying and stay informed.

WEATHER CHANNEL EXPOSÉ UNFAIRLY BASHES SUGAR INDUSTRY FOR ALGAE, CRITICS SAY via Kim Miller of the Palm Beach Post – A documentary published this month about the summer’s widespread algae outbreak faces criticism from scientists, fishermen and farmers who say it pins too much blame on Florida’s sugar industry, and paints an inaccurate picture of Lake Okeechobee as a bubbling cesspool of “radioactive fish.” The piece, titled “Toxic Lake – The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee,” delves deep into Florida’s calamitous decision to reroute its natural plumbing system, as well as the robust lobbying efforts and political prowess of Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar. But critics argue the 10-page article and 11-minute video pay less attention to the unusual weather that super-charged the algae growth over the summer, or to where the pollution that seeded the St. Lucie River slime originates. The story, which can be found at toxiclake.com is labeled an investigation by The Weather Channel. “It just seemed like there were a lot of things in the story pointing back to sugar, and that is a distraction,” said Nyla Pipes, executive director of the One Florida Foundation, a nonprofit group focusing on water issues. “People want a boogeyman, but it’s a disservice to Floridians because you can’t point fingers at one industry.”

WHAT DEAN CANNON IS READING – DENTAL CARE VENDOR LOSES TRADE SECRETS CASE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Circuit Judge Karen Gievers of Tallahassee last week ruled against Managed Care of North America (MCNA Dental). She ordered the company to divulge certain records to Delta Dental. MCNA now must give up the names and locations of the dentists it contracts with … Delta was one of four companies to bid on providing kids’ dental services, and the only one to lose. It filed a public records request with Florida Healthy Kids Corp., which manages the contract. MCNA learned of the request and objected. Half of its score was based on its provider network — essentially the depth of its bench — and MCNA said disclosing that info would divulge “trade secrets.” But the info is publicly available, in bits and pieces through specific searches, on its website. Delta said it wanted “access to MCNA’s network data in the exact format that it was submitted to (Healthy Kids)” to independently verify its bid. “If the information was not accurately presented or formatted, a small variation in office address, county or office hours can result in duplicate counting of providers,” its filing said.

APPOINTEDStuart Kaplan and Lucille Turner to the Florida Board of Optometry.

LONGTIME BUSINESS LOBBYIST LAMENTS LOSS OF ‘SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS’ IN WASHINGTON via Carl Hulse of The New York Times – As executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, [BruceJosten, 66, was the point man for business interests in a slew of heavy-duty trade, tax and energy negotiations … a master at the inside game. After more than 30 years in the Beaux-Arts-style chamber headquarters across Lafayette Square from the White House, Josten is now in his own transition, retiring after helping turn the chamber into a political powerhouse and watching his specialty – sophisticated legislative give-and-take – become less prized in a polarized capital. … “I actually do miss the smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear,” said Josten … “Because you got a lot done.”

DEMOCRATIC WOMEN MORE LIKELY TO HIT THE UNFRIEND BUTTON OVER POLITICS via Leslie Clark for the Bradenton Herald – Only 13 percent of the public blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media because of a political posting, a new survey from PRRI found. There were sharp divisions among those who took offense: 24 percent of Democrats say they took action after a post angered them, compared to just 9 percent of Republicans and independents who reported eliminating people from their social media circle. Political liberals were far more likely than conservatives to say they removed someone from their social media circle because of what they shared online: 28 percent to 8 percent. Just 11 percent of moderates said they took action against a friend for a posting. Women were twice as likely as men to report unfriending: 18 percent to 9 percent. Three in 10 or 30 percent of Democratic women say they removed an individual from their online social network because of a political opinion they expressed, while only 14 percent of Democratic men did so. Republican men and women were equal when it came to blocking or unfollowing friends: 10 percent versus 8 percent. The poll also found that 5 percent of Americans plan to shun family because of their political views. Democrats, however, are five times more likely than Republicans to say they are trying to avoid certain family members because of their political views, the poll found with 10 percent of Democrats avoiding a family members, compared to just 2 percent of Republicans.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ANDREW FAY – The Legislative and Policy Specialist for Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office received The Florida Bar’s 2016 Government Attorney of the Year award for his service to the victims of the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. In her weekly newsletter, Bondi thanked him “for his unwavering service and dedication to the people of Florida and those affected by the tragedy.”

CHRISTMAS CARD FUN via GrayRobinson:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the future mayor of St. Petersburg, Greg Holden.

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Sunburn for 12.19.16 – The latest edition of INFLUENCE Magazine debuts today

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

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

LAUNCHING TODAY: THE LATEST EDITION OF INFLUENCE MAGAZINE

Yes, we did it.

Yes, we based the cover of this quarter’s INFLUENCE Magazine on the poster from a comic book movie, “Captain America: Civil War

Because why can’t lobbyists be superheroes?

Actually, the perception lately of lobbyists seems to be anything BUT super. Upon taking the gavel of the Florida House, Speaker Richard Corcoran promulgated new rules designed to rein in the power of the influence industry.

To extend the superhero metaphor, it’s as if Corcoran is serving up a healthy dose of Kryptonite to Florida lobbyists. But will the new rules have the impact Corcoran — whose brother Michael is a lobbyist and actually was in the very first edition of INFLUENCE Magazine — seeks? Our Jim Rosica explores the issue beginning on page 82.

Whatever impact Speaker Corcoran’s new rules have on The Process, the consensus among many of the most successful lobbyists is that they will quickly abide by and adapt to the changes. In fact, INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2015 Lobbying Firm of the Year — Capital City Consulting —was the first to register with the House under the new guidelines.

Also ready to embrace the new day: Ron Book, perhaps the most well-known lobbyist walking Florida’s halls of power. In an in-depth interview, Book talks about the privilege of working in the people’s Capitol, while also opening up about the toughest battle he’s had to face — his fight against prostate cancer. It’s simply must-read stuff.

CLICK HERE TO READ A DIGITAL VERSION OF THE WINTER 2016 EDITION OF INFLUENCE MAGAZINE.

Anchoring this edition of INFLUENCE are two major features. The first is a look at the re-emergence of the legal-lobbying firms, like Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig.

If the last decade saw the decline of the one-man (or woman) shops and the rise of the networked mega-firms, the end of this decade is seeing this other trend, where major legal firms are also major players in the governmental affairs industry. For the first time in some time, one of these firms (GT) is in the Top 5 for compensation, while several other law firms, like GrayRobinson and Gunster, are seeing increased revenues.

The second big feature in this edition is the debut of the 2016 class of Rising Stars in the governmental affairs industry. One thing we’ve prided ourselves on is identifying early on the fresh faces to watch … people like Katie Ballard and Sydney Ridley, who we took notice of quickly and are now watching as they bloom into power players.

THIS YEAR’S CROP OF RISING STARS includes Carol Bowen, Emily Duda Buckley, Melanie Brown, Katie Crofoot, Jose Diaz, Eric Edwards, Josh Gabel, Bianca Garza, Whitney Harris, Jasmyne Henderson, Brittney Hunt, Andrew Ketchel, Kristen McDonald, Drew Messer, Jo Morris, Drew Piers, Tara Reid, Joe Salzverg, Kelly Schmidt, Samantha Sexton, Kelsey Swithers and Jared Torres.

Do yourself a favor and get to know the 2016 class. These are the men and women who could be your next big hire — or competition.

A housekeeping note: Instead of publishing the INFLUENCE 100 every year, we’ve decided to alternate it with the list of Rising Stars. The truth is, the INFLUENCE 100 ebbs and flows with the election cycle and there’s just not enough movement within a year to publish it annually. So, for those looking to see who made that list — or are angling to get on it — you have 12 more months.

All of this leads me to say goodbye to 2016, a truly annus horribilis, although not entirely so for the influence industry. It seems even in difficult years, the governmental affairs business prospers. Perhaps this says something about the essential nature of the work done by those in “The Process.”

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE PRINT EDITION OF INFLUENCE MAGAZINE.

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DAYS UNTIL: Shopping days until Christmas – 5; FSU vs. Michigan/Orange Bowl – 11; Inauguration Day – 34; Super Bowl – 48; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 57; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 88: Election Day 2017 – 322: Election Day 2018 – 689.

DONALD TRUMP BRINGS VICTORY TOUR HOME, FIRES UP THOUSANDS IN ORLANDO via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – “With your votes, the great citizens of this country declared to the world that from now on it’s going to be ‘America first,” Trump said in Orlando Friday. Trump soaked in the energy of the 20,000 Floridians who came to support him, vowing to restore “respect” to the American flag, rebuild the military and restructure the country’s foreign policy. “It’s a horrible thing. We are going to do everything we can, we are going to get it straightened out one way or another,” he said about the nation’s foreign policy. Trump promised to build safe zones in Syria, promising to “help people” overseas all while fixing the country’s jobs sector and education system. He recalled election night in great detail, naming all of the states he won and all the upsets which happened during the evening. “The map was so bloody and red. It was beautiful,” he said.

SPOTTED at the Trump rally: Gov. Rick Scott, AG Pam Bondi, U.S. Reps. Dennis Ross and Neal Dunn, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, state Sen. Dennis Baxley, state Reps. Joe Gruters, Blaise Ingoglia, Carlos Trujillo, former state Rep. Adam Hasner, Sharon Day, Brian Ballard, Robert Coker, Nick Diceglie.

DUMP TRUMP? WON’T HAPPEN WHEN FLORIDA ELECTORS VOTE via the Associated Press – Florida’s electors will meet in the state Capital today to cast their votes for president, after voters in the state chose Trump. Don’t expect any surprises. The people picked to cast Florida’s votes in the Electoral College are among the most faithful Florida Republicans and it’s extremely unlikely any will be swayed by the tens of thousands of emails, letters and phone calls pleading with them not to cast their votes for Trump, who carried the state in November. “I really appreciate all the postcards that I’ve gotten. The front side of them were pretty,” said Sharon Day, an elector who also serves as co-chair of the Republican National Committee. “I kind of find it amusing. What lemmings they are.” … The Associated Press interviewed 22 of the 29 electors and all expressed complete support for Trump.

NICK DICEGLIE: “I’M CASTING MY VOTE FORTRUMP” via Florida Politics – In case there was any doubt, Electoral College member DiCeglie says yes, he’s still voting for President-elect Trump. The Pinellas County Republican Party Chairman spoke with reporters Sunday night before Monday’s Electoral College meeting in the Capitol. He’s also sure none of his colleagues will be defecting, either. “The state party selects all the electors and they do that very carefully,” DiCeglie said. “I have 100 percent confidence that Donald Trump will get 29 electoral votes tomorrow,” the number of Florida’s GOP electors.

HOT VID – SNL’S HILLARY CLINTON GOES FULL ‘LOVE ACTUALLY’ ON ELECTOR Click on the image below to watch

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, joined by community leaders, will hold the final news conference as a member of Congress to reflect on her time in office and announce the return of more than $2.5 million and benefits owed to her constituents, while cutting her office budget by $375,000. Event begins 11:30 a.m. at the Tallahassee City Hall, 300 S. Adams St. in Tallahassee.

CHARLIE CRIST TO HOST JAN. 3 FUNDRAISER IN D.C. — The St. Petersburg Democrat will host a fundraiser from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3 in The Forum Lounge at the Newseum Residences, 565 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C. The fundraiser is meant to celebrate his “swearing-in to the 115th Congress,” and will be held hours after Crist takes the oath of office. The fundraiser starts at $500 for an individual, $1,000 to be listed as a co-host, and $2,700 for an individual host. The maximum individual contribution is $5,400.

TIM CANOVA CONSIDERING ANOTHER RUN AGAINST DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “I’m seriously considering it. An awful lot of folks are putting that bug in my ear and urging me to do so,” Canova [said] on WMNF radio’s MidPoint program … Canova says a lot has happened since his first ever bid for elected office ended Aug. 30, when his effort to defeat Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, fell short. The biggest change, of course, since Canova’s loss was Donald Trump’s stunning election victory Nov. 8, a defeat that the ever-combative Nova Southeastern University law professor doesn’t give his former opponent a pass on. “Just the weekend before the election she was on HBO’s Vice News doing an interview in which she played the victim,” he recounts. “She complained about how Bernie Sanders supporters had demonized her for her role at the DNC. Even if there was validity to that argument, and I don’t think there is – I think she earned all the criticism that she got – but even if there was validity to it, why would somebody in her position, go on the air, three days before the presidential election, to alienate Bernie Sanders supporters who Hillary Clinton needs to get elected?” … “It showed the typical arrogance and overconfidence and really stupidity to be doing something like that,” he said, adding, “So yes, I am thinking of running against her again.”

THE TIMES GETS RESULTS – PAM BONDI’S OFFICE INVESTIGATING RESTAURANT CLAIMS, STATE STEPPING UP INSPECTIONS via Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times – “We are currently looking into restaurants throughout the state of Florida,” Bondi told the Tampa Bay Times … The state’s investigation began just after the Tampa Bay Times published its series “Farm to Fable,” an examination of food misrepresentations. The stories, questioning trendy menu claims of “local,” have been shared nationally. The reporting has inspired similar efforts in other cities. The attorney general’s investigation accompanies other state-level changes to stem what many perceive as a rising tide of food fraud. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has stepped up inspectors’ investigations of restaurant claims, unveiling new training tools and an industry bulletin. And the Department of Agriculture has made efforts to more rigorously define terms, changed language on consumer websites and developed materials to help inspectors assess where food is coming from. Still, farmers and experts around the state say, it all may not be enough. … Bondi declined to say how many investigators were assigned to the task or when the investigation would be complete. She encouraged citizens to report false representations of food products. Misrepresentations fall under the authority of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has developed a flier to help train inspectors on the seasonality of Florida’s produce, according to Jenn Meale, communications director for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. She said the department is currently defining more specific terms related to Fresh From Florida, a state-run food marketing program with a budget this year of $13.6 million. They are also refining the requirements for use of the Fresh From Florida logo and the penalties for misuse.

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IS A CONTRACT A TRADE SECRET? RICHARD CORCORAN SAYS NO, BUT DID THE BILL PASSED LAST YEAR SAY IT IS? via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Just months ago, Gov. Scott and legislators passed legislation to expand trade secrets and potentially keep more business deals with entertainers from public view. The governor signed and all but seven Democrats voted for two bills that expanded the definition of trade secrets to allow more agencies to shield commercial and financial information from the public. The legislation took effect Oct. 1. If the now controversial Pitbull contract hadn’t already been signed, Visit Florida could have argued that the state law required it keep the contract details secret, said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation who urged the governor to veto the bill. “It would allow them to do exactly what Visit Florida did,” she said. “If the amount of a contract is not commercial information, I don’t know what is.” … Pitbull released the details of the contract on his Twitter feed … Scott ordered Visit Florida to make a series of changes designed to make its operations more transparent … Petersen lobbied against the bills, sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter … and Rep. Ray Pilon … and sent letters to the governor urging him to veto them. She argued that because the law added ” financial information” to the information that constitutes a trade secret, and it failed to define that that is, it was “unconstitutionally vague” and could apply to contracts. Instead of a veto, the bills were signed into law. Had the Pitbull contract been signed after the provisions took effect, Visit Florida could have argued that the state law required it keep the contract details secret, Petersen said.

AFP – FLORIDA HAS A HOLIDAY MESSAGE FOR FLORIDA LEGISLATORS – Americans for Prosperity-Florida has launched a new web ad that will run statewide to target Florida legislators over the holiday season with key policies they should focus on when they return for the 2017 Legislative Session. From statewide director Chris Hudson: “As 2016 comes to an end, I am thankful for the hard work of our activists who knocked on over 1,000,000 doors and made over 3 million phone calls. Together, AFP-Florida stopped $250 million dollars in corporate welfare to Enterprise Florida, forced the failed Film Tax Credit to sunset, successfully advocated for several free-market healthcare reforms, and kept “pay-more” Patrick Murphy out of the U.S. Senate! But if we want to make Florida the best state for families and entrepreneurs we need to stay focused on successfully advocating for policies that continue to cut red tape, keep taxes fair while ending political favoritism, and expand the successful school choice policies that empower our kids with the best education possible. I hope legislators, new and old, enjoy this holiday season with their families and come back in 2017 prepared to tackle the most critical issues to our state.” To view the website, click here.

FLAT FUNDING, NEW RULES COULD MEAN TOUGH STATE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Every member of the Florida Legislature … has local projects they hope will get a small piece of the budget pie. The act of advocating for and monitoring these member-driven projects is a large part of legislators’ workload during the regular session. That process will change drastically this year in the House, which will ultimately affect negotiations with the Senate. New rules approved in the House require every budget request to be filed as a standalone piece of legislation, making the process more transparent but also more difficult for members to navigate. The Senate chose not to adopt the new House rules, especially since the deadline for these budget bills is March 7, the first day of the session. Senate President Negron said he wanted flexibility to consider requests or new information members could receive during the 60-day session. House Speaker Corcoran included the budgeting overhaul as part of a package of ethics and transparency reforms. He said the late-session process of negotiating a budget agreement — called conference — could get tense if the Senate plan includes funding that doesn’t follow the House rules.

New rules alone aren’t the only thing making the budget process more difficult this year. State economist are predicting that revenue will remain mostly flat, meaning there is little wiggle room for new projects or boosts in funding. The Legislature also approved property tax cut last year that, if continued again, would cost $400 million. Other budget concerns include tens of millions of dollars the state could owe homeowners as a result of lawsuits pertaining to the removal citrus trees as part of an effort to contain the canker-disease outbreak. Lawmakers must also decide how to spend $400 million in funding from the BP oil spill settlement.

LAWMAKERS WANT TO MAXIMIZE CLASSROOM LEARNING via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – How much classroom time Florida students spend actually learning will be a major focus for key state lawmakers in charge of dolling out more than $23 billion for pre-K-12 education next year, and some of those overhauls could be further reductions to mandatory testing as well as tweaks to the school-year calendar. The specifics are yet to be proposed and debated, but Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. and Sen. David Simmons, the new chairmen of the pre-K-12 budget committees in their respective chambers, are both approaching their new responsibility with broad ambitions. They also share a unified goal to direct more dollars and resources to classrooms, even if it means upending the status quo. Diaz and Simmons both this week suggested revisions to the school-year calendar could be on the table in 2017, such as potentially extending the school-day for students in failing schools and adjusting when standardized tests are administered during the year.

STORM REPAIR TAB LOOMS AS FLORIDA TACKLES 2017 BEACH BUDGET via Eric Staats and Ryan Mills of the Naples Daily News – State lawmakers will need to carve out an estimated $77 million next year to repair damage to Florida’s beaches from hurricanes Hermine and Matthew and to protect development and infrastructure along the shore from future storms, according to a draft hurricane recovery plan from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. That $77 million is in addition to the more than $85 million in state aid beach communities asked for to restore their eroded shores even before Hermine struck Florida’s Big Bend region in September and Matthew buzz-sawed the East Coast in October. In total, the two hurricanes caused an estimated $217 million in damage statewide, affecting more than 500 miles of Florida’s coast, according to the recovery plan. The state would split much of that expense with local communities, and the federal government would help with the remainder. Northeast Florida was hit hardest. Of the $77 million state tab, $66 million represents sand replacement costs from Indian River County north to Jacksonville. Hurricane Matthew was the most severe storm to impact St. Johns and Flagler counties since Hurricane Dora made landfall in 1964, according to DEP. How lawmakers respond to damage caused by those storms will ultimately determine how the state’s beaches fare in 2017 and beyond, Florida’s beach advocates say.

SCOTT PLAKON TRIES AGAIN WITH BILL TO COMPENSATE DISABLED RAPE VICTIM FOR STATE NEGLIGENCE via Larry Griffin of Orlando Rising – The new bill, HB 6501, comes on the heels of an identical one attempted in 2014 by Plakon and Sen. Darren Soto … In 2002, the woman identified in the relief bill as J.D.S., who lived at an Orlando state-supervised facility called the Strong Group Home, was raped and impregnated by Philip Strong, one of the operators of the home. The case was deemed to be the result of negligence on the part of the State of Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities. J.D.S. gave birth in 2003, but was unable to care for the child, and so the infant was taken for adoption. In 2012, a case between Patti R. Jarrell, as plenary guardian of J.D.S., and the State of Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, was settled for $1.15 million, with $200,000 paid to J.D.S. and the remaining $950,000 needing a “claim bill,” or a relief act, from legislature to go through … The difficulty in passing claims bills like this one comes from the fact that sovereignty-immune laws protect government agencies from huge liability payouts. Some legislators are also reluctant to hand over taxpayer money. Plakon is optimistic this time, though. If the state hears any claim bills, he thinks his will be one of the more important ones. “The last year I filed it, there were no state claim bills that passed,” he said.

SABAL TRAIL PIPELINE CUTS THROUGH HEART OF SPRINGS COUNTRY via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – People are suddenly becoming aware of the $3.2-billion, 515-mile pipeline being built in their own backyard, which has been overshadowed by months of demonstrations over Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock. And they are seeing similarities between the two causes. Lorinne Myatt, who organized a demonstration at the Capitol Dec. 4 to show solidarity with Standing Rock and draw attention to Sabal Trail, said, “It’s the same issue.” Days after that event, which drew 400 people, about 70 folks gathered at Dr. B.L. Perry Jr. Library on the south side of Tallahassee to learn more about Sabal Trail, which will deliver 1 billion cubic feet of fracked natural gas a day from the Marcellus Shale to Florida energy companies. Many were surprised to learn that the project had been winding its way through the regulatory process for three years before they knew about it. “This is similar to the Dakota Access pipeline in that most people had no idea that this was in the public interest to look at until it was already approved,” said Susan Cerulean, a Tallahasseean who recently returned from Standing Rock … Local residents are concerned about the pipeline’s potential impact on Florida’s drinking water, the fate of gopher tortoises and other endangered and threatened species, and the neighborhoods the pipeline is going to run through. “You don’t just care about Tallahassee,” Meta Calder said. “You care about the whole environment.”

WHAT MICHAEL CORCORAN IS READING – HILLSBOROUGH LEGISLATORS SUPPORT LOCAL BILL TO ABOLISH COUNTY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – “The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” said state Rep. James Grant … who is sponsoring the bill. With not a single objection, the delegation moved the bill toward next spring’s legislative session. Various legislators have talked about killing the PTC for years — one senator once compared it to Jabba the Hut, with “tentacles everywhere” — but this appears to be the closest anyone has come so far to that goal. “What a difference a year makes, huh?” said delegation chairman Sen. Tom Lee … Last year, the delegation held a lengthy hearing before supporting a bill to regulate Uber and Lyft, which died in during the session. Created by the Legislature in 1976, the PTC has its own staff and is governed by an appointed board of elected officials from the county and its cities. It is unique in Florida, but it increasingly it has stirred controversy, especially as it has wrestled with how to regulate new ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft and faced accusations that it has tried to crack down on those companies to the benefit of the older, more established taxicab companies that it regulates. Grant said regulation of taxicabs, limousines, tow trucks and ambulances would be turned over to Hillsborough County effective Dec. 31, 2017. The local government would have flexibility to craft the new regulations, he said. The PTC also would be banned from taking on any new debt that the county would have to repay after the hand-over.

PERSONNEL NOTE: ALEXA CHAPPELL HIRED AS HOUSE MINORITY STAFF DIRECTOR – Top House Democrat Janet Cruz has hired a former Justice Department lawyer to serve as staff director for the Minority Office. Alexa Chappell, most recently an attorney with the Department of Justice, will replace Joe McCann, who exited the position last month. Before her time at the Justice Department, Chappell served in a number of roles for Obama for America in 2008, ending the campaign as Director of Compliance. “Alexa is an incredibly accomplished professional and I know she will do a great job directing our caucus,” said Cruz in an email to her members. During her time at DOJ, Chappell served as the Justice Department’s liaison for state caucuses and governors, both Republican and Democrat, where she dealt with the intricacies of the federal budget.

APPOINTEDJoseph Triolo and Michael Guju to the Pinellas County Housing Authority; Janet RabinFran Oreto and Christy Conolly to the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board; Jim McCarthy and Frank Gummey to the Environmental Regulation Commission; Bev Capasso to the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners, District 1; David SkupJesus Socorro and Mindy Rankin to the Florida Board of Accountancy; Chris Jernigan to the Campbellton-Graceville Hospital Corporation; Johnny Thornton and Willie Richardson Jr. to the Indian River County Housing Authority.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Sebastian Aleksander: Element Lab Partners

Patrick Bell: Okeechobee County School District

David Bishop, Solaris Consulting: EMTeLINK

Angela Bonds: Department of State

Jennifer Bonfanti, Larry Williams, Gunster: Treadwell Nursery

Kevin Doyle: Sarasota Classic Car Museum

Charlie Dudley, Teye Reeves, Floridian Partners: Consortium; Ricky Carmichael Racing

Jacob Elpern: The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus

Lani Ferro: Miami Children’s Healthy System

Ronald Jackson: American Insurance Association

Jason King: AIDS HealthCare Foundation

Jessica Love, GrayRobinson: Florida Brownfields Association, Inc.

Cindy Meredith: Prestige Health Choice

Lisa Miller: Everbridge, Inc.; Verde of Florida

Wes Underwood, Department of State

SPOTTED at the wedding of Ailyn Avila Portal and Cesar Fernandez: Sens. Jeff Clemens and Gary Farmer, Juan Cuba, Marcus Dixon, John Fox, Brian Goldneier, Matt Harbinger, Beth Kennedy, Omar Khan, Brian May, Virginia Poe, Stephanie Smith, Christian Ulvert.

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – WITHIN REACH OF ADOPTION, TODDLER DIES WHILE IN FOSTER CARE via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – After about five months in foster care, and just weeks away from a new home with adoptive parents in North Carolina, little Aedyn Agminalis was rushed to the emergency room. The 17-month-old boy arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital for Children unresponsive and with signs of head injuries, according to information given to his adoption agency by a social worker. He suffered cardiac arrest, bleeding on the brain and acute respiratory failure. The small boy was hooked up to a life-support system but doctors could find no brain activity, according to Artha Healton, Aedyn’s biological mother. The youngster died Dec. 11 after doctors turned off the machine. His death is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The Florida Department of Children and Families has assigned a critical incident team to look into the death because the boy died on the state’s watch. “The loss of this child is absolutely devastating and we’re grieving with all those who loved him,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll told the Tampa Bay Times in an email … Aedyn was living in a foster home licensed by the service, A Door of Hope. His case was handled by Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services. Both organizations are subcontractors of Eckerd Kids, a nonprofit contracted to run the county’s child welfare system. “We will be doing everything we can to support the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office investigation,” said Adrienne Drew, a spokeswoman for Eckerd. Aedyn’s death has raised questions about whether the child could have been moved out of foster care and adopted sooner.

REST IN PEACE – FORMER LT. GOV. JIM WILLIAMS DIES AT 90 via Carlos Medina of the Ocala StarBanner – Known simply as Jim, he also served during the Carter administration as deputy secretary of agriculture. During his time in office, Williams was a champion of agriculture and the environment. “He was against the barge canal at a time when it wasn’t a popular stance,” said Jim Williams III, his son. The project, which would have built a canal across Florida and through Marion County for commercial ship traffic, was eventually shelved in 1971 by President Richard Nixon. The land slated for the project became the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, which is used for hiking, biking, fishing and other recreational activities. The elder Williams also helped establish the water management districts, which are still largely the same as when they were designated. The districts were drawn up to prevent regional disagreements between areas due to water issues. His life of public service, however, continued long after he officially left political life as he worked on several major charitable initiatives in Marion County.

RESIDENT CHASES CHRISTMAS THIEVES WITH METAL PIPE via The Associated Press – The Polk County Sheriff’s department announced that a Lakeland resident heard a loud noise Wednesday morning and called another neighbor, who looked outside and saw the men taking gifts from a nearby home. The neighbor yelled and they fled in a car. Lakeland police and sheriff’s deputies tracked them down. They bailed from the car and ran into a home, but the homeowner chased them out with a metal pipe. Authorities arrested 18-year-old James Davis and 21-year-old Antonio Thomas. Both face multiple charges and remained in the Polk County Jail Friday.

CHRISTMAS CARD FUN via The Stonebridge Group: 

BEST NEWS EVER – DISNEY WORLD ADDING BEER, WINE TO 4 RESTAURANTS via The Associated Press – Starting Friday … four more Magic Kingdom restaurants will start serving beer and wine. Until now, only the Be Our Guest Restaurant sold alcohol in the Magic Kingdom. It began selling alcohol in 2012. Alcoholic beverages have been sold at the Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom parks at Disney World. Disney officials said the change was made because of requests from customers.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to the best person in the Florida political process, Stephanie Smith. Belated birthday wishes to the great Carol Dover, Holly McPhail, and Andrew Wiggins. Celebrating today is Sean Jacobus, Brianna Jordan, and David Singer.

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.16.16

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

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

DONALD TRUMP BRINGS THANK YOU TOUR TO SUNSHINE STATE

If President-elect Donald Trump wanted to bring his thank you tour to only to areas of dense supporters, his Friday evening visit to Orlando might not have been an obvious choice.

Trump will be speaking Friday evening at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, in a county he lost by 25 points to Hillary Clinton. And the fairgrounds and Orlando Amphitheater, where he’ll be at specifically, are in the heart of Orlando’s largely-African American west side, where Trump’s Nov. 8 election performance approached humiliating defeat.

“It’s an island of blue in the middle of the state; we wonder why he’s coming to Orlando. It doesn’t make sense,” said Wes Hodge, Orange County Democratic Party chairman. “This is not Trump country.”

But still, it is the I-4 Corridor. It is what passes as the center of Florida. It is relatively easy to reach for anyone living in a state that arguably made the biggest flip in the country into Trump’s winning column.

Orange County is a place with a 100,000 voter registration advantage for Democrats, an advantage that increases with every month’s new registrations. And yet Republicans still sit pretty in many ways. They have the county mayor’s office and control the county commission.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t hold it in Orlando,” said Randy Ross, Trump’s campaign chairman in Orange County. “We wanted people to come from all parts of the state to a central location … This is a chance for everyone to say hello to him and for him to say hello to everyone. It’s a good time.”

And campaigning never really ends. Trump intends to seek ways to unite, Ross said.

“Quite honestly we have a lot more work to do in Central Florida. We didn’t win Orange County. We didn’t win Osceola County. And we barely won Seminole County,” Ross continued.

“It’s an eye on 2020. It’s that simple.”

The amphitheater has lawn seating that makes its capacity flexible up to about 10,000. When Trump spoke there in early November, on a blisteringly hot day, there were an estimated 5,500 people. Ross said more tickets than that have been distributed for this event, but he has no idea how many will actually come.

TRUMP TO SAY ‘THANKS’ – AND RAISE MONEY via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Before Trump gives his 7 p.m. address … Republicans will hold back-to-back fundraisers for his transition and the national party. … Trump is first scheduled to appear as a “special guest” at the $5,000-per-head Transition Finance Committee that’s being organized by his longtime lobbyist and top Florida Republican fundraiser Brian Ballard … Trump might also stick around for the $35,000-per-head RNC fundraiser that’s being held immediately after the transition team fundraiser.

FLORIDA ELECTORS’ INBOXES FLOODED WITH HATE MAIL OVER TRUMP ELECTION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Joe Gruters’ email notifications won’t stop ringing … the Florida for [Donald]Trump co-chairman and state elector has received 50,000 emails. Apart from the sheer magnitude of them, the subject of some of the emails teeters between offensive and obscene. Some emails tell Gruters to “seek professional help.” Others are littered with four-letter expletives about Trump and Gruters himself. Then there are a few that hit close to home. “You’re what’s wrong with this country,” reads one email. “May Donald Trump one day rape your children too. Let’s hope.” Gruters says he isn’t angry with the people who send him these emails. “I would be doing everything I could if [the election] had the opposite results,” he [said]. “I don’t blame these guys … I understand what their goal is, but my guess is, like many of the other electors, we are pretty solid in where we are at …”

TWEET, TWEET:

JOE NEGRON CALLS ANTI-TRUMP FERVOR ‘SOUR GRAPES’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Negron, one of Florida’s 29 presidential electors, said he has received several hundred messages from people who don’t want him to vote for Trump. But he says he’ll cast his vote for Trump when the electors meet Monday, Dec. 19, in the newly-remodeled state Senate chamber in Tallahassee. “I read them. Most of them come from states won by Secretary Clinton,” Negron said … “The common theme of the letters is, ‘We’re unhappy with the outcome of the election, so you should substitute your judgment for the judgment of the people.’ For me, it’s a simple case. In Florida, there’s no dispute. President-elect Trump won Florida, so he’s entitled to 29 electoral votes … Donald Trump won fair and square.”

IS TRUMP PASSING ON JEFF MILLER AS VA SECRETARY? via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Miller has not shown up at Trump Tower, at least to the knowledge of reporters, at the same time other names have come to the forefront. On ThursdayPete Hegseth, founder of Concerned Veterans for America, was seen taking the elevator up to where Trump is filling out his administration. Trump is also said to be considering Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, as well as Gen. Ann Dunwoody. At the same time, Trump is under pressure to keep the current secretary, Robert McDonald, “out of concern that his rumored candidates’ inexperience and ideological leanings could cripple the massive veterans’ health care system,” The New York Times reports. Miller, who is retiring from Congress, was on most shortlists.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Congressman Ted Deutch and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will host a roundtable discussion with a variety of health care leaders on President-elect Trump and Republicans’ intent to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Discussion begins at 10 a.m. at the United Way of Broward County Jean and David Colker Center, 1300 S. Andrews Ave. in Fort Lauderdale.

BEN CARSON’S WEST PALM BEACH HOME CAN BE YOURS FOR $1.2M via Jennifer Boehm of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – The 6,155-square-foot house was built in 1994 and features five bedrooms, four full baths and a half-bath and three car garage. But the highlights are in the details. “Mrs. Candy Carson did a masterful job herself” of decorating the home, said Arthur Martens of Engel & Völkers Florida, the listing agent. Coffered ceilings are adorned with hand-painted inlays and arched display niches. Columns, marble floors, custom built-ins and remote-controlled window treatments are found throughout the home. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light in and the master suite has views of both the lake and the golf course. But the real centerpiece of the house? “For me, it is the grand entry,” said Martens. “It’s so palatial and beautiful with the golf course, water and pool in the foreground.” Sale of the home also includes an extra perk for avid golfers — a Premier Golf membership package which includes access to the three Nicklaus family-designed courses at Ibis Golf and Country Club.

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DAYS UNTIL: Shopping days until Christmas – 8; Inauguration Day – 34; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 60; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 91: Election Day 2017 – 325: Election Day 2018 – 692.

IN TAMPA, BILL NELSON CALLS RUSSIA HACK ON DNC EMAIL SERVER “CLOSER TO AN ACT OF WAR” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Speaking to reporters at his Tampa district office, the Florida Democrat made his most outspoken comments about the continuing to evolve story, which a new level of attention Friday, when The Washington Post reported that the CIA had concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system. “Not only is this an outrage, this is unprecedented. This is crossing the line, closer and closer to an act of war,” Nelsonsaid, adding that hacking information to influence an election is damaging to the integrity of an election. “I think there’s going to be serious ramifications of this, regardless of where you hear that different people in the intelligence community have differing opinions,” he said.

GWEN GRAHAM SPREADS HOLIDAY CHEER DURING FINAL WORKDAY via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Graham spent her last workday as a congresswoman at a Christmas tree stand in Tallahassee, helping customers select trees to take home — and reflecting on her time in Washington and plans to run for governor. “Are you that Gwen?” one customer asked. She was, engaging in a campaign tactic that propelled her father, Bob Graham into the governor’s office in 1978 and later the U.S. Senate, and helped send his daughter to Washington. “It’s a real opportunity to know people on a different level than you might if they just came to talk to you in your office or met you in Costco or something,” Graham said. … As for her future, Graham said she fully intends to seek the governorship but that the timing will depend on the health of her husband, Steve Hurm. He’s due at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa Wednesday for evaluation of Stage IV prostate cancer. “Every part of me wants to run for governor,” Graham told reporters. “It’s what I know I need to do for the state of Florida. But things happen in life that might take me off that path. I hope not.” Hurm has been encouraging her to campaign. “I wouldn’t do it without him by my side,” she said.

RICK SCOTT TO ANNOUNCE HIS HIGH COURT PICK via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Either Wendy BergerC. Alan Lawson [or] Dan Gerber will be standing next to … Scott in his Capitol office at 8 a.m. … for a rare Tallahassee news conference to announce the governor’s first — and potentially only — pick to the Florida Supreme Court. The new judge will be replacing Justice James E.C. Perry who is retiring at the end of the month because he has reached the mandatory retirement age. The candidates all have two things in common: they are all self-professed conservatives, who abide by the “originalist” judicial philosophy that adheres to the notion that interpretation of law should be based on the original meeting of the text of the statute or the Constitution at the time its enacted, and they have each been heavily promoted by members of the Florida chapter of the Federalist Society, a conservative libertarian lawyers group many of whose members serve as the governors’ appointees to the Judicial Nominating Commission. The JNC interviewed 11 candidates to recommend the three names (who were widely expected to be the pre-determined list) to the governor.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Scott will announce November job numbers at HostDime, a global data center provider of cloud-based products in Orlando. Event begins 10:15 a.m. at 440 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1, in Orlando. Entrance is located on the backside of the Office Furniture Outlet. For questions on driving directions, please contact Vikki Fraser at vikki.f@hostdime.com or (407) 222-5313.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – FLORIDA’S GDP GROWTH BEATS THE NATION’S IN SECOND QUARTER OF 2016 – Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 2.3 percent annualized in the second quarter of 2016, beating the national GDP growth rate of 1.2 percent. The state’s GDP annualized growth rate tied with Michigan as the highest among the 10 largest states, including California and Texas. Gov. Scott said, “I am proud to announce that Florida’s GDP growth exceeded the nation’s in the second quarter of this year, even exceeding other large competitor states like California and Texas. Not only is Florida’s GDP growth increasing faster than other large states, but we are also adding jobs at a faster rate, which is great news for our families. We will continue to work each day to make it easier for job creators and families to succeed in Florida.” Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor said, “Florida’s growing economy is a testament to our efforts to improve prosperity for every Floridian. By investing in new jobs, training and community infrastructure, we can continue to ensure strong economic success.”

ENVIRONMENTALISTS GIVE MIXED ASSESSMENT OF SCOTT’S 2014 SPENDING PLEDGE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – During his campaign for re-election in 2014 with a land conservation spending measure sharing space on the ballot, Scott pledged to request $150 million per year in a second term for Florida Forever, the state’s land-buying program. As Scott begins to announce elements of his 2017-18 budget request, it’s not clear-cut whether he has owned up to his 2014 pledge for Florida Forever. The pledge was blurred by vague wording and parsed language that makes it difficult to determine whether he was promising money exclusively for land-buying. Environmentalists are mixed on the issue of whether Scott has met his promise or on what the promise was for. Eric Draper of Audubon Florida said Scott walked away from the pledge last year when the governor’s office said it requested $63 million for land acquisition. But Draper still praises the governor for his initiatives elsewhere on environmental spending. “I certainly hope he goes back to it (the 2014 pledge) this year,” said Draper, the group’s executive director.

MOST FLORIDA KIDS FAIL TO GET HEAD START, REPORT FINDS via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel – The Sunshine State enrolls 16 percent of its 4-year-olds who live in poverty in Head Start and 12 percent of its eligible 3-year-olds, said the report by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. That means thousands of youngsters aren’t in the 50-year-old program designed to help them overcome the disadvantages of poverty before they start formal schooling. Florida’s Head Start centers, as a group, also don’t provide the high-quality classroom instruction the children need to be ready for kindergarten, the State of Head Start report says. Head Start, largely funded by Washington but with a requirement that local programs get some funding from other sources, spent more than $8 billion in the 2014-15 fiscal year and would need $14 billion more a year to serve all eligible preschoolers, the report said.

PERSONNEL NOTE: MARIA SACHS TO LEAD INNOVATION FLORIDA via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Former state Sen. Sachs will be the next executive director of Innovation Florida, the new not-for-profit incubator for startup technology companies. “I am excited to be a part of a new initiative that will link venture capital and multinational corporations to research and development with our state universities, colleges and entrepreneurs,” Sachs said in a statement. “One of the keys to Florida’s success as the third most populous state is that every Florida graduate should have the key that will open a career in innovation.” Sachs “will use her lifetime background as a former prosecutor, attorney, legislator and community activist for the benefit of the organization, its partners and the future of Florida,” the release added. It also says that “through state appropriations, the Senator championed for expansion of research centers throughout the University systems especially at the South Florida based state universities and colleges.” Sachs, however, falls under the state’s 2-year ban on former lawmakers lobbying the Legislature or executive agencies. The 68-year-old, elected to the Senate in 2010, declined to run for re-election this year.

LEGISLATORS FACE $750 MILLION GAP IN NEXT YEAR’S BUDGET via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – The Legislature will need to come up with more than $750 million for next year’s state budget if lawmakers choose not to raise property taxes for schools and not to take cash from counties affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a Senate budget committee learned Thursday. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said he would not take the $325 million the Legislature promised to the eight Gulf Coast counties affected by the 2010 oil spill. The counties are Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf, Bay, Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia. … Latvala was unwilling to promise a second year without a property tax increase needed for schools. This year, the Legislature froze property taxes used to pay for public schools, instead using $392 million from general revenue. “I think we’re going to have to let them take the additional property value,” he said.

JACK LATVALA NOT KEEN ON RAIDING OIL SPILL FUND TO BALANCE STATE BUDGET via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Latvala isn’t interested in balancing state government’s books on the backs of counties hit hard by the BP oil spill. And he believes the state might have to let local property taxes increase along with home values. All in the name of meeting pressing needs in a state in decent financial shape now, but facing scary long-term deficits. “We made the commitment, and I believe in keeping my commitments,” Latvala said of the BP money. Of local taxes, he said: “It’s clear to me that if we can’t capture the new property values, there will be slim of any increases for K-12.” Latvala said the Legislature will have to cut some programs if lawmakers want to approve Gov. Scott‘s requested increases for economic development, House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s desire for tax relief, and Senate PresidentNegron‘s hopes to boost education spending. “To do any increases, we’re going to have to find areas to cut. That’s a certainty,” Latvala said. “Just my luck to be [appropriations] chairman in a year like that.”

JANET CRUZ FILES FIX FOR VOTE-BY-MAIL SIGNATURE PROBLEM via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Cruz … filed legislation that would let voters fix mismatching signatures on their vote-by-mail ballots so they can be counted. The bill (HB 105) would require supervisors of elections and their staff “to allow submission of an affidavit to cure signature discrepancies.” The measure was in response to a federal case earlier this year. Cruz … said a “permanent statutory fix” was needed “to ensure that all Floridians have the ability to remedy a mismatched or illegible signature.” … “As the right to vote is a bedrock principle of our democratic society, it is vital that the people of Florida have every opportunity to ensure that their voice is being heard at the ballot box,” she said.

BOOZE BILL WOULD BENEFIT CRAFT DISTILLERS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The bill (SB 166), filed by Republican state Sen. Greg Steube … would change state law to craft distillers’ benefit. One proposal expands how much booze they can produce and still be considered “craft,” raising the limit from 75,000 gallons per year to 250,000 gallons. The bill reduces distilleries’ state license tax from $4,000 to $1,000, provided “it is distilling and bottling all of its products in containers approved for sale.” It repeals limits on how many bottles distillers can sell directly to consumers, though it maintains a limit on bottles being no bigger than 1.75 liters. The measure also lets them sell their liquor not only in an on-site gift shop but also at “one other approved sales room located in the same county as the distillery’s production building.” Most notably, the plain language of the legislation appears to allow distillers to bypass the three-tier system of separate alcoholic beverage manufacturers, distributors and retailers set in place after Prohibition. The bill would allow a distiller to “transfer … spirits … out of its federal bonded space or nonbonded space at its licensed premises or storage areas to its vendor’s licensed premises or approved sales room.” Distributors and liquor stores have opposed measure to loosen restrictions, saying it would cut into their business.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: State Rep. Loranne Ausley will visit two schools to promote her “Ready to Run” contest to encourage kids to get out and run. At 8:55 a.m. Ausley will visit DeSoto Trail Elementary School, 5200 Tredington Park Dr. In Tallahassee. Then, at 10 a.m., she will be at the Kate Sullivan Elementary School, 927 Miccosukee Road, also in Tallahassee.

INSURANCE GROUP JOINS CAMPAIGN FOR ASSIGNMENT-OF-BENEFITS REFORM via Florida Politics – The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America has thrown its weight behind the drive to control assignment-of-benefits fraud against insurance companies. The organization said in a written statement that it “will be encouraging public policymakers to explore ways to protect consumers better from contractor fraud and litigation abuses that frequently occur following major storms.” The statement marked the end of the most active hurricane season in four years, including hurricanes Hermine and Matthew. The latter storm, according to AIR Worldwide, the risk-management consultancy, caused nearly $6.8 billion in insured losses within the United States. “The increase in storm activity also puts a spotlight on the need to curb abuses from unscrupulous individuals and companies that capitalize on consumers during a time of need,” said Chris Hackett, senior director for personal lines policy at the insurance group. “In Florida, we have experienced a sharp increase in assignment of benefits claims and lawsuits, which drive up costs and put financial strain on Florida consumers,” Hackett said. “It is imperative that our state leaders consider these reforms that will help curb AOB abuse and alleviate pressure on Florida’s insurance system.” Assignment-of-benefits (AOB) agreements allow policyholders to sign away their rights under their insurance policies to third parties — often contractors — in exchange for quicker repairs. But they are ripe for abuse by parties who inflate repair bills or file costly lawsuits.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

IF AT FIRST THEY DON’T SUCCEED: ELECTION CHIEFS WILL RENEW PUSH TO SHIELD VOTERS’ PERSONAL DATA via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Fresh off a smooth election cycle, Florida’s 67 county election supervisors will pursue changes to the election laws in the 2017 legislative session. They pitched their ideas for the first time at a meeting of the revamped Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, chaired by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo … The supervisors’ point man on legislative issues is David Stafford, the Escambia County supervisor of elections. He told senators that the state should follow the lead of 19 other states and join ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, an information-sharing consortium that helps states track down people who are registered to vote in more than one state. (Being registered to vote in more than one state is not a crime, but voting in more than one state would be). The state has rejected joining ERIC in the past, but Stafford said joining forces with other states is the right course of action. He said ERIC has identified more than a million voters who have changed states in the past four years. Stafford also renewed a request that proved controversial in the 2016 session: Making voters’ personal information, such as home addresses and birth dates, exempt from disclosure under the public records laws.

FORMER PROSECUTOR WILL CHALLENGE DAPHNE CAMPBELL FOR MIAMI-DADE SENATE DISTRICT via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Democrat Jason Pizzo says he hopes he’ll be “pleasantly surprised” by the work of new state Sen. Campbell, who took office barely five weeks ago. But for now, Pizzo is so concerned by the election of the Miami Shores Democrat and former state representative that he’s already ramping up plans to run against her again in two years. Pizzo, a 40-year-old former Miami-Dade prosecutor who unsuccessfully ran against Campbell for an open state Senate seat this year, plans to file paperwork … in Tallahassee to launch his 2018 candidacy — giving him 20 months to take on Campbell, or any other challengers who might arise. “Unfortunately, the outcome in November was the election of a senator who doesn’t and will not and cannot represent our district the way it should be represented, the way it should represent everyone’s families — including mine,” Pizzo told the Herald/Times. Pizzo cited Campbell’s recent legislative record in the Florida House where he said she didn’t advocate for women’s rights for abortion, efforts to halt climate change or proposals to reduce gun violence in vulnerable communities, including Liberty City and parts of Overtown, both of which are in Senate District 38. “There are so many critical, absolutely critical issues pending right now that will affect everyone’s life — their life, their health, their education, the climate,” Pizzo said.

APPOINTEDSherri L. Collins to the Palm Beach County Court. Victoria del Pino to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court.

BALLARD PARTNERS TEAMS UP WITH LEADING ILLINOIS INFLUENCE SHOP via Florida Politics – Ballard Partners announced a “strategic alliance” with the Chicago-based All-Circo political consulting firm. “It gives us a marketing opportunity in a very important part of the country,” firm president Brian Ballard said. “We try to find the ‘best of class’ wherever we go.” John J. Kelly Jr., All-Circo’s president and owner, has been an adviser to Illinois’ Secretary of State, Senate President, and the Cook County Board President, as well as several state senators and representatives. The firm represents nearly four dozen clients – Fortune 100 corporations, top sports franchises, local governments and nonprofit organizations – in the state capital of Springfield, as well as Chicago and Cook County. “Blue-chip companies such as ADM, Miller-Coors, CVS Caremark, Bank of America and The Blackstone Group retain All-Circo to address their public policy interests and provide professional guidance in the always-fluid climate of Illinois politics,” a press release says.

PERSONNEL NOTE: COREMESSAGE ADDS BRIANNA SHOAF AS ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE via Florida Politics – Shoaf, a Rhode Island native and Florida State University graduate, will develop communications strategies for corporate, political and government clients across the state. Before joining CoreMessage, she spent nearly two years with The Zimmerman Agency. There, Shoaf worked with several award-winning hotels and resorts in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. While at Zimmerman, Shoaf had stories placed in a variety of national, regional and local media outlets while creating press releases, talking points, strategy memos and other assets. “We’re excited to welcome Brianna to our team,” said CoreMessage President Cory Tilley in a statement Wednesday. “Her industry knowledge and diverse background will be tremendous assets to both our staff and our clients.”

32 UNBELIEVABLE THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN FLORIDA IN 2016 via Matt Stopera of BuzzFeed News – Some favorite headlines … ‘Naked Florida man breaks into home, bites resident, dies’ … ‘Burglar breaks into St. Pete apartment, steals cash, cooks and eats pizza’ … ‘Woman who was driving while praying with her eyes closed hits house’ … ‘Florida man poops, pees in  cop car after warning deputy he was speeding home to go to the bathroom’ … ‘Florida State student vapes semen.’

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Holly Raschein.

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.14.16

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

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

TIMELY ADVICE FROM JOE NEGRON: DON’T WASTE TIME

Senate President Joe Negron was a kindly headmaster at this week‘s orientation for committee chairmen and staff directors, offering excellent time management tips that everyone in #TheProcess should take to heart.

“Don’t pass flawed bills” seems like something that should go without saying. But in recent years, legislative committees have gotten into the annoying habit of advancing half-baked bills as a courtesy to colleagues who are spread too thin to do their homework, show up for meetings, and get things right the first time.

Negron is an experienced trial lawyer and very aware that judges, juries and people watching on The Florida Channel do not appreciate having their time wasted or their intelligence insulted. He encouraged committees to spend more time on oversight of state agencies and less time listening to power point presentations.

Lawmakers who heed that advice will be rewarded by voters. The proliferation of power point presentations makes too many committee meetings look like storytime at the local library. If we want scripted television, we can watch the Cabinet.

Perhaps most importantly, Negron encouraged his chairmen to facilitate public participation.

Easier said than done. Ungodly amounts of committee time are consumed with bromides, cliches, inside jokes, sucking up, and chairmen sucking down public comment time blathering about how little time there is.

Let’s stipulate that everybody: 1. Appreciates the opportunity; 2. Is honored to be here; and  3. Would love to work with you.

If that changes, feel free to put it on the record. Otherwise, just stick to the people’s business.

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HOUSE SPEAKER SUES OVER PITBULL CONTRACT via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Richard Corcoran … filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court  for release of details of the largely secret contract the state had with the Miami rapper to promote tourism in Florida. The deal was inked by Visit Florida, the state’s public-private tourism promotion group in August 2015. The amount Pitbull was paid, his official duties, the requirements for the state and even the name of his agent were declared “trade secrets.” “This suit is not about Pitbull or his compensation,” Corcoran said in a released statement. “This is about the audacity of government entities who are under the false impression that they are above the law or believe somehow that taxpayer money is a never-ending river of riches they get to play with.” Visit Florida officials have defended the deal with Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, as generating a positive return for state taxpayers. Pitbull has more than 20 million followers on social media and a large global fan base, especially in Latin America, a target audience for Visit Florida.

LOBBYISTS HAVE A LEARNING MOMENT ABOUT ETHICS REFORM via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – House ethics guru Don Rubottom wrote a poem to explain what the chamber’s new ethics regime is all about: “If you propose it, it should be disclosed before you discuss it, before it shows up in any draft of a bill or amendment, long before it is filed in the House. If others propose, disclose by number.” OK, it’s not for the ages, but it captures the spirit of the thing. Rubottom, staff director of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, was among the House aides who briefed lobbyists Tuesday evening on the arcana of the new ethics rules imposed under Speaker Richard Corcoran. It was part of an ongoing re-education program for the lobbying corps. … “We are going to apply common sense,” Rubottom said. The point is that interested parties should receive sufficient notice. Say hello to a member at a bar or a meet-and-greet? No need to disclose. Monitoring or tracking legislation without advocating for it? “You don’t have anything to report,” Rubottom said. And if a member buttonholes you in a hallway and demands to know what you think about a proposal? “If it surprises you, let the member know you are not free to discuss it because of the requirements” of the new ethics rules, Rubottom said. “If your member is impatient with your respect for the rule, feel free to let chairman Oliva or chairman Metz know of the discourtesy.” That’s Rules Committee chairman Jose Oliva and Ethics chairman Larry Metz.

BAN THE BAG, SOUTH FLORIDA LAWMAKER SAYS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State Rep. David Richardson … filed his bill (HB 93) … [That would] let municipalities with pilot programs “enact an ordinance for the regulation or ban of disposable plastic bags.” Such regulations or bans would be short-lived, however, taking effect “no earlier than Jan. 1, 2018, and expires no later than June 30, 2020.” Such an ordinance “may not include any new taxes or fees,” the bill says. One previous version of the bill imposed a 10-cent surcharge for each plastic bag. Environmentalists have long complained that disposable plastic bags often wind up in the water and on beaches, putting fish and marine animals in jeopardy. Sea turtles, for instance, think the bags are jellyfish, eat them and wind up with intestinal blockages. The Legislature authorized the Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 to produce a one-time “Retail Bags Report.” … “Plastic and paper bags are not inherently bad but they have terrible consequences in a throwaway society – and there are simple, readily available ways to reduce our dependency and properly reuse, recycle or dispose of them,” the report said.

JEFF BRANDES TARGETS NO-FAULT AUTO INSURANCE via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald – Brandes … wants to get rid of a car insurance requirement he says makes driving more expensive in Florida … [He] filed legislation (SB 156) to repeal personal injury protection, or PIP, which covers minor accident claims, regardless of who was at fault. Required under state law since 1972, drivers in Florida must carry $10,000 in PIP, which is also commonly referred to as “no-fault insurance.” The idea was to quickly resolve small-dollar insurance claims that were clogging the courts and get payments to victims faster. “PIP is a broken insurance system, and it does not reflect the reality of Florida’s transportation future,” Brandes said in a statement. “PIP fraud impacts every driver in our state, and no proposal is more effective at reducing premiums than a full repeal of PIP. It’s time to finally bring substantive reform to the automobile insurance market.” The PIP battle is likely to play out in the state Capitol, where the insurance industry holds a great deal of power. The legislative session begins March 7. No House members have filed a PIP repeal yet.

PARLEZ VOUS COMPUTER PROGRAMMING? via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times – Senate Bill 104 … Filed last week by Brandes … the bill would add computer coding as another option for the current foreign language requirement in Florida high schools. “The great thing about this plan is that it’s just an option. It isn’t mandatory,” Brandes said. “If parents and kids think it’s better long-term for their careers, or will make them a more well-rounded person, to learn a foreign language, then they can still take those classes … If they’re more interested in technology and computer sciences, then this would offer them a viable option.” Here’s what strikes me about the bill: 1. It clearly sidesteps the intent to encourage multilingual students. 2. That’s OK. And please don’t take that the wrong way. Fluency in more than one language is a remarkably valuable commodity in the job market, and in life itself. My concern is there are millions of students who have no intention of putting in the work necessary to learn another language and are merely going through the motions to get their credits. So why not use that class time more wisely? It’s not like the bill will allow students to bypass the foreign language requirement for some useless elective, such as weightlifting or journalism. (Yes, I’m kidding. Weightlifting can be useful.) Instead, it would be an introductory lesson in a field with real-world benefits.

TREAT MEDICAL MARIJUANA “LIKE MEDICINE,” ADVOCATES SAY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The right way to put the new constitutional amendment on medical marijuana into effect is to “treat (it) like medicine,” supporters said … the Senate Health Policy committee held its first workshop for the 2017 Legislative Session on medical cannabis implementation. “The states that have done it poorly, with a lack of regulation, allowed folks to market and advertise the notion of getting high,” said Ben Pollara, who leads Florida for Care, the organization advocating for “a strong, well-regulated medical marijuana system.” … “The average recreational marijuana user is not what this is about,” he told lawmakers. “It has to be treated, at every step of the way, with the seriousness that we treat medicine and other health care decisions. There needs to be clear restrictions put in place.” Pollara is in favor of childproof packaging for medicinal marijuana, for instance. Lawmakers now are faced with creating a regulatory system for the dispensing of marijuana to thousands of patients who now qualify for it in Florida. The amendment technically goes into effect Jan. 3 but the Legislature first must create that structure.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

MARCO RUBIO HAS ‘SERIOUS CONCERNS’ OVER TRUMP NOMINATING REX TILLERSON AT STATE via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Rubio, who clashed with Trump during the Republican presidential primaries, had already jabbed Tillerson for his ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the weekend. On Tuesday morning, Rubio noted his continued “concerns” about Tillerson heading the State Department. “While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination,” Rubio said. “The next secretary of State must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America’s foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration and on the world stage. I look forward to learning more about his record and his views.‎ I will do my part to ensure he receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

DONALD TRUMP LOOKING AT TOP RUBIO BACKER AS U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE via The Associated Press – Trump is considering major Republican fundraiser Wayne Berman as the U.S. Trade Representative. Berman is a senior adviser at the Blackstone Group and was a strong supporter of … Rubio‘s failed 2016 presidential campaign. He served in the Commerce Department during President George H.W. Bush‘s administration.

JEB BUSH SCOFFS AT IDEA THAT RUSSIANS INFLUENCED ELECTION via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Bush laughed at the suggestion the Russians influenced the election. “The Ruskies are out there, what, sticking something in people’s brains?’ I mean, come on,” he said in an interview with a TV station in Tennessee. The Russians, Bush said, “had a candidate that they thought would be better than Hillary Clinton, for sure, but they didn’t influence the election. The American people made up their minds on this.” Bush was in Kingsport, Tennessee, giving a (paid?) speech before a group on health care. In the interview with WJHL, Bush also praised Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, saying the Exxon Mobile CEO has “vast experience.” Tillerson initially supported Bush’s run for president and contributed to his campaign.

LEON CIRCUIT COURT WON’T STOP FLORIDA ELECTORS FROM VOTING via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A group of voters contesting the results of the Florida presidential election appealed a lower court ruling denying their bid to block the state’s 29 Republican electors from casting their ballots for Donald Trump next week. The electors are scheduled to cast their ballots in the Senate chambers at 2 p.m. Monday. The Central Florida trio — Leonisia OlivaresJerry W. Lapidus, and Judith L. Craig — filed their original complaint Dec. 2 contesting the Nov. 8 election. In it, they claimed widespread voter fraud, including tens of thousands of illegal votes cast, thousands of legal votes not counted, and hacking of voter machines. They claim Hillary Clinton would have won if not for all the alleged fraud. But they offered no evidence to support those allegations, except a specific claim made that 25,000 mail-in ballots requested in Broward County were not received. On Friday, the group filed an emergency motion to stop the electors from casting their ballots Monday for Trump until a full statewide ballot hand count is performed. Leon Circuit Judge John C. Cooper denied the group’s motion the same day, noting that even though they filed the original complaint in time — 11 minutes before the Dec. 2 deadline — they didn’t pay their statutory filing fee until three days later. “This fact may call into question whether the plaintiffs have met all statutory requirements to file an election contest in Florida,” Cooper wrote.

ALAN GRAYSON FILES TO RUN AGAIN BUT SAYS IT’S JUST PAPERWORK, FOR NOW via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Democrat from Orlando — who leaves office Jan. 3 because he did not seek re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District — has filed paperwork to run in 2018. And this time he filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County. Yet Grayson insisted Tuesday that the paperwork is simply a legal requirement because his campaign committee continued to raise money since the Nov. 8 election. Federal law requires a candidate to actually be running for something if his campaign is raising money. “The campaign raises money all the time. When the campaign raises a certain amount of money after an election, the campaign is legally required under the Federal Election Campaign Act to file a candidate’s statement of candidacy,” Grayson said in an interview … “The statement of candidacy form requires some kind of designation of an actual district, and the reason for that is the FEC keeps its records in terms of congressional districts,” he added. “Legally, I can run anywhere in Florida.” Grayson said that is why he filed a statement of candidacy Nov. 14. Still, he said he’s leaving open the prospect of another congressional run, whether in CD 11 or elsewhere. “That decision actually gets made not in November or December of 2016. That decision gets made in May of 2018,” Grayson said.

SPOTTED: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Tallahassee, where he met with potential supporters of a 2018 bid for Attorney General. Among those DeSantis met with were Capital City Consulting’s Nick Iarossi and Scott Ross.

WE STILL BELIEVE CLC WILL RUN FOR CFO IN 2018 – CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA GETS LEADERSHIP POST IN GOP LIEUTENANT GOVERNORS GROUP via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera was named to the leadership team of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association. He will serve as co-chair for policy in 2017, the group announced … “Today, with a united government in Washington, D.C. and Republicans at all-time highs in the states, we are faced with an incredible opportunity to advance conservative values from coast to coast at every level of government,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement issued by the RLGA. “As the second-in-command in the states, lieutenant governors will play a critical role in determining and defining policy discussions nationwide, and I am humbled to have been chosen by my peers to serve as the RLGA’s Co-Chair for Policy in such a critical and exciting year.”

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WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – 200,000 NEW JOBS AT FLORIDA SEAPORTS SINCE 2012, SAYS REPORT via the Sunshine State News – According to a new report from the Florida Ports Council, Florida’s 15 seaports are also responsible for $117.6 billion in economic activity, supporting nearly 900,000 jobs, $40 billion in personal income and $4.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Since 2011, the State of Florida has invested more than $1 billion into Florida’s port system in order to increase capacity, compete with top ports across the nation, and expand Florida’s role as a global hub for trade. An additional $3.7 billion in state, local and private funding has been planned for port capital improvement projects over the next five years. According to the Florida Ports Council, port projects typically produce a return on investment of nearly $7 in state and local tax revenue for every $1 of investment. Florida’s seaports provide well-paying jobs in multiple sectors, including crane and terminal operators, truck drivers, distribution warehouse workers and cargo loading, management and transportation.

TRIAL BAR ALLIES TURN GUNS ON RATINGS COUNCIL IN WORKERS’ COMP HEARING via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – As debate opened over Florida’s 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation premiums, trial attorneys on the Florida Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee targeted the group that proposes insurance rates for carriers in the state. Sens. Greg Steube and Gary Farmer Jr., both attorneys, endeavored to shift the focus from attorney fees — widely blamed for rising workers’ comp rates — and onto the need for carriers to compete rather than charge common rates. “I support a competitive marketplace,” committee member Steube said following the hearing. “That’s one of the things the committee and the Legislature should look at.” Chairwoman Anitere Flores, herself an attorney, said the issue was “definitely on the table” during what she hopes would be a thorough look at the situation. “It seems that the NCCI and rate-making portion is something that had not been really discussed in previous workers’ compensation reforms,” Flores said. Committee members Steube, Randolph Bracy and Debbie Mayfieldhad trial lawyer support in their recent campaigns. Farmer is a past president of the Florida Justice Association, representing trial attorneys. NCCI is the National Council on Compensation Insurance. The group operates around the country, but Florida is one of just a few states in which it proposes rates on behalf of all carriers to state regulators — in Florida’s case, the Office of Insurance Regulation. That office relied on NCCI data in developing the rate increase that began to take effect Dec. 1. Businesses will absorb the higher premiums as they file for new or renewed policies during the next year.

WHERE’S THE SEMINOLES’ GAMBLING MONEY? STATE’S NOT CLEAR via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A state agency that reports to Gov. Scott isn’t clear on the location of millions of dollars the Seminole Tribe says it’s still ponying up from its gambling operations. A spokesman for the tribe last week said they have a “continuing desire to finalize a new gaming (agreement) with the state of Florida” that includes continued exclusive rights to offer blackjack. “As further evidence of its positive approach, the Tribe is continuing to make monthly payments to the state that will total $306 million this year,” Gary Bitner said. What wasn’t clear was what the state was doing with that money. A recent request for explanation to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which regulates gambling, was responded to with a chart showing past payments and projected future payments. (When asked whether those payments would end if no new agreement is approved this year, Bitner said, “As has been noted many times, it is the Tribe’s policy to not discuss the specific content of its compact negotiations with the state.”) Those payments “are made to the Department of Revenue,” according to a DBPR statement, “which should be able to provide more information about the types of accounts those funds are deposited into.” Revenue, however, responded with puzzlement. “The Florida Department of Revenue does not post, reconcile or distribute Indian gaming revenues shared with the State of Florida under the Compact,” its statement said.

FDOT SECRETARY SAYS IT’S TIME TO HIT RESET BUTTON ON TBX PROJECT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold told a Senate Committee … it’s time to hit the reset button when it comes to the controversial Tampa Bay Express Project. “We have had some challenges with getting that project to a point where the local communities that are affected are pleased with where it is, and so we have the benefit of some time before we’re ready to move forward with that project,” Boxhold told the Senate Transportation Committee. “We probably have 2-3 years before that project is what we call ‘production ready,’ ready to turn dirt. And so, we’re going to sort of hit the reset button, bring in additional staff or different staff to manage that project, and work more intensively with the local communities.” … “Needless to say, there are minority communities that are affected,” he said. “Given the project’s magnitude, it’s important that we take the time to get it right. We want a project that not only the department can be proud to build, be proud to put the Governor out there for a groundbreaking, that the local community is just as proud to join us for that groundbreaking.”

SCOOP – NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE TAKES EQUALITY FLORIDA TO COURT OVER LOGO DISPUTE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The National Urban League (NUL) has been complaining for six years that Equality Florida‘s logo is too similar to theirs in appearance. Now the venerable civil rights organization is taking Florida’s leading gay rights group to court to have them stop using it — and wants them to pay for it. In legal briefs filed with the U.S. Middle District of Florida in Tampa last week, attorneys with the National Urban League say that they’ve been using their logo for nearly 50 years, and had it registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1992. Cut to 2010, when Equality Florida began using its logo in its fundraising, marketing, political and administrative materials. The Urban League charged that logo “is confusingly similar — indeed nearly identical — to NUL’s registered trademark,” allege the National Urban League attorneys. The National Urban League first sent a cease-and-desist letter to Equality Florida in March 2013, notifying the group that they considered their logo to constitute “trademark infringement.” Nothing ever happened, however, prompting the Urban League to re-contact Equality Florida in May of this year to once again ask them to stop using their logo, also to no avail. In addition to going to court, the National Urban League has filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the registration of Equality Florida’s service mark.

AP ANNOUNCES YEARLY LEGISLATIVE PLANNING MEETING, A.K.A. “WHO WANTS FREE COFFEE AND BAGELS?” – The Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington emails that Jan. 31 will be the date of the wire service’s annual legislative coverage planning session. Which is kind of a misnomer: No actual legislative coverage gets planned at the meeting. But it is an opportunity for state leaders to address members of the Capitol Press Corps and visiting reporters, editors, columnists and editorial writers from around the state. This year’s invited guests include Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “There will also be a panel discussion on the Constitution Revision Commission and other guests might be invited,” Farrington writes. “Coffee and bagels will be served in the morning and lunch and refreshments will be provided.”

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE(S)Erin Gaetz tells Florida Politics she’s opening her own digital content business, Southpaw Content. (Maybe she’s a leftie?) The 31-year-old sister of Congressman-elect Matt Gaetz and daughter of former Senate President Don Gaetz was formerly director of video content for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. “I really want to change how social media content is produced—faster, more engaging and less expensive,” she said in an email. “Most importantly, no more dopey ads of candidates standing around a factory and pointing at things. Digital platforms are a different medium and should be treated as such.” She says she already nabbed a contract with Texas A&M University and will be doing work for north Florida Congressman-elect Neal Dunn. See her work here.

SPOTTED: Brian Hughes in St. Thomas at meeting of National Conference of State Legislators per Twitter – Hughes is leading a discussion on communication strategy for new presiding officers of legislatures from around the U.S. As an adviser to former Senate President Jeff Atwater, Speaker Steve Crisafulli and 3 Senate Majority Leaders (Alex Diaz de la PortillaLizbeth Benacquisto and now Wilton Simpson) his expertise is worthy of the invitation. And a gig in St. Thomas this time of year is nice work if you can get it.

***PRIDE Enterprises reduces the cost of state government by offering low cost, quality goods and service to state agencies, providing inmate supervision during work hours and reducing recidivism rates. PRIDE stimulates the state economy through the purchase of raw materials and supplies from local vendors and the employment of 250 Florida residents. Visit www.pride-enterprises.org to learn the benefits PRIDE of its industry and mission programs.***

U.S. SUGAR WELCOMES RETURN OF HISTORIC STEAM ENGINE, LAUNCHES RESTORATION PROJECT – U.S. Sugar welcomed the return of Engine No. 148, a steam locomotive it used in the 1950s to haul sugarcane from the fields to its mill. U.S. Sugar re-acquired the steam engine from a private owner and plans to spend the next year or more restoring the retired Florida East Coast engine. Eventually, U.S. Sugar hopes to make the engine operational and add vintage passenger cars for offering public train rides. “This steam locomotive is part of our history, and we wanted to bring it home,’’ said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, during a welcoming home celebration in Clewiston. “We intend to restore Engine No. 148 to its former glory.’’ The engine was shipped via rail from Colorado to Clewiston, where a team of about two dozen U.S. Sugar mechanics and others will inspect the engine and perform an engineering study. U.S. Sugar plans to return the 97-year-old engine to operating condition after its decades-long retirement. To monitor the progress of Engine No. 148, check out #148Homecoming and #USSugar on social media or visit USSugar.com for updates.

ROGUE ONE REVIEW: THIS IS THE FIRST STAR WARS MOVIE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE WHOLE FRANCHISE IS ABOUT WAR via Todd VanDerWerff of Vox – Oh, yes, this is a Star Wars movie — the first of Lucasfilm’s new “anthology” entries to the franchise, which will tell stories in and around the established Star Wars universe. Rather than picking up where last year’s The Force Awakens left off, Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebels got the Death Star plans in the first place, the one that set the plot of 1977’s Star Wars in motion and kicked off this entire saga. As such, the movie is caught between the artistic impulses of its director, Gareth Edwards and its corporate masters. Sometimes, it’s a beautifully constructed antidote to years and years of fake, digitized movie destruction, with precisely crafted frames and genuinely groundbreaking cinematography. At other times, it’s a bumpily edited mess that was too-obviously assembled in post-production from a variety of possible outcomes. It’s a flawed movie, but a good one, sometimes more interesting as a concept than a story. But, oh, what a concept! The unifying theme of Rogue One is simple: People die in wars. If the Star Wars saga is about a war between freedom and tyranny, then a lot of people are going to die fighting that war. Those on the side of good are going to make questionable decisions. Those on the side of evil are sometimes just doing their jobs but will get their lives snuffed out anyway. Edwards emphasizes this inevitable death throughout. When two starships collide, he’ll intercuts shots of the people inside those starships, toppling over, never having realized that this particular day was the day they would die.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. David Santiago, Kyra Jennings, Judge Terry Lewis, and Ian Whitney.

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.13.16

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

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

TRIAL LAWYERS MUST BE HAPPY WITH SENATE COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS

It will come as no surprise that trial lawyers are looking to shoot the moon this Legislative Session.

They already made a power play during the 2016 election cycle. The Florida Justice Association, through its political committee Florida Justice PAC, spent at least $4.5 million since the beginning of 2015, much of which went to candidates or affiliated committees.

The group was also involved in two dozen state House and Senate primary races this year; and all but one of those candidates — Dwight Bullard, who lost his Senate District 40 race to Frank Artiles — were sworn into office last month.

But if you need more evidence of the clout plaintiffs’ attorneys are angling for, look no further than the make-up of the 2016-18 Senate committees.

While conventional wisdom tells us trial attorneys won’t get jilted under Senate President Joe Negron (an attorney) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran (ditto), the appointments to several key Senate committees appears to have already given trial attorneys — and their interests — a leg up.

Need an example? Take a look at the Banking and Insurance committee.

Chaired by Sen. Anitere Flores, the nine-person committee has four members for whom the Florida Justice PAC played Daddy Warbucks during the primaries. One of those members? Gary Farmer, the former president of the Florida Justice Association, which prides itself on “upholding the civil justice system and fighting for consumer rights.”

On the “About Gary” section of his campaign site, Farmer says he “spent almost his entire career fighting for the rights of consumers, fair and just compensation, and the protection of the civil justice system and full access to courts.” And as he points out, he’s made a career of representing patients and consumers that were “wronged by various corporations, hospitals and insurance companies’ deceptive trade practices.”

So, what the heck? Let’s put the guy who has made his bones suing insurance companies on the committee that is tasked with, in part, vetting legislation aimed at regulating the insurance industry. (Sounds like Negron is taking a page from the Donald Trump Cabinet selection playbook.)

Also on the committee — Greg Steube, Randolph Bracy and Debbie Mayfield. All of which had the backing of the trial attorneys in their recent elections.

In a year where insurance issues rule the roost — assignment of benefits, workers’ compensation and PIP reform are just a few of the issues that could be on the table — you have to wonder, what message does having a Banking and Insurance committee that has four trial lawyer-friendly members really send to the business industry? (Hint: The courthouse is open for business.)

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice, and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

FLORIDA HOUSE RELEASES COMPLETE LEADERSHIP LIST, COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIPS via Florida Politics – The House released its full 2016-18 committee and subcommittee assignments and chairs. “I am proud of the way the new process was handled by all involved – applicants and chairs alike,” Speaker Corcoran said in a statement. “All who participated have my respect and will be called upon to use their talents and knowledge to transform the way government works for the people of Florida.” Corcoran, who said he wanted to “decentralize authority,” said the decisions were made based on “member consultations, preferences, committee chair interviews, leadership team meetings, and input from the Minority Leader (Democrat Janet Cruz of Tampa).” The full list is here.

TWEET, TWEET: @Jason_Garcia: New Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran puts a Morgan & Morgan attorney in charge of the House’s Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee.

HOUSE MAY BRING PITBULL-TIED FIRM TO COURT OVER RAPPER’S CONTRACT via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In addition to the court action, Speaker Corcoran told POLITICO Florida the House is considering whether to completely de-fund the $78 million budget for Visit Florida, the tourism agency that signed the promotional contract last year with Pitbull, who then made his “Sexy Beaches” video with scantily clad women and sexually suggestive lyrics. … “They’re arguing that how taxpayer dollars are spent in this case are trade secrets and we disagree,” Corcoran said. “The House is prepared to litigate this and we feel it’s worth fighting this in court on behalf of taxpayers.” … The House could file a motion with the court as early as this week.

SHOT on Sunday – “Panhandle will lack clout in capitol” via will Isern of the Pensacola News-Journal

CHASER on Monday – “Speaker Announces Formation Of Select Committee On Triumph Gulf Coast” via a press release

AUSTERITY BUDGET LOOMS DESPITE FLORIDA’S IMPROVED STATE REVENUE FORECAST via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The Legislature may have nearly $140 million more to spend next year than previously expected, but that won’t save lawmakers from difficult choices during the spring legislative session. The revenue forecast for the fiscal year ending in June could run $118.3 million ahead of the previous forecast in September, according to preliminary numbers approved Monday by Florida’s Revenue Estimating Conference. They could run $20 million ahead during the 2017-18 fiscal year, beginning July 1. But within the context of this year’s $82.3 billion state budget for 2016-17, that amounts to a “very minor adjustment,” said Amy Baker, coordinator for the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. “It helps. It’s positive,” Baker said. But “we’re pretty much on forecast. We’re not really changing the trajectory.” … Drags on the state’s economy include declining levels of tourism by Canadians and other overseas visitors, reflecting the strong dollar; and increasing school enrollment. On the other hand, Medicare spending appeared to be declining, Baker said. The state saw a $50 million hole in revenues during November; it was not clear to forecasters whether this reflected businesses that closed as Hurricane Matthew raked the Florida coast.

JOE NEGRON PUSHES BACK AGAINST IDEA HOUSE IS MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN SENATE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Negron is taking on an age-old Tallahassee narrative that the House is more conservative than the upper-chamber he now leads … Negron’s comments came during two public events at the Capitol Monday, one in which he met with his new committee chairs and another in which he spoke to reporters. Negron says the idea is “hackneyed,” and cited his top two legislative priorities as examples : boosting the state’s colleges and universities, and buying land south of lake Okeechobee. “I think it would be an insult to conservatives that academic mediocrity would somehow be a byproduct of conservative thought,” Negron said of his higher education ideas. “That is nothing more or less than implementing the will of the people,” Negron said.

30 APPLY TO NEGRON FOR CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION via Florida Politics – A former Senate President, Secretary of State, and state Supreme Court Justice have applied to Senate President Negron for a seat on the panel that reviews the state’s constitution every 20 years. At last tally, 30 people had applied for one of Negron’s nine picks to the Constitution Revision Commission, according to a list provided by his office. They include former Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who was term limited out of office this year. Gaetz also served as Senate President 2012-14. Also, lobbyist and former lawmaker Sandra Mortham, who also was the elected Secretary of State 1995-99. One of the changes from the last commission was making the position appointed by the governor. And retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Wells, who was on the bench 1994-2009. Wells also was chief justice during the 2000 presidential election challenge and recount.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT SOUGHT TO BOOST FLORIDA’S BUDGET STABILIZATION FUND via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – A joint resolution filed last week by state Sen. Travis Hutson would turn vetoed appropriations into the Budget Stabilization fund’s gain. That is, if the voters approve a Constitutional Amendment to that effect. Senate Joint Resolution 116 proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution that would require the transfer of the amount of a vetoed specific appropriation originating from the General Revenue Fund to the Budget Stabilization Fund. The proposed legislation also stipulates that the amount transferred may not be used in calculating the Budget Stabilization Fund’s principal balance limitation, and to provide for the transfer of funds for vetoed specific appropriations that are reinstated.

GEORGE GAINER HITS GROUND RUNNING AS NEW STATE SENATOR via John Henderson of the Panama City News-Herald – Gainer has hit the ground running, laying out an agenda for the coming session, opening three legislative offices and networking with the top leaders in the Legislature. “It was just absolutely overwhelming, the support of the people that came out to cheer me on,” he said. Gainer has purchased a condominium across the street from the Capitol to be close by when he’s needed. He also is opening offices on the third floor of the Bay County Government Center, as well as in Marianna and Destin. “Now that the election season is over, the real work begins,” he said. ” I pledge to the residents of District 2 to work tirelessly on their behalf, to make wise decisions that benefit all of Florida, and to ensure that, in particular, Northwest Florida has a strong voice looking out for the welfare of our region of the state.”

GREG STEUBE FIRES UP OPEN CARRY BILL FOR 2017 SESSION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – SB 140, is sponsored by  Steube who introduced the measure last year when he was a state representative. If passed, the bill would allow Florida’s 1.7 million concealed carry permit holders to openly carry their firearms. The more sweeping part of the measure, however, would eliminate gun-free zones in places like secondary schools, local centers and government meeting areas. The bill would not allow CCW permit holders to carry their firearms on college or athletic events and restrictions would still exist on carrying guns to restaurants and bars. Any permit holder in violation of the restrictions in the bill would face a misdemeanor charge. Last year, former state Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced the bill in the House. The proposal sailed through that chamber, but faced opposition in the Senate. Former Sen. Miguel Díaz de la Portilla was at the center of the failure of many pro-gun bills last year, since he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee where many of the bills, including open carry, breathed their last breaths. This year, Diaz de la Portilla isn’t a senator and Steube chairs that committee, setting up a friendlier environment for the measure to make its way through.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

DAYS UNTIL: Premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 2; Inauguration Day – 37; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 63; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 94: Election Day 2017 – 328: Election Day 2018 – 695.

RICK SCOTT TO MEET WITH DONALD TRUMP’S PICK TO REPEAL AND REPLACE OBAMACARE via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott will be in Washington … to meet with Rep. Tom Price, whom President-elect Trump has picked as his health secretary. Scott, whose opposition to Obamacare drove him into politics, will offer his thoughts on how to repeal the 2010 law, a spokeswoman said. The meeting is set for the afternoon. Price is an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia who has offered his own plans. If confirmed, he would oversee one of the GOP’s main objectives — a task that while popular among Republicans will be difficult given the complexity of Obamacare.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight recent job creation in the economic impact of seaports at an event at Port Tampa Bay beginning 9 a.m., East Port Terminal, 3409 Causeway Boulevard in Tampa.

CONGRESS APPROVES EVERGLADES PROJECT AIMED AT BRINGING WATER SOUTH via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – Everglades restoration scored a major victory over the weekend when Congress approved a long-awaited waterworks bill. The $10 billion bill comes at the end of a year filled with water woes that wilted Florida Bay and left Treasure Coast estuaries coated in slimy green algae, and includes authorization for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The $1.9 billion project, which splits the tab between the state and federal government, is intended to speed up work critical to reviving the flow of water south to keep marshes healthy and help fend off saltwater intrusion threatening South Florida’s water supplies. The bill now goes to the White House for final approval.

— “Sen. Marco Rubio poised to play role in investigation into Russian hacking” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

PERSONNEL NOTE: CHARLIE CRIST TAPS HILL VETERAN ERIN MOFFET AS COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR via Florida Politics – Moffet has spent nearly seven years running the press operations for Florida members serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. A former resident of West Palm Beach, Moffet has deep experience as a communicator in the Florida congressional delegation. Moffet got her start as Press Secretary for Congressman Alcee Hastings and later became Communications Director for Congresswoman Lois Frankel. She currently serves as Communications Director for retiring Congressman Patrick Murphy, working in his Congressional office since 2013 as well as on his successful House campaigns in 2012 and 2014. Moffet received her undergraduate degree from Elon University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, with a concentration in political communications.

HAPPENING FRIDAYNicole Valls and The Valls Family, along with Slater BaylissJeb Bush, Jr., Luis Andre Gazitua are hosting an election celebration for U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo beginning 12:15 p.m. at Casa Cuba 5859 SW. 73rd St. in South Miami. Tickets are $25 per person, free for active members of Maverick PAC. RSVP at MaverickPAC.com.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ’S DISTRICT DIRECTOR QUITS FOR GOVERNMENT CONSULTANT JOB via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Wasserman Schultz‘s longtime district director, Jodie Bock Davidson, has taken a new job as a government consultant for Colodny Fass law firm in Sunrise. The firm lobbies for the Broward School Board, the Florida League of Cities, Disney and several insurance clients in Tallahassee. Davidson said she will be based out of South Florida although Michael Colodny said she will also consult in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. Davidson has worked for South Florida Democrats for two decades and joined Wasserman Schultz when she was first elected to Congress in 2004. Previously, Davidson served as deputy district director to U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and was the Florida Political Director for John Kerry for president in 2004. She also worked as a legislative aide to former state representatives Nan Rich and Ken Gottlieb. Wasserman Schultz hired Lori Green, a past president of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, to replace Davidson.

SIX MONTHS LATER ORLANDO CONTEMPLATES UNITY, LOSS FROM PULSE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Southeast of downtown Orlando, at the city’s Greenwood Cemetery, the Earthly remains of Cory James ConnellAnthony L. Laureano DislaLeroy “Indara” Valentin Fernandez, and Alejandro Barrios Martinez reside together in still-fresh graves, grouped near the fence along Anderson Street. The flowers adorning their stones also are fresh, as is the loss, the horror, and the pain of the June 12 Pulse gay nightclub shooting that put them there. It’s been six months since madman Omar Mateen shot Connell, Laureano Disla, Fernandez, Barrios Martinez, and 45 other people to death, wounded scores of others, and injured the lives of countless others. The city, the region, the LGBTQ community, and the Hispanic community all were shaken and pledged unity forever. Orlando United. Remarkable political embraces have taken place and appear to have brought new shared understanding. No place might ever know-how such binding of souls necessary in the wake of something like Pulse can change people, and a city. On Monday, an early-morning vigil took place at Pulse. Events are planned later today at The LGBT Center of Central Florida, and the Orange County Regional History Center.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

FLORIDA SHERIFFS WANT TO BE HEARD ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Matt Galka of the Capitol News Service – Now that Amendment 2 passed and expanded medical marijuana will be allowed in the state, it’s unclear how law enforcement will handle it. The Florida Sheriff’s Association did not back the measure and even opposed the 2014 attempt. Recent studies indicate that medical marijuana sales in Florida could top the one-billion-dollar mark in the next three years. “We didn’t think it was appropriate for that to be in the state’s constitution,” said Jerry Demings, president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association. Now that Amendment 2 has passed, law enforcement still has their concerns and hope the legislature hears them. “We want to make certain that as the rules are put in place that the packaging of the different products,” Demings said. “So that if it falls in the hands of unsuspecting individuals, children, that it doesn’t look like it’s something that it’s not.” And supporters agree that law enforcement should have a seat at the table while Amendment 2 is implemented. Medical Marijuana Business Association founders Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl believe the sheriff’s voice will be heard.

APPEALS COURT SETS SPEEDY ARGUMENTS OVER WORKERS’ COMP PREMIUM HIKE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The 1st District Court of Appeal gave the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, until Jan. 11 to file its arguments on the merits of the case. James Fee, the Miami workers’ compensation attorney behind the lawsuit, then will have until Jan. 23 to respond in writing. Each side will have until Feb. 2 to file their final briefs. “No extensions of time shall be entertained by this court on any matter absent a bona fide showing of emergency circumstances,” the court said. Also in the order dated Monday, the appeal court formally blocked a trial judge’s holding that NCCI and state regulators calculated the premium increase in violation of Florida’s open-government laws.

KEVIN MCCARTY MISSES OUT ON JOB LEADING NAT’L INSURANCE ASSOCIATION via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has passed over former chief Florida insurance regulator Kevin McCarty in selecting its next chief executive officer. The organization went with Michael Consedine, former insurance commissioner for Pennsylvania.The CEO represents the state insurance regulators who comprise the association and acts as go-between with federal and international policymakers, the states, and consumer and industry representatives. SNL Financial had reported in January that McCarthy was discussing the job with other insurance commissioners. McCarty, who had served as president of the association, tendered his resignation as insurance commissioner in January under pressure from Gov. Scott.

AFTER $700M FLORIDA DEAL, IS HARRIS CORP. LOOKING TO SELL ITS GOVERNMENT RADIO BUSINESS? via Florida Politics – Harris Corp. is casting doubt on the future of its public-sector business in Florida after reports emerged of plans to sell one of its key satellite communications companies. Last month, the Melbourne-based communications firm announced it would sell CapRock Communications to SpeedCast International Ltd. for an estimated $425 million. However, November saw Harris agreeing to a $700 million contract with the State of Florida for the creation and maintenance of a statewide communications network … The terms of the contract include a seven-year base and an option for seven yearly renewals. Speculation on the prospective sale goes back as far as August, when James Bach of the Washington Business Journal reported that JANA Partners, LLC — the group behind the divestiture of Computer Sciences Corp’s government services sector – acquired a stake in Harris. This move caught the interest of analysts at Moody’s Investors Service and J. P. Morgan, which suggested a possibility Harris would get rid of additional non-core assets, including its government information technology services … Bach also notes it is also evident that the company is looking to shed several of its business lines. Bach writes: “[Harris Corp.] CEO William Brown said in August that the company would ‘dispassionately, objectively and aggressively assess which businesses strategically fit and are a better value to Harris, as well as which businesses may be a better value on their own or with a third party.’” This plan will mean one of two things: a wholesale gutting of Harris’ government services segment or putting the division up for sale for an estimated price tag of nearly $1 billion.

WHAT KEYNA CORY IS READING – “Facing tough recycling goals, some in waste industry suggest making changes via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

JOSE VAZQUEZ SAYS “MENTAL FATIGUE” CAUSED MISSED HEARING via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – … in his own lawsuit challenging state Rep. Dan Raulerson‘s re-election this year. Vazquez may have even more on his mind: The Florida Elections Commission now is suing him for unpaid fines levied for campaign finance reporting irregularities from his unsuccessful 2014 campaign … Vazquez, who is representing himself, is seeking to disqualify Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, from his House District 58 seat. Vazquez was his unsuccessful Democratic opponent. The suit says Raulerson’s notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork. The state’s notary manual says no correction fluid of any kind is allowed on notarized documents. Specifically, Vazquez has said Raulerson’s notary “improperly completed” his paperwork by whiting out the date on her notarization of his financial disclosure, changing it from an April to a June date. He told FloridaPolitics.com he was “fatigued” and distracted by family problems and simply got his dates confused. He said he is going to request another hearing date. But Vazquez now also is a defendant in a separate suit filed last week in Leon County. State election officials say he never paid $250 in fines from not filing required campaign reports from his 2014 run for Raulerson’s seat.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Travis Blanton, Jon Johnson, Melanie Brown, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Florida Airports Council

Liz Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Red Tree Health

Gregory Herman: KPMG

Nicole Jefferson: Amazon Corporate, LLC

Jonathan Menendez, Kaleo Partners: Presidio Networked Solutions

Brandon Peck, Flywheel Government Solutions: Johnson Controls, Inc.

NEW ON THE TWITTERS: @PooleMcKinley

SHOT: “Here’s Southern Strategy Group’s much anticipated Christmas card” via Adam Smith on Monday.

CHASER: “First Look: Southern Strategy Group’s 2016 Holiday Card” via Florida Politics from last Thursday.

>>>Bottom line: Smith thinks he’s first on the Christmas card beat, but even there, he’s late to the party.

APPOINTEDPeter Crocitto to the Commission for Independent Education.

***PRIDE Enterprises is a not-for-profit corporation that was statutorily designated in 1981 by the Florida Legislature to operate vocational work training programs inside state prisons and to provide job placement assistance for inmate program participants throughout the state of Florida. PRIDE operates 41 inmate training centers in 21 state correctional facilities. PRIDE fully funds its work programs and job placement/re-entry services from the sale of its products and services – all at no cost to Florida taxpayers. Visit www.pride-enterprises.org to learn more about PRIDE Enterprises.***

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA – After whistleblowers revealed evidence of inmate abuse and cover-ups at the Florida Department of Corrections, the state agreed to settle a retaliation lawsuit for $800,000. On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, attorney Ryan Andrews who handled the case discusses another pending lawsuit with a whistleblower who sought First Amendment right protections for sharing his story on The Rotunda in 2015. Gomes also tells the story of “Charlie’s Angels” on Florida’s Supreme Court with U.S. Rep.-elect Charlie Crist and Justice James E.C. Perry who is retiring at the end of the year.

PROGRAMMING NOTE – Extensive Enterprises Media’s Peter Schorsch, among other possibly more important but certainly not more informed guests, will appear on “The Year End Review” and “A Look Ahead” shows, to be aired on the following dates at 8 a.m. on FOX Sports SundayTuesday, Dec. 13; Tuesday, Dec. 20; TuesdayDec. 27 and TuesdayJan. 3The shows can also be seen on www.capitaldatelineonline.com beginning Wednesday, Dec. 14.

‘I CRIED ALL THE WAY HOME’: BOY WHO ASKED FOR LAST WISH DIES IN SANTA’S ARMS via Sam Venable of USA TODAY – Eric Schmitt-Matzen looks every bit the Santa Claus … Schmitt-Matzen’s snowy beard is the real thing, albeit regularly bleached to maintain its whiteness. He’s professionally trained. Custom-tailored in red. Works approximately 80 gigs annually. Wife Sharon plays an authentic Mrs. Claus. His cellphone, with a Jingle Bells ringtone, continually counts down the days until Christmas. The whole shtick is designed to spread joy and have fun. Which it does – except for the role he played several weeks ago at a local hospital. “I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen told me. “I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive … I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time. Actually, I thought I might crack up and never be able to play the part again.” This is what happens when a terminally ill child dies in Santa’s arms. “The telephone rang. It was a nurse I know who works at the hospital. She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus. Schmitt-Matzen got to the hospital in 15 minutes. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’” Nobody entered with him. They watched, sobbing, from a hallway window in the Intensive Care Unit. “When I walked in, he was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep. I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my No. 1 elf!’ … He looked up and said, ‘I am?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ … I gave him the present. He was so weak he could barely open the wrapping paper. When he saw what was inside, he flashed a big smile and laid his head back down. ‘They say I’m gonna die,’ he told me. ‘How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?’ … I said, ‘Can you do me a big favor?’ … He said, ‘Sure!’ … When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s No. 1 elf, and I know they’ll let you in … He said, ‘They will?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ … I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”

SALVATION ARMY FEELING THE CHILL AT RED KETTLES by Peter Schorsch

One charity in Florida might be feeling a bit of winter chill, as people in the Tampa Bay area are keeping wallets and purses closed at iconic Salvation Army Red Kettles this season.

As the holidays approach, Salvation Army donations are down by more than 12 percent across the Tampa Bay Area, according to Capt. Andrew Miller, Area Commander for The Salvation Army of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

“With less than three weeks left before Christmas, we’re hoping that shoppers will think of their neighbors in need the next time they pass a Salvation Army bellringer and give what they can,” Miller said.

Miller notes that a drop in donations means fewer meals for the hungry and beds for homeless in the Bay Area.

“This is the time of year when The Salvation Army raises most of its individual contributions,” he said. “So any drop in donations could negatively impact The Salvation Army’s ability to meet needs here in Tampa Bay.”

While time is running short, gifts can still be made to Red Kettles, which are stationed in front of Publix, J.C. Penney, and Wal-Mart stores and other local retailers throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Donations provide meals and shelter for families in need and Christmas toys for children, as well as many other services throughout the community. Salvation Army representatives say volunteers served more than 101,000 men, women, and children In Hillsborough and Pinellas counties last year alone.

The Salvation Army encourages will the public to donate this holiday season through either its Red Kettles or at www.SalvationArmyTampaBay.org.

HAPPENING FRIDAY: PASCO COUNTY LEADERS TO HOST FARM SHARE HOLIDAY FOOD GIVEAWAY – Pasco County leaders, including Tax Collector Mike Fasano, House Speaker Corcoran, Sen. Jack Latvala, Sheriff Chris Nocco, Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley and state Rep. Amanda Murphy announce the 22nd Annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway for Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The giveaway, which includes fresh food donated by Florida’s farmers and other food items purchased with donations from a very generous community, will be held at Faith Baptist Church located at 9230 Ridge Road in New Port Richey. All needy families are welcome. For more information about the giveaway, contact Greg Giordano, Assistant Tax Collector for Communications & Special Projects at 727-847-8179 or ggiordano@pascotaxes.com.

WOMAN HOSPITALIZED AFTER BEING RUN OVER BY XMAS PARADE FLOAT via the Pensacola News-Journal – A Pensacola woman is hospitalized in stable condition after she was run over by a float in the Pensacola Christmas Parade Saturday night … Miriam Mims, 59, was at the head of the parade’s line-up area, where floats enter Garden Street from Spring Street, and before the parade units reach the barricaded route, when the incident happened at about 5:40 p.m. Officer Tony Garza said Mims stepped into the street to pick up a parade throw. It is believed that she was bumped from behind as she leaned over, falling into the path of a float that was northbound on Spring Street. The float was moving no faster than two miles per hour, according to Garza. A safety walker with the float, David Chapman of Spanish Fort, Alabama, saw Mims fall into the path of the float’s tires, and with the aid of Jimmy Fields, who attended the parade with Mims, was able to pull her upper body and head from the float’s path. However, the tires still ran over her left torso.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the best in the business, Hayden Dempsey.

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.12.16

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

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

OUR MISTAKE: In Friday’s Sunburn, we erroneously said John Morgan was chair of Florida for Care, the panel involved with medical marijuana implementation. Morgan chaired United for Care, the group that backed the medical marijuana amendment, but is not attached to Florida for Care.

CENSUS: FLORIDA GROWING OLDER, MORE DIVERSE via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press

Florida gained more wealthy residents but also more families living below the poverty line between 2010 and 2015 when the Sunshine State participated in an economic recovery from a devastating housing crash and the worst recession in decades.

New data released by the U.S. Census Bureaushows that during the recovery, jobs were lost in construction, real estate, government and manufacturing. But jobs were gained in education, health care, tourism and professional positions.

During the same time, Florida residents got older and more diverse.

As a state, Florida has gotten older in the past five years. The median age went from 40.3 in 2010 to 41.4 in 2015.

Only five counties in Florida got younger — and they were all located in the Panhandle. Two of the counties — Escambia and Okaloosa — have major military bases.

Florida also got more diverse in the past five years.

The percentage of non-Hispanic whites dropped from 78.4 percent in 2010 to 76.3 percent in 2015.

The increase in diversity was driven by gains in the Hispanic population, which grew by 665,000 residents. Florida’s population of around 20 million people is now slightly less than a quarter Hispanic.

In pure numbers, Cubans led the way with a gain of more than 209,000 residents. But Puerto Ricans weren’t far behind, increasing by 185,000 residents. Florida now has 1.3 million residents of Cuban descent, living primarily in South Florida; almost 1 million residents of Puerto Rican descent, concentrated in central Florida; almost 670,000 residents of Mexican descent, living primarily in agriculture areas of south-central Florida; and 1.6 million residents of various other Hispanic backgrounds.

Florida has added 323,000 new workers to the labor force since 2010.

But the percentage of residents of working age who weren’t in the labor force has grown from 38.7 percent to 40.8 percent, an indication that some workers have given up on looking jobs. Florida’s rate is one of the nation’s highest, given its large number of retirees and residents over age 65.

There were winners and losers as Florida’s economy emerged from the doldrums of a half-decade ago.

Florida lost 340,000 manufacturing and almost 150,000 construction jobs. Manufacturing makes up only around 5 percent of Florida’s labor force, and construction work has bounced back, but not necessarily construction workers since many moved out of state following the housing bust.

The loss of jobs in those sectors was offset by healthy gains in health care, hospitality, professional and retail workers.

The percentage of Floridians working at home increased from 4.4 percent to 5.1 percent, just as commuting times increased. Floridians now spend an average of 26.4 minutes traveling to work compared to 25.7 minutes five years ago.

Florida’s share of wealthy residents increased in the past five years. The percentage of households earning more than $200,000 a year jumped from 3.6 percent to 4.1 percent. At the same time, the percentage of families with income below the poverty line increased from 9.9 percent to 12 percent. Median household income roughly stayed the same at $47,600.

BIG PICTURE – U.S. LIFE EXPECTANCY DECLINES FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1993 via Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post –Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death. “I think we should be very concerned,” said Princeton economist Anne Case, who called for thorough research on the increase in deaths from heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States. “This is singular. This doesn’t happen.” … findings show increases in “virtually every cause of death. It’s all ages,” said David Weir, director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the past five years, he noted, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. “There’s this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States.”

Overall, life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015, according to the latest data. The last time U.S. life expectancy at birth declined was in 1993, when it dropped from 75.6 to 75.4, according to World Bank data. The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent in 2015, its first uptick since 1999. More than 2.7 million people died, about 45 percent of them from heart disease or cancer.

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DONALD TRUMP BRINGING VICTORY TOUR TO ORLANDO NEXT WEEK via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Trump will be joined this time by vice president-elect Mike Pence, for a “U.S.A. Thank You Tour” rally at the Central Florida Fairgrounds at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. It’s the spot where Trump last visited Central Florida … offering himself as a “better vision for America” and trashing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as “the candidate of yesterday.” Doors at the Orlando Amphitheater there will open at 4 p.m.

MARCO RUBIO TAKES SHOT AT TRUMP’S POTENTIAL SECRETARY OF STATE OVER VLADIMIR PUTIN TIES via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Rubio took a shot at President-elect Trump’s rumored pick of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of State this morning on Twitter, while Trump tweeted a defense of Tillerson. “Being a “friend of Vladimir” is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState,” Rubio tweeted this morning. Trump defended Tillerson on Twitter later in the morning. “Whether I choose him or not for ‘State’ – Rex Tillerson, the Chairman & CEO of ExxonMobil, is a world class player and dealmaker. Stay tuned!” Trump tweeted.

NO NEW LOCAL ZIKA TRANSMISSIONS IN FLORIDA, GOV SAYS via Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times – Four months after Zika roiled Miami-Dade County and put the rest of Florida on alert, Gov. Scott announced … that mosquitoes were no longer actively transmitting the virus in South Florida. Shortly after the announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its strictest advisory urging pregnant women not to travel to the heart of South Beach, a popular tourism destination. Instead it suggested caution. “Our state has no more local transmission of Zika,” Scott said. The lifting of the advisory came as the state swings into peak tourism season. But the county is already preparing for the next Zika cycle, which is expected when the rains arrive in early summer. Zika is here to stay, at least for a while, health and mosquito control officials said, in part because of South Florida’s tropical climate and the large number of visitors and residents from countries like Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and the United States territory of Puerto Rico.

SILLY ARTICLE OF THE DAY – ARE FLORIDA’S POLITICAL PARTIES RELEVANT ANYMORE? via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times –On the Republican side, state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia … is trying to hold his $115,000-a-year party chairmanship from Sarasota state Committeeman Christian Ziegler, who insists the state GOP needs a full-time chief. Underlying fissures represented in that race include friction between Republican state senators and state House members, Trump loyalists versus Republicans skeptical of him, and an unprecedented split between the state party and the state’s most important Republican, Gov. Rick Scott, who is widely expected to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018

… the Florida GOP under Ingoglia’s chairmanship is Exhibit A for why the job doesn’t mean much anymore. Scott has almost nothing to do with the party because two years ago its grassroots members snubbed him and elected Ingoglia chairman over his preferred candidate. GOP state senators also have little to do with the party. To them, Ingoglia is a representative in the lower chamber. They don’t want to entrust their Florida Senate campaign funds to a party seen as controlled by the boss of Ingoglia’s day job, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Once widely viewed as the most formidable state Republican Party in America, the RPOF has been so strapped for money in recent years that the Republican National Committee intervened to pay most of its employees.

>>>That last line is technically true but does not tell the whole story. The RPOF’s long-term staff — the employees who were there before the campaign cycle heated up and are still working today — is paid for by the RPOF; what the RNC paid for is the presidential cycle hiring spree the party goes on every four years to support its national nominee.

MIAMI-DADE DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEEMAN RESIGNS, MAKING WAY FOR NEW PARTY ELECTION via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Miami-Dade Committeeman Bret Berlin emailed Democratic Executive Committee members his resignation Saturday afternoon. The local party will now call a new election, which will allow several candidates to seek the position — and later the state party chairmanship. Among those candidates is expected to be Coconut Grove developer and party fundraiser Stephen Bittel, who wants to head the state party but was ineligible to run for a county party seat earlier this week. He’s now eligible to vie for the vacancy left by Berlin. Candidates for state party chair must hold a position with a county party … Three other Miami-Dade Democrats — former local party chairs Annette Taddeo Goldstein and Dwight Bullard, and former state Sen. Dan Gelber — had also expressed interest in the job … Taddeo Goldstein will be ineligible to try to fill Berlin’s post because party rules require a male Democrat to serve as committeeman. (There’s also a committeewoman.) And Gelber may be uninterested in challenging Bittel, who seems to have the quiet backing of Florida’s only Democrat elected statewide, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. “My service to the Party has never been about me,” wrote Berlin, who’s been committeeman for 12 years. “We have four capable candidates in Miami-Dade who could each do an amazing job as FDP Chair, and I will gladly work beside any one of them as they run for State Chair.”

— “Potential FDP chair candidate surrounded by question marks” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Florida Squeeze

IAN WHITNEY: A ROADMAP FOR REFORMING THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY for Florida Politics – A lot has changed in the past 40 years, but not the FDP. Today, with minor modifications, the FDP operates under the same set of rules and a party structure developed in 1976. The past two statewide elections should serve as a wake-up call that we cannot continue to operate this way and remain relevant as a party, and that we need to face the reality that what worked in 1976 does not always work in 2016. It is past time to implement reforms to make the FDP more inclusive and effective, and this begins with how we select our leaders

… First, we should elect FDP leadership at a statewide convention made-up of delegates representing each of the state’s 67 counties. Delegates to the state convention would be elected in each county, with the number of delegates determined by Democratic performance in the prior election. Second, we need to change the FDP’s antiquated bylaws to allow any registered Florida Democrat to serve in leadership positions within the party, including as FDP Chair. We cannot continue to elect our party’s leadership by exploiting a loophole that usually requires the resignation of a valuable local leader. Third, the Florida Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee is too large to function effectively and fulfill its duties of providing oversight and setting policy. This needs to change. All three of these proposals to reform the FDP could be implemented individually, but together have the potential to bring thousands of Democrats from across Florida into the process at both the local and state levels. If necessary, we should work with Republicans to change state statute to give political parties more flexibility in determining their own organizational structure (something they would likely appreciate, too).

JOE GRUTERS RE-ELECTED AS SARASOTA GOP CHAIRMAN via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – It was just the latest in a string of victories for Gruters, who seemed to have the golden touch this year after winning a seat in the state House, helping Donald Trump win Florida as his state co-chairman and watching Republicans get elected up and down the ballot in Sarasota County. Gruters, 39, noted that when he took over as party leader in 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain won Sarasota County by just 211 votes. This year Trump won Sarasota by more than 26,000 votes. “It is unbelievable what we’ve accomplished here in Sarasota County and it’s all of us,” Gruters, a Sarasota accountant, said. Gruters has attracted attention for bringing in prominent GOP leaders for speaking engagements and rallies. “He put us on the national stage,” said Venice Republican Cynthia Crowe said of Gruters. Under Gruters’ leadership the Sarasota GOP twice made Trump its “Statesman of the Year.” The awards raised eyebrows among those who considered Trump a divisive figure and a fringe player within the GOP at the time, but Gruters proved prescient about the billionaire’s appeal to the party’s base.

AL LAWSON AIDE CLAIMS ‘IDENTITY THEFT’ IN CASE OF MISSING STIMULUS FUNDS via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – Questions relating to The Emperor Organization Inc., a defunct Tallahassee nonprofit that disappeared after being awarded $750,000 in federal stimulus grants, appear to be resolved … The organization failed to submit required documentation detailing and justifying the use of the federal handouts. Upon review, appropriate documents also had not been filed with the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Small Business Administration. Watchdog spoke with Derron M. Bennett, who remains listed as the inactive nonprofit’s president and registered agent according to the Florida Department of State … Bennett said he had been the victim of identity theft and did not know what happened to the grant money. He said he was not involved with the organization in any way. Bennett said Alix Taylor, the organization’s director and his former girlfriend, had used his identity to obtain the funding. Court documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida show that Jan. 9, 2014, Taylor signed a guilty plea for wire fraud. The plea states that she used $394,000 of government funding to purchase a Tallahassee apartment building. The money was administered through the Small Business Administration’s microloan program. The Emperor Organization was supposed to use the money to issue loans to women, low-income individuals and minorities who were having difficulty obtaining business capital from banks during the Great Recession.

PROSECUTION MOTIONS DELINEATE STRATEGY AGAINST CORRINE BROWN via Kent Justice of WJXT – Two motions filed this week by federal prosecutors in the corruption case against Brown offer a hint at the government’s trial strategy … Brown’s attorney, James Smith, has said that he will ask the court to admit character evidence on Brown’s behalf, meaning he will want witnesses to testify to Brown’s character, and not directly to the case. The prosecution filed a motion to exclude “inadmissible character evidence” by both defendants. “The United States anticipates that Brown and Simmons will seek to introduce evidence addressing their character and purported good works, including while Brown was a member of the United States House of Representatives and Simmons was Brown’s chief of staff,” the filing said. Brown, in particular, has stated publicly and through her counsel in Court that she intends to present all of the ‘good’ she has done over the years as a member of Congress

DOZENS OF FLORIDA POLITICAL COMMITTEES BEING FUELED BY MILLIONS IN ‘DARK MONEY’ via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – A Times-Union analysis of the nearly 1,000 political committees active in Florida found that one out of every seven committees are operating in the shadows. Even after combing through public records, various state databases and internet search results, it’s difficult to pinpoint why these committees were created or whom they are intended to benefit. While their income and expenses are reported, the details of those expenditures are not. Also left unclear is who exactly is calling the shots. … Requirements to divulge the purpose of a political committee go ignored. Names, addresses and phone numbers listed on disclosure forms often lead nowhere. So while the requirements here are more stringent, Florida voters can still be left in the dark. Florida’s biggest dark money committees are frequently interrelated, passing money to each other in ways that make the elections process here even murkier. Of the 10 dark money committees in Florida that raised the most money from 2014 to November 2016, the most recent election cycle, eight have financial connections to one another and the Republican Party. In that time, at least $2.2 million flowed between them. Public records tell some of the story about Florida’s political committees. But information is found in multiple state databases that must be searched individually and pieced together. Even then, pertinent information that would help voters understand a committee’s role in any particular race can be elusive.

FRANK ARTILES FILES TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION IN 2018 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Artiles won his Senate District 40 seat in November, defeating Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard, a longtime Miami-Dade lawmaker. Artiles received 51 percent of the vote, compared to Bullard’s 41 percent. The Miami Republican will serve as the chairman of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities committee during the 2016-18 term. He’s also the vice-chairman of the Government Oversight and Accountability committee, and scored a seat on two appropriations subcommittees. In the Florida House, Reps. Cord ByrdJason FischerDavid SilversNicholas Xavier DuranDaisy Baez, and Robert Asencio have all filed for re-election.

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REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS HAVE BIG PLANS FOR FLORIDA’S UNIQUE PROCESS TO REVISE CONSTITUTION via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Florida is the only state that requires a citizen panel to be assembled every two decades to review and update its most important legal document, the state constitution. The 37-member Constitutional Revision Commission has extraordinary power — to put amendments directly onto the 2018 ballot, without legislative or court review, unlike any other proposal … But unlike 20 years ago, when Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed half of the commission and the Republican-controlled Legislature appointed the other half, the current hand-selected panel is expected to lean conservative and advance more ideologically conservative proposals than either of the previous two constitutional commissions, which convened in 1977-78 and 1997-98. Republican Gov. Scott will appoint 15 members of the panel, including its chair. Speaker Corcoran … and Senate President Negron … each have nine appointees. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga will appoint three members and Attorney General Pam Bondi is automatically a member.

Negron said that when he selects his appointees to the commission, he won’t look at their political affiliation but he will look at their character and select them based on three factors: do they have sound judgment, come from a “diverse background of life experiences” and share his core values … Corcoran also has criteria for the powerful panel. He wants his appointees to have past elective experience so they know the game as it relates to putting issues before voters. He will reject anyone who is a traditional “special interest” lobbyist, but he is open to consider people who are single-issue advocates. “Absolutely there is a litmus test,” he said. “I will not choose one selection that is not a conservative. Conservatives get the separation of powers. Conservatives understand the three roles of the three branches.”

SENATE GEARS UP FOR FIRST COMMITTEE WEEK – Today also starts the first Senate committee week for the 2017 Legislative Session. Most agendas this week include formalities like “Welcome and introductions,” “Introduction of committee staff,” and “Overview of the committee’s jurisdiction.” But there are at least a couple of high-profile meetings. On Tuesday, state Sen. Dana Young’s Health Policy committee will convene a workshop on “Implementation of Florida Constitutional Amendment 2 (2016) – Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions.” Then on Thursday, Sen. Jack Latvala’s Appropriations Committee gets a presentation from legislative chief economist Amy Baker on the state’s Long-Range Financial Outlook. Baker’s presentation to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission in September disclosed that Florida was headed into the red. Income and outgo estimates showed Florida with a scant $7.5 million left over out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue for 2017-18, and deficits forecast for later years.

RANDOLPH BRACY INTENDS TO BE AGGRESSIVE TOWARD REFORM AS SENATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE CHAIR via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The Orlando-area Democrat’s chairmanship, announced … by Republican Senate President Joe Negron, is highly unusual for three reasons: because Bracy is a Democrat, a freshman senator and an African-American. The appointment signaled Negron’s desire to reach across the aisle, and to take concerns about criminal justice seriously, finding a black lawmaker with deep interest and experience in the subject. The appointment came after Negron and Bracy had several conversations about how the Democrat might fit into the president’s senate. “I don’t think it’s every happened, especially on the Criminal Justice Committee,” Bracy said of his chairmanship. “It’s a really big deal, not only as an African-American but as a Democrat. I’m honored and humbled.” Senate Democrats say Bracy is just the second African-American chairman of a full committee. The first was Jim Hargrett of Tampa who chaired the Transportation Committee and the Tourism, Trade and Economic Development Committee in the 1990s. Hargrett also chaired a select committee on juvenile justice reform. Race had nothing to do with the appointment, Negron said. He said he followed Bracy’s work in the house and had high regard for him based on his reputation, and their interactions, and spoke several times with Bracy this fall about how he could fit into the Senate. Bracy expressed strong interest in criminal justice. While the Criminal Justice Committee leadership was a highly sought-after post, Negron found he had confidence in Bracy. “I thought Sen. Bracy made a strong case based on his interest in that policy area, and as you can see from his committee assignments [which also include appropriations, banking and insurance, judiciary and regulated industries] he has a wide range of committee assignments which reflect my confidence in capabilities,” Negron said.

NEW RICHARD CORCORAN VIDEO INCLUDES TELEPHONE NUMBER FOR CANADIAN ESCORT SERVICE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO – The newest video explains how a piece of legislation is “like a pizza.” At the end, there is a picture of pizza boxes piling up — like bills — on Gov. Scott’s desk that include the telephone number 604-111-1118. That telephone number is associated with a handful of escort service ads in Vancouver. “My name is Sherry. I am an all-natural sexy ASIAN beauty,” read one ad that includes the telephone number. “I am here to indulge your fantasies and to fulfill your desires What do you want?” … A House spokesman said it was a stock image used when producing the video, and was not “added by the House staff.”

GUN DEBATE WILL BE A TEST FOR FSU’S JOHN THRASHER via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Really, does anyone imagine there aren’t guns in a few backpacks at Florida colleges and universities already? If you don’t like guns, are you going to start carrying one anyway if they change the law? If you’re carrying one illegally now, are you going to stop if the pending bill fails? Will anyone be safer if a classmate or professor has a concealed weapon? Permit holders have to be law-abiding citizens who go through training, but is each of them an incipient Rambo ready to save the day when some lunatic attacks – or to stop an armed robbery? We have seen some examples like the recent Ohio State stabbing attack, the kid slashing some knives in a circle of students at a Nevada school, and the midnight shooting at FSU’s library a couple of years ago. Fast, armed intervention resolved those issues – but they were handled by police, not armed passers-by. “I opposed it. I killed it. I have worked against it since then,” FSU President Thrasher said of the gun bill last week in his annual “State of the University” speech. “And you have my promise that I will work against it this year, also.” He also spent a year as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. In other words, a big deal. When Thrasher said “I killed it,” that didn’t mean his one vote outweighed all 39 others in the Senate and 120 in the House, it’s just that … well, yes, it did. But that was then. Thrasher can now lobby the Legislature, but he can’t pass or kill big bills any more.

LAWMAKERS COULD TACKLE “TAMPON TAX” IN 2017 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Rep. Katie Edwards filed a bill in November that would exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products from Florida’s sales tax. The Plantation Democrat said she began thinking about the filing a bill last year, after listening to a debate about a wide-ranging tax cut package and receiving “periods are not luxury emails.” … “The more I listened to the debate and the questions … (I thought) this is a worthy issue,” she said. “It’s not something you choose. It’s just something that a lot of consumers and taxpayers need and purchase.” … The majority of states currently tax feminine hygiene products, according to a June report by the Council of State Governments. Only a handful — including Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — have exempted these products from sales tax. The report noted the push to exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products comes “amid criticism the tax unfairly affects women.” Supporters of the exemption have argued the products should “be treated like other medical necessities, which are currently tax exempt in most states.” For Edwards, this isn’t a man versus woman issue. Her male colleagues all have wives, mothers, daughters, or sisters who could benefit from the exemption. She’s hopeful that instead of it becoming a battle of the sexes, it becomes part of any conversation about tax cuts this year.

EMILY SLOSBERG FILES BILL TO STRENGTHEN TEXTING WHILE DRIVING LAW via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Two bills have already been filed in the Florida House aimed at beefing up the state’s texting while driving ban. The first — House Bill 47, sponsored by Reps. Richard Stark and Slosberg — removes language from state law that makes texting while driving a secondary offense, and increase penalties for someone caught using their device in a school zone. The second bill — House Bill 69, sponsored by Slosberg — makes texting while driving a primary offense for juvenile drivers. The state OK’d legislation in 2013 making it illegal to read or type text messages while driving. There were exceptions of course: Wireless devices could be used for GPS or reporting criminal behavior. And you can use them when the vehicle is stopped. But lawmakers made texting while driving a secondary offense, making it difficult for law enforcement officers to ticket offenders. That’s because someone first needs to be pulled over for a different traffic infraction, like speeding or not wearing a seat belt, before they can issue a citation for texting and driving.

PALM BEACH POST CLOSES CAPITAL BUREAU, LAYS OFF JOHN KENNEDY via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsThe Post’s last remaining capital reporter posted on Facebook that he’s no longer working for the paper: It has shuttered its Tallahassee bureau. Kennedy, a Capitol Press Corps veteran who nonetheless kept an impressive head of hair, announced the news Friday on Facebook—15 days before Christmas. “The paper’s future is local and digital, and coverage of the goings-on in the state Capitol don’t meld as well with this direction,” he wrote. Post managing editor Nick Moschella told FloridaPolitics.com “it was a difficult decision to part with a journalist as talented and professional” as Kennedy. “While it’s increasingly critical to devote our staff to local coverage, we intend to maintain to the best of our ability a reporting connection and presence in Tallahassee.” Moschella said he asked Kennedy to return temporarily to cover the 2017 Legislative Session.

MEANWHILE, THE TAMPA BAY TIMES LOSES A PULITZER WINNER who exposed the deplorable conditions at Florida’s unsafe system of state-run mental hospitals. Buzzfeed News is poaching Anthony Cormier from the Times to join its Investigative Unit.

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WHAT CHRIS HUDSON IS READING – SPENDING MILLIONS ON PITBULL, SOCCER TEAM AND RACE CAR WORTH IT, SAYS VISIT FLORIDA CEO via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – “I don’t even know why we’re in that business,” said Speaker Corcoran … about the role Visit Florida plays in marketing the state’s tourism industry. The president and CEO of the agency, however, told the Herald/Times that Visit Florida’s spending choices have been strategic and crucial in maintaining the state as a top tourism draw in a competitive marketplace. “Everything we do is based on strategy and research,” Will Seccombe said. Seccombe acknowledged he had some regrets about parts of the deals but said there was a rationale for each one. The Pitbull deal was essential in reaching millennials, who are less enamored of Florida as a travel destination than previous generations, he said. The soccer team and race car were gambits in securing Florida’s place in the minds of Europeans. Seccombe said each decision the agency has made was based on financial research that led to record tourism visits and, more importantly, record spending by visitors. For proof of his agency’s effectiveness, Seccombe points to the growth in the number of Florida tourists: from 82 million to more than 106 million since 2009. The growth in tourist spending grew at an even faster clip — 169 percent — than the number of tourists — 29 percent.

WILL LAKE O RESERVOIR HAPPEN? IT PROMISES TO BE A BLOODY BUDGET BATTLE via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – The fight comes down to this: Spend more, or cut plenty. Senate President Negron … whose district includes part of northern Palm Beach County, has already outlined plans for state lawmakers to endorse a couple of dramatic – and pricy — proposals next year. Negron wants to pour $1 billion more into Florida’s 12 public universities, cash he says that will help schools compete with what he called “elite, destination” universities, including the University of Virginia and University of North Carolina. But Negron doesn’t stop there. He’s also intent on borrowing $1.2 billion as Florida’s share of a $2.4 billion state-federal effort to buy 60,000 acres, mostly in western Palm Beach County, for a reservoir to cleanse flood water discharges from Lake Okeechobee, which now foul the Indian River Lagoon and other waterways. His counterpart in leadership, House Speaker Corcoran … has said little about Negron’s goals. But, Corcoran’s own priority darkens Negron’s chances. “We will will…reduce spending, in a significant way,” Corcoran vowed … But the outcome of Monday’s Revenue Estimating Conference, whose members include economists from the governor’s office and Legislature, will go a long way toward deciding how bloody the fight may prove.

DYING ON THE VINE? FLORIDA’S SHRIVELING AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY CAN’T SHAKE THE FALL OF CITRUS, LOSS OF LAND via Alli Knothe and Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida has a long and rich agricultural history, a bond so ingrained in the state’s identity that the venerated orange emblazons the state’s license plate. But decades of an accelerated decline have taken a toll, and agriculture has now shriveled to the point that it’s no longer a major part of the state’s economy. The citrus greening disease has obliterated roughly 75 percent of the state’s orange and grapefruit crop. Farmers specializing in tomatoes, berries and cattle have lost ground to other states and countries. Big Sugar production has been stagnant in Florida amid continued global competition and the emergence of Louisiana as a player. And as family farms look to pass on to the next generation, the high cost of business has convinced more farmers and ranchers to simply give up and sell to developers, who have gobbled up 1 million acres of farmland in the last 10 years alone. Agriculture, tourism and construction used to be the three legs that held up Florida’s economy. Agriculture, however, has been the most politically influential … Adam Putnam, and promoters like the Florida Farm Bureau still trumpet agriculture as the state’s second-largest industry, one pumping more than $120 billion a year into the economy. But that’s perpetuating a rural myth. The reality: Crops and livestock — the essence of the agricultural industry — now account for less than 1 percent of the state’s economy (about $6 billion a year according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis) and their relative contribution has been dropping fast. Just since the early 2000s, the value of agriculture as a share of the state economy has been nearly cut in half. “It’s not much of a factor at all,” said Hector Sandoval who heads economic analysis for the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Farmers are seeing the industry’s decline as their peers vanish. “There used to be 55 major (independent) tomato growers in Florida,” said Frank Diehl, owner of a sprawling 1,600-acre tomato farm in Wimauma. “Now there’s two or three.”

STATE’S ORANGE ESTIMATE HOLDS STEADY via Kevin Bouffard of NWFDailyNews.com – The 2016-17 Florida orange crop stayed steady at 72 million boxes, unchanged from November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported … That’s despite the fact that fruit size for early and mid-season varieties, estimated at 36 million boxes, remains the smallest in the past 10 seasons while the projected pre-harvest drop rate will be the highest over that time. Size of the late-season Valencias, also estimated at 36 million boxes, is below the 10-year average while drop is close to the highest over the period. The USDA reduced the projected Florida grapefruit crop by 3 percent to 9.3 million boxes, from November, also because of small size and high drop rates. It also dropped the expected tangerine and tangelo harvest by 3 percent to 1.5 million boxes because of size and drop.

SUNSHINE LAW INVOKED IN ARGUMENTS OVER WORKERS’ COMP RATE INCREASE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The public will suffer irreparable harm unless a state appeal court stays Florida’s 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, attorneys challenging the increase said in court papers this week. The National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, “cannot possibly demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing on appeal with respect to the trial court’s detailed, well-reasoned 73-page final judgment, which is founded upon fundamental open-government principles of Florida law,” plaintiffs’ attorney John Shubin argued. Furthermore, NCCI, which proposes workers’ compensation insurance rates for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, “cannot possibly show that any irreparable harm would occur if the stay were not granted,” he continued. “To the contrary, where (as here) open government violations have been established, the public — whose interest is furthered through the final judgment — is presumed to have suffered irreparable harm and the requested stay would permit such harm to continue,” Shubin wrote. “The requested stay is entirely at odds with the public interest,” he added. The attorney filed the pleading … with the 1st District Court of Appeal. That court has already granted a stay of Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Geivers’ ruling Nov. 23 that NCCI and the insurance office had violated Florida’s Sunshine Law in calculating the premium increase.

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – DCF: ‘DEPLORABLE’ CONDITIONS FILLED HOME WHERE GIRL STARVED TO DEATH via Olivia Hitchcock of the Palm Beach Post – You could smell the Aleman house from the end of the driveway. Inside, feces were smeared on the living room walls, flies swarmed the kitchen trash can and moldy clothes doubled as blankets. Ten children, two adults and two dogs called that three-bedroom 2,100-square-foot house home until the littlest Aleman, Tayla, starved to death there in early April. Tayla at 13 months old weighed less than when she was born. She had E. coli, multiple strains of influenza, the start of pneumonia and a bacteria known to cause skin infections … She was living in filth. State and county records detail the home’s “deplorable living conditions.” Hours after Tayla died, officials stumbled over pieces of broken glass and stepped around buildups of mold to gather Tayla’s nine siblings. The nine Aleman kids — and one more who was born after Tayla’s death — are in state custody, the Florida Department of Children and Families said. Their parents, Alejandro Aleman and Kristen Meyer-Aleman, are in the Palm Beach County Jail facing first-degree murder, child abuse and animal cruelty charges. The State Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty for both parents. In November 2015, the last time DCF employees would see the Aleman children before Tayla died, an investigator wrote that the Loxahatchee home was clean and had beds in each of the three bedrooms. Five or so months later, DCF employees entered a shockingly different home. They said it was too cramped and far too cluttered for the number of people living there. Sheriff’s officials who were also at the scene repeatedly noted the smell, a pungent blend of feces and urine. The odor “overwhelmed” the home, a sheriff’s office report states.

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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Oscar Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: Acculynk; Pioneer Technology Group

William Barrett, Sewell Point Group: S&L Nursery

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: LaunchCode

Brittany Birken: Florida Children’s Council

Dean Cannon, Katie Flury, GrayRobinson: Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind; Lee County Board of Commissioners; National Council Boy Scouts of America; University of Central Florida Foundation

Kate Cotner: Indian River County Board of County Commissioners

Angela Dempsey, Sophie Smith, PooleMcKinley: Wine Institute

Kevin Doyle, Wexford Strategies: Ocean 5 Naval Architects

Michael Glazer, Ausley & McMullen: San Felasco Nurseries

Cory Guzzo, Floridian Partners: FCCI Insurance Group

Chris Hansen, Ballard Partners: Life Changing Experiences Ltd.

Yolanda Jackson, Becker & Poliakoff: League of Southeastern Credit Unions

Jerry McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society; Union Supply Company

James McKee, Foley & Lardner: San Felasco Nurseries

Scott Ross, Capital City Consulting: School Board of Brevard County

— “Lobbyists are filing paperwork, but what will it tell us?” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

SPOTTED at the Governor’s Mansion on Friday for Rick and Anne Scott’s Christmas party: Bob Asztalos, Brian Ballard, Taylor Biehl, Ellyn and Dean Cannon, Chris Carmody, Tim Cerio, John Costello, Carol Dover, Tre Evers, Marty Fiorentino, Jillian and Adam Hasner, Robert Hawken, Rich Heffley, Brecht Heuchan, John Holley, Fred Karlinsky, Kristen Knapp, Frank Kruppenbacher, Senator George LeMieux, Ann and Joe Mitchell, Carrie O’Rourke, Jimmy Patronis, Emmett Reed and his three children, Emma Lea, Everett, and Abigail, Marc Reichelderfer, Ashley and Scott Ross, Danielle Scroggins, Melody Sellis, Jim Deneff, Rick Singh (huh?), Heather Turnbull, Jason Unger, Mary Beth and Ryan Tyson.

SPOTTED at Alan Suskey’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party benefitting four local National Guard families: Jeremy Branch, Erin Choy, Nicole Haggerty and Richard Reeves, Michael Johnson, Melissa and David Ramba.

LOCAL RESTAURANT MANAGER SOUNDS OFF ABOUT “OFFENSIVE” CHRISTMAS MUSIC NOTE ON RECEIPT via Janny Rodriguez and Neal Bennett of First Coast News – Radio stations spend the entire month of December playing Christmas music. It’s hard to avoid this time of year. For most people, it puts them in the holiday spirit. But one St. Augustine restaurant manager and chef says a customer’s note was more Grinch than Santa last week. The note on the back of the receipt at Michael Tasting Room from a customer read “Christmas music was offensive. Consider playing holiday music or less religious themed.” … “My server in concern had to show me that and it was really like what is going on in this world? So we posted it.” Chef Michel Lugo told First Coast News. Lugo decided to make his response public, on Facebook. His statement “Really…what’s wrong with people.” … “It’s all about celebration of family celebration of gathering with friends and people and it’s a tradition. It’s not about a religion it’s not about anything else. I am a Christian but I don’t push that as my agenda I think that Christmas is Christmas.” Lugo said.

FAMILY, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES GATHER FOR JANET RENO MEMORIAL via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press – Former President Bill Clinton says ex-Attorney General Reno never took the easy way out when making the tougher decision was the right thing to do. Clinton delivered a eulogy at a memorial service Sunday for Reno, who died Nov. 7 at age 78. Clinton appointed her the nation’s first female attorney general. Clinton says Reno was unafraid to take responsibility if decisions turned out wrong. Current U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says Reno was a trailblazer for women and minority lawyers. The service took place at a Miami-Dade College campus not far from the longtime Reno family home, where Reno died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY SHOUT OUT: Big milestone for the indefatigable Dominic Calabro. The president and CEO of the non-profit research group Florida TaxWatch turned the big Six-Oh on Sunday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from this weekend to Justin Hollis. Celebrating today are Dick Batchelor and Roger Chapin.

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