Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 1.10.17 – Steve Crisafulli’s 2018 plans; The latest from Ft. Lauderdale & Orlando shootings; Visit Florida intrigue; Gary Fineout to TX

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

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


The Republican from Merritt Island, who was speaker 2014-16, was widely expected to mount a statewide bid for the cabinet post, but like his predecessor in the Speakership – Will Weatherford – family priorities won out.

“After much consideration and prayer, I have decided not to run for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018,” said Crisafulli in a statement first provided to

A telegenic politician whose family has deep roots to Florida’s agriculture community, Crisafulli was expected to easily win the Republican nomination to succeed Adam Putnam, who is term-limited.

He has raised more than $2 million for his political committees, Growing Florida’s Future and Growing Sustainable Florida.

With Crisafulli not running, the field for Ag. Commish – both figuratively and literally – is wide open.

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, also has designs on the seat but said he would have deferred to Crisafulli had he decided to commit.

“I have nothing but respect and admiration for Steve and the thought he put into this decision,” said Caldwell, chair of the Government Accountability Committee. “My wife and I have talked about the possibility of my running and she is comfortable with that if that’s the decision I make.”

Caldwell added, however, he will be “focused on the (committee) responsibilities I have been charged with until after session. That said, I am seriously thinking about” the agriculture commissioner’s race.

As for Crisafulli’s future plans, he said he does not expect to land a job in the Donald Trump administration, as some have speculated.

“I plan to remain politically active, but after years of travel to fulfill my obligations to the House Republican Conference and as Speaker of the Florida House, there is nothing I want more than to spend time with my Kristen and our daughters as they finish out their final years of being at home before going off to college.”

>>>In addition to Caldwell, Sunburn hears that Rep. Halsey Beshears is very seriously considering running for Ag. Commissioner.

HAPPENING TODAY — CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTS DUE — Political committees, parties and candidates for state office in 2018 and 2020 are required to turn in their campaign finance reports for activity through Dec. 31.

***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.***


AIRPORT SHOOTING SUSPECT GETS PUBLIC DEFENDER IN COURT via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press – … after telling a judge that he has no job and only $5 or $10 in the bank. Esteban Santiago, 26, spoke clearly during a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Valle, who ordered him held until his next hearings … Santiago answered mostly yes or no to questions, and told the judge he understands the charges, which include committing violence against people at an international airport resulting in death, and two firearms offenses … He mentioned expenses including $560 in monthly rent, plus phone and other utility bills. He said he owns no property and doesn’t have a vehicle … Given his finances, the judge decided he’s eligible for government lawyers at taxpayer expense. Valle set a detention hearing for Jan. 17, followed by an arraignment for entering a plea for Jan. 23.

— “FBI agent who interrogated Saddam Hussein leads airport case” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press

BROWARD INVESTIGATING HOW TMZ OBTAINED VIDEO SHOWING GUNMAN FIRING FIRST SHOTS AT FORT LAUDERDALE AIRPORT via Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Airport officials, along with federal and local authorities, are investigating who had access to the footage and who allowed it to be taped without authorization, Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief told the Sun Sentinel. Sharief said the video does not appear to be the actual security footage but a cellphone video of that footage. The “footage was being played in a secure room for only people with certain security clearance,” Sharief said. She said she is concerned that whoever released the video did it to make money.

HERCULEAN BAGGAGE RETURN, GRIM SHOOTING SCENE CLEANUP COMPLICATE AIRPORT’S RETURN TO NORMAL via Arlene Satchell of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Besides luggage, cell phones, tablets, wallets, driver’s licenses and passports are among the loose items collected … They were all left behind as travelers fled for their lives Friday after Santiago allegedly fired shots into a crowded baggage claim area at the airport’s Terminal 2. To reunite the personal effects abandoned Friday across four terminals with their owners, the airport hired a baggage management company to catalog and process the items, he said. The massive cache of belongings is now housed in a secured hangar at the airport.

ORLANDO POLICE OFFICER SHOT, KILLED; SUSPECT STILL BEING SOUGHT via Rene Stutzman and Stephanie Allen of the Orlando Sentinel – By Monday evening, officers largely abandoned the apartment complex in northwest Orlando that was the focus of their search for much of the day, and suspect Markeith Loyd, 41, was still at large … Orlando police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton was shot about 7:15 a.m. by a murder suspect after someone pointed him out at a Wal-Mart and she gave chase on foot, the agency reported. A sheriff’s deputy identified as Norman Lewis, 35, was later killed in a crash with a 78-year-old driver. He had been with the sheriff’s office since 2005. The manhunt prompted the lockdown of more than a dozen schools and snarled traffic for hours. A $60,000 reward is being offered for anyone who has information to help capture Loyd, 41, who was accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend in December.

— “Slain Orlando police officer Debra Clayton called a hero” via David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Deputy Norman Lewis: Ex-UCF football player killed in Orlando manhunt” via Shannon Greene and Susan Jacobson of the Orlando Sentinel

JOHN MINA READY TO GO ‘TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH’ TO CATCH SHOOTING SUSPECT MARKEITH LOYD via Larry Griffin of Orlando Rising – “It doesn’t matter where he goes,” [Orlando Police Chief]  Mina said. “We’ll track him to the ends of the Earth.” Mina said they were currently searching for Loyd in the Brookside Apartments area, located at 3997 Rosewood Way in Orlando. He advised anyone who didn’t absolutely need to be there to leave the area, as there was a high police presence there as of the late afternoon. He also disclosed more details about [Master Sgt. DebraClayton’s final hours … Clayton had been on patrol when she was approached early Monday morning by a civilian who tipped her off about Loyd’s presence in the area. As Loyd was wanted for the December killing of a pregnant woman, Clayton responded by going to the Wal-Mart at the corner of Princeton Street and John Young Parkway where Loyd had been reportedly seen. She saw him and a short foot chase ensued. It was when she yelled out “stop” that Loyd allegedly turned and fired at her. She was hit, but returned fire – although Mina said they don’t currently believe he was hit.

— “Sheriff suggests no-gun list for mentally ill” via Wayne Roustan, Sally Kestin and Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

— “Rick Scott ‘heartbroken’ over deaths of officer, deputy” via the Orlando Sentinel

— “Marco Rubio mourns Orlando officers killed, calls for law enforcement respect ‘every day’” via Larry Griffin of Orlando Rising

FACEBOOK POST OF THE DAY via Michelle Todd Schorsch: “When I read about the killing of a police officer in Orlando and the death of another who was trying to catch the shooter this morning, I was, of course, outraged and upset. Then my Tri Delta pledge sister posted asking if anyone had heard from her friend Norm Lewis who works that area. Then hours later she posted that Big Norm was a victim of today’s tragedy, and I can’t stop thinking about it … About the man who as a young man was someone a lot of UCF girls counted on to help keep them safe. About a man a year younger than me who isn’t going home tonight. About a man who died as a result of another senseless act of gun violence. So much tragedy. Rest In Peace Big Norm.”

ORLANDO EYE GLOWS BLUE FOR FALLEN OFFICERS via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel – The 400-foot observation wheel on International Drive often changes colors to reflect holidays, tragedies and other big events. Orlando police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton was shot about 7:15 a.m. Monday by a murder suspect after someone pointed him out at a Wal-Mart and she gave chase on foot … A little while later, a sheriff’s deputy identified as Norman Lewis, 35, was later killed in a crash with a 78-year-old driver … Police are offering a $60,000 reward for anyone helping them capture the shooting suspect, Markeith Loyd, 41, who was accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend in December.

SHERIFF HELPS FLORIDA UNIVERSITY SIDESTEP STATEWIDE FIREARM BAN AND ARM FACULTY, STAFF ANYWAY via Michael Dorstewitz of BizPac Review – Southeastern University is teaming up with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to launch Florida’s first “Sentinel Program,” designed to beef up campus security and safety … Under the program, select faculty and staff members will be given professional and comprehensive training in law enforcement. It’s the first program in the United States that will appoint those who successfully complete the training as special deputies. It will also allow those who complete the program to carry concealed firearms, all of which would appear to violate state law. Florida statute 790.06(12) expressly prohibits students and faculty from carrying weapons on campus unless “the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile.”

THERE ARE 45 STATES THAT ALLOW OPEN CARRY FOR FIREARMS, FORMER NRA PRESIDENT SAYS via Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact – Marion Hammer, currently executive director of United Sportsmen of Florida, responded to criticism of SB 300 and its companion in the House, HB 163. In a column posted on the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action website … Hammer pointed out how many states allow open carry. “Forty-five (45) states allow open carry of firearms,” she wrote. “Varying restrictions on open carry in some states does not alter the fact that 45 states allow open carry.” … Groups both for and against stricter gun laws told us there are five states that have laws banning open carry for handguns: California, Florida, Illinois, New York and South Carolina. It’s worth remembering, however, that the laws in some open-carry states are not as permissive as Hammer makes it seem. Several states have restrictions on the open carry of certain types of firearms, and in some places the rules are stricter than others. We rate Hammer’s statement Mostly True.

— “Mayor Andrew Gillum’s attack on the NRA unwise” via Marion Hammer for the Tallahassee Democrat

— “Don’t allow guns in Florida airports” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Toughen laws involving guns, mentally disturbed” via the Tampa Bay Times

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence will hold a news conference. to unveil proposed gun-safety legislation. And address concerns about allowing open carry in more public places, including airports, at at 12:45 p.m. in the Fourth Floor Capitol Rotunda. Sen. Gary Farmer is scheduled to attend to discuss the proposed legislation.

***On 3 Public Relations, an award-winning and woman-owned full-service PR and communications firm, is your one stop shop for coalition development, grassroots advocacy and corporate communications. It’s a new year, with new stories. Let us tell yours! #storytellingexperts***

DENNIS ROSS CONTINUES MOVING UP THE CONGRESSIONAL LADDER via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Ross was tapped as vice chairman of the U.S. Housing and Insurance (H&I) Subcommittee which is under the umbrella of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee (FSC). Ross has been on both the committee and the subcommittee … the subcommittee “has primary jurisdiction over insurance generally including the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), public and private housing, urban development, the Rural Housing Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Government Sponsored Enterprises, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Federal Housing Administration.” Ross noted that his perch on the H&I Subcommittee has allowed him to lead the charge in bringing in more private sector solutions to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Development and working on flood insurance issues.

VERN BUCHANAN PROMISES TO INVESTIGATE IRS, FIGHT FRAUD IN NEW CONGRESSIONAL ROLE via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Buchanan is set to play a major role on investigating the IRS, health care, Social Security and Medicare as he will take over the U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady … named Buchanan as chairman of the subcommittee … Buchanan gives up the gavel on the U.S. House Human Resources Subcommittee. “I look forward to chairing this important watchdog panel that will monitor government’s largest federal agencies and programs,” Buchanan said … “I intend to make sure these programs are accountable and working for the people.”

SPOTTED in The Washington Post’s list of “11 Democratic women who could run for president in 2020:” Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat and former Orlando police chief, in the No. 10 spot.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a higher education announcement at 10:15 a.m. at USAA, 17200 Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa. Media interested in attending should contact Keith O’Malley at 623-451-7388.

LIKE PITBULL DEAL, TERMINATING FLORIDA TOURISM CHIEF WILL BE PRICY via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – If Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe is fired “without cause” … his contract calls for him to collect his base salary for 18 months, which would amount to at least $439,000. That money would be paid in a lump sum within 35 days of his termination. He would also collect a yet-to-be determined sum equal to 18 months of the monthly premiums paid by Visit Florida for his health benefits. Seccombe is barely holding onto his job after Gov. Scott last month called for his resignation amid growing political ire over a mostly secret contract with Pitbull that paid the entertainer $1 million to promote Florida in music videos and on social media. Firing Seccombe with cause would avoid the payouts, but the agency would have to prove Seccombe did not perform his duties, despite record tourism, or was part of serious misconduct.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Visit Florida Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m. at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, 4600 North World Drive in Lake Buena Vista.

STATE POISED TO ALLOW AQUIFER PUMPING NEAR SILVER SPRINGS via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel – The irrigation permit was scheduled for a final vote of approval … but a coalition of environmental groups filed legal action … meaning the matter will go to a state hearing judge for further action. In 2014, the St. Johns River Water Management District said an irrigation permit sought by Sleepy Creek to pump 1.1 million gallons a day from the aquifer would harm “the ecology of Silver Springs and the Silver River.” Near Ocala, the springs is one Florida’s original tourist attractions and is now a state park. But recently revamped analysis, according to the district, shows that Sleepy Creek can temporarily boost pumping by 1.2 million gallons a day, which would be in addition to other water rights the ranch holds.

STATE WILDLIFE OFFICIALS RECOMMEND LEAVING BOAT ANCHORING REGULATION WITH THE STATE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – Boats that anchor in waterways near homes have generated complaints about waste disposal, privacy and noise. But the Legislature has prohibited cities and counties from regulating where boats can anchor other than within designated mooring areas. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which conducted a seven-year pilot program on boat mooring, is recommending that the state maintain sole authority for regulating boat anchoring. And the agency suggested that, if local regulations are allowed, only counties should be allowed to enact ordinances. But the commission did not make recommendations on several issues, including inoperable vessels being used as residences, the lack of sewage pump out services in many areas and possible minimum setback requirements from shorelines and private docks for anchoring. Reaction to the recommendations were mixed.

CHALLENGE TO BOBBY POWELL’S ELECTION IS OVER via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – A Florida Senate committee appointed to review a challenge to West Palm Beach Democratic state Sen. Powell’s election has been dissolved after Powell’s Republican rival, Ron Berman, withdrew his contest of the result. Powell defeated Berman with 54.1 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election for the northern Palm Beach County District 30 seat. But Berman filed a notice of contest Nov. 21 because Ruben Anderson, a Democrat who never made the primary ballot because of a bounced qualifying check, had filed a lawsuit seeking a new Democratic primary that included him on the ballot. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis dismissed Anderson’s suit in December, saying he did not have jurisdiction to decide whether Powell should be seated and that it was up to the Senate to decide.

BILL FORMULATED BY JOE GRUTERS WOULD RESTRICT ABORTION IN FLORIDA via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Florida would follow 15 other states in outlawing abortions after 20 weeks under legislation being formulated by two Sarasota lawmakers … considered a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that abortions can be prohibited only when a fetus is viable outside the womb, typically considered around 24 weeks. Florida law bans abortions under most circumstances in the third trimester of pregnancy – after 24 weeks – or if a physician determines the fetus is viable earlier. “I just can’t imagine a baby having to feel pain and going through this,” said Sarasota state Rep. Joe Gruters, who is sponsoring the bill along with Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube. “This is an issue that I feel passionately about.” So-called “fetal pain” bills have been gaining momentum nationwide.

DENNIS BAXLEY FILES BILL FOR RONALD REAGAN SPECIALTY LICENSE PLATE via Florida Politics – If approved, the bill will take effect Oct. 1, and a portion of the proceeds will be used to fund educational programs about the late leader. “The word ‘Florida’ must appear at the top of the plate, and the words ‘President Ronald Reagan’ must appear at the bottom of the plate,” the bill says. Florida drivers wanting the license plate would pay $25 in fees, with as much as 25 percent to be used for administrative, promotion and marketing costs. Language of the bill requires as much as 10 percent of the revenue go to the Florida National Guard Foundation, and the remainder to be used for “activities, programs, and projects that educate Florida’s students and residents about the contributions of the nation’s 40th president to the state and the United States and to support ongoing research of Alzheimer’s disease for the benefit of Florida residents and their families who suffer from the disease.”

HAPPENING TODAY – FIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will receive an overview of property insurance issues, including the assignment of benefits issues, during a meeting at 10 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The House Commerce Committee is also scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. in 212 Knott to receive a presentation about committee priorities. At 1 p.m., the House Appropriations Committee will meet in 212 Knott to get an update on the state’s financial outlook; while the House Ways & Means Committee will meet in Morris Hall to receive a presentation about state and local tax and fee structures. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to discuss several court rulings — including the death penalty sentencing system and the workers’ compensation insurance system —   at 3:30 p.m. in 404 House Office Building.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Sachs Media Group, Florida’s dominant public affairs communications firm. They thrive on high-stakes challenges in the relentless pursuit of excellent outcomes. To help you win in the corridors of power, let them score for you in the court of public opinion. Visit to learn more.***

GARY FINEOUT TO GUEST STAR IN ACADEMIA via Fineout’s Facebook page – Fineout, a Capitol Press Corps fixture, posted Monday he will be a guest speaker later this week at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. “I’m going to help with a segment on Crisis Management and Media Relations that is part of a course being taught by former Gov. Jeb Bush on gubernatorial leadership,” he wrote. “I am excited about the prospect of discussing how different governors have dealt with the press, especially how they have dealt with hard-hitting coverage, access and transparency.”

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – With a new Legislative Session approaching, as well as a new chef, the Governors Club buffet today will feature She Crab soup; Remoulade slaw; seasonal greens salad; traditional potato salad with bacon; fried chicken with whiskey barbecue sauce; herb roasted pork loin; macaroni & cheese; mashed potatoes; succotash; broccoli & cauliflower casserole; and finishing off with assorted desserts.

WHAT JEFF BRANDES IS READING – GOOGLE SPINOFF WAYMO HAS BUILT ITS OWN SELF-DRIVING SENSORS via Steven Overly of The Washington Post – Waymo, has developed sensors that pair with its self-driving software, potentially opening the door for the company to sell a comprehensive system that automakers build into future car models. Google initially built its self-driving software on a prototype car outfitted with sensors, cameras and other hardware from outside suppliers. But to build a more affordable and sophisticated system capable of fully autonomous driving, the company decided it needed to create both halves of the technology, executives said. The announcement comes just weeks after Japanese automaker Honda said it would incorporate Waymo’s technology into some of its vehicles. The companies said that deal was centered on research rather than producing vehicles for market, Bloomberg News reported.

WHAT MATT DIXON IS READING – POLITICO VETERANS’ NEWS VENTURE AXIOS AIMS TO FIX ADVERTISING via Lukas Alpert of the Wall Street Journal – The political and business news-focused outlet—which kicks off with a slate of newsletter offerings and will launch in full Jan. 18—is beginning with the premise that banner ads and long-form native advertising don’t work. In its place, Axios will only offer advertisers a type of short-form branded content. It will fit all on one screen and will lie more naturally within its editorial concept of providing readers bite-size bits of hard news and information. “People want more digestible news. They want it shorter and more shareable, so it makes no sense to not have ads structured the same way,” said [JimVandeHei, chairman and CEO of Axios. “To keep doing the same thing as has been done in media nowadays means death.” Axios will launch with 10 advertising partners, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Boeing Co., BP PLC and PepsiCo.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Latest from Peter

Go to Top