Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

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

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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 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.


BRIAN MAST GETS CELEBRITY RECEPTION IN CONGRESS via Isadora Rangel of – 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 – 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.


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.


— “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


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.

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.

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