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

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.


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 – 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, politely but not entirely suppressing a well-deserved laugh. 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.

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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