Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 1.6.17; The AG guessing game; Bam in Jax; Bob Buckhorn on the clock?; Lauren Book’s diaper bill

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.


Let’s play Tallahassee’s favorite parlor game (for now): “Who Wants to be Attorney General?”

The capital’s Twitterati was all a-twitter Thursday after Bloomberg’s White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs teased that, no kidding this time, Pam Bondi is heading for D.C.

“Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will be named to a post in the Trump White House, sources tell me,” she wrote. “Trump aides finalizing her role.”

After rumors she might be U.S. Attorney General (nope), White House counsel (sorry, Pam) and even the nation’s drug czar (hey, it’s still open!), Bondi hadn’t committed – at least in public – up to then.

Her spokesman’s swift non-denial denial only stoked the story.

“Attorney General Bondi has absolutely no news to report at this time and is unaware of who the source of this information is,” communications director Whitney Ray said.

Then, the guessing game began in earnest. But first, that nagging question of succession.

The state constitution provides “the governor shall fill by appointment any vacancy in state or county office … for the remainder of the term of an elective office if less than twenty-eight months, otherwise until the first Tuesday after the first Monday following the next general election.”

“She has less than 28 months in office, so I think (Gov. Rick Scott) gets to appoint,” one attorney said.

With that settled, let’s name names. For the sake of argument, let’s assume neither Senate President Joe Negron or House Speaker Richard Corcoran would be on the list or be interested.

So … does Scott ‘look backward,’ with a safe, reliable pick like Pete Antonacci, his former general counsel and now head of South Florida Water Management District? Or former House Speaker Dean Cannon, a lawyer-lobbyist at GrayRobinson?

Does he go with his former Department of Economic Opportunity director, Jesse Panuccio, now in private practice?

Does he think a bit outside the box by tapping state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, the House Commerce Committee chair?

But wait, there’s more. How about state Sen. David Simmons, formerly the Senate Rules chair? He’s said to be interested. Or state Rep. Larry Metz, who unsuccessfully applied to become a state Supreme Court justice?

— “Amid White House job rumors, Pam Bondi spokesman says “absolutely no news to report’” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida

— “Bondi’ White House Call Close; Who Will Be Florida’s Next AG?” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

— “The Unofficial Rick Scott Short List to Replace Pam Bondi” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Bondi will hold a press conference to announced a new human trafficking awareness effort at 10 a.m. in the Aviation Authority Boardroom at the Tampa International Airport, 4100 George J. Bean Parkway in Tampa. She’ll be joined by Rep. Ross Spano and Chief Paul Sireci, the director of public safety and security for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

FLORIDA’S CAROLINE WILES GETS DONALD TRUMP WHITE HOUSE JOB via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Wiles, daughter of Jacksonville-based lobbyist and political consultant Susie Wiles, will serve as Trump’s White House director of scheduling, the transition team announced this morning. Wiles served in that role for the campaign since July 2016 and had done a similar job on Rick Scott’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Trump shook up his campaign in September by replacing Florida director Karen Giorno with Susie Wiles, who had been doing campaign communications from New York.

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BARACK OBAMA TO VISIT FIRST COAST SATURDAY via First Coast News – Obama is expected to visit the Jacksonville area Saturday, sources confirm … The Jacksonville Aviation Authority told First Coast News that they are aware of the president visiting. At this time, it isn’t known where he is going to stop or what he plans to talk about.

CHARLIE CRIST MISSES VOTE CONDEMNING UN RESOLUTION ON ISRAEL SETTLEMENTS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Crist tonight missed a key House vote condemning a UN resolution seen as anti-Israel, and issued a statement quoting another lawmaker, an usual move, to say the least.

BOB BUCKHORN IS ON THE CLOCK via Peter Schorsch – Tampa Mayor Buckhorn is the Florida politician now on the clock when it comes to who will run for what in 2018 … Will Weatherford is not running for governor … Gwen GrahamPhil Levine, and Adam Putnam have all but declared; it’s simply a matter of how they launch their campaigns, not if they will run … Bill Nelson is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Rick Scott will probably challenge him, but the governor — because he can self-fund — does not have to make a decision until next year. Richard Corcoran is a question mark about wanting to run for governor in 2018, but if he does, he would not announce until next year, either before or after the 2018 session. Jack Latvala‘s another possible candidate, but if he gets in it won’t be until later this summer, at the earliest. Certainly, there are other possible candidates out there – Rick BakerCarlos BeruffAndrew GillumMike Huckabee – but none are as clearly defined as a potential contender as Buckhorn. Seriously, Mayor Buckhorn, you are on the clock. Of course, if Buckhorn could have his way, he would run for a third term as Mayor. And a fourth. And probably a fifth. He must look at his friend, Buddy Dyer, with envy because the Mayor of Orlando is not subject to term limits. So, if there is to be a next chapter to Buckhorn’s political career, it will have to be in Tallahassee, not Tampa. And he’ll need to make a decision sooner rather than later … Buckhorn does have a compelling story to tell about how he led his city to a new level of success. And he is a helluva retail politician who probably is more comfortable than others in the current ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ political environment. But before he can tell the Tampa success story and demonstrate what a great retail pol he is, Buckhorn has to make a decision. And soon.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY AHEAD OF CHAIR ELECTION via Steve Schale — The Chair race has devolved into the usual: a fight between party activists over personalities. This is the nature of these things. On its best day, these races are adult-versions of high school elections. On their worst, they are pure circular firing squads. To me, what is less important than who occupies the Chair, is that the people running, the activists voting, and those observing, understand what that job is, and isn’t. … This isn’t a race about who has the best ideology, or who supported who in the primary. it is about basic management. You are hiring a CEO. Find someone who is realistic about the job, capable of putting together the resources, and laser focused on the things they can actually control, namely candidate recruitment and organizing. There is nothing symbolic about who holds the job — no regular voter actually casts a vote based on who sits in the party chair, or has any idea who chairs their state party. … So it boils down to this: if you want the party to do more, pick up a shovel. God knows political parties and candidates don’t need more opinions, they need more doers. I banged on doors in 2016, did you? And if you don’t like the party, go find a candidate or issue to support, or pick up Bob Graham and Chris Hand’s new book on ways you can be more civically engaged. Just do something.

IS FLORIDA ON ITS WAY TO BEING A RED STATE? via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s Republican Party leader says if he is re-elected next week, he will put a full court press on increasing the GOP voter registration numbers with hopes of officially giving Florida more registered Republicans than Democrats for the first time in history … Blaise Ingoglia said it likely cannot be done in two years, but by the next presidential election, he said Florida could finally be majority Republican. “Today, I would like to formally announce Project Majority Red – our next big aspirational goal,” Ingoglia said in an email blast to Republican activists this morning. “It will have one singular purpose, as we continue to win elections up and down the ballot, to make Florida a ‘majority red’ state by not only overtaking the Democrats in voter registrations, but keeping it that way for future elections.” Currently, Democrats have 4.9 million voters, Republicans have 4.6 million. Another 3.5 million voters are registered with neither political party.


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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference to highlight his proposed $5.8 million request to add 46 counterterrorism agents at noon at the Fort Myers Regional Operations Center, 4700 Terminal Drive, Suite 1 in Fort Myers.

RICK SCOTT DEFENDS FUNDING TOURISM MARKETING AGENCY WHILE CALLING FOR REFORMS via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald – Scott has called for a series of reforms to Visit Florida and is pushing for the quasi-governmental agency’s leader to resign. Scott made clear … that he still supports marketing the state for tourism. Scott said Visit Florida has been successful and to continue to grow tourism, the state needs “to continue to market and anybody who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand how the economy works” … in Orlando, Visit Florida’s board of directors will meet to discuss Scott’s letter from December that called for the agency to enact reforms to insure more transparency of public money and called for the resignation of Will Seccombe, who has led the agency for more than four years – a stretch that has seen record tourism numbers every year.

>>>Anyone else hearing Ken Lawson as the next chief of Visit Florida?

HIGH TURNOVER RATE, LOW SALARIES CREATE VACANCIES AT FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS via Mike Vasilinda of WJHG – Governor Rick Scott is the jobs governor, claiming more than 1.2 million new jobs since taking office. But as many as 2,500 jobs remain open in one state agency with no takers … the agency has a vacancy rate of 10 percent, forcing officers to work long hours. The problem, a $29,000 starting salary. “Right now, they are working 12-hour shifts plus another four,” Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said. “We are working them to death because of the vacancy rate. I don’t have time to train them.” It’s not just vacancies, but sky-high turnover as well. Jones told lawmakers the turnover rate was just under 30 percent this year.

HEARING ON GUN BILLS POSTPONED AFTER SENATE CANCELS JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEETING via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — According to the Senate calendar, a Judiciary Committee meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday has been cancelled. The committee, which is chaired by Sen. Greg Steube, was set to take up two gun bills during the two-hour meeting. Steube’s open carry bill — Senate Bill 140 — was one of the two bills scheduled to be discussed. Under that proposal, concealed carry permit holders would be allowed to openly carry a handgun. … A second bill — Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley — was also on the agenda. That bill aims to clarify that prosecutors have the burden of proving that shootings are unjustified under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: If a mtg is cancelled bc a senator can’t attend it may mean there aren’t enough votes to pass bill. #FLLeg math

LAUREN BOOK WANTS DIAPERS EXEMPT FROM SALES TAX via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Book, who’s eight months pregnant with twins, has filed legislation to exempt diapers and baby wipes from the state’s 6 percent sales tax … The 32-year-old lawmaker, elected in November, said the idea came to her as she attended pregnancy classes. Book is having a boy and a girl, due in February. “For many families, buying diapers can be a (financial) burden,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s not a luxury item.”

BILL WOULD KEEP FLORIDA FROM BUILDING MORE EXPRESS TOLL LANES via Kristina Webb of the Palm Beach Post – The measure, SB 250, was filed Thursday by state Sen. Frank Artiles. If the bill is made law during the upcoming Florida legislative session, which begins March 7, it would ban state officials from creating any new express lanes after July 1. Money collected from tolls on existing express lanes could only be used to pay off bonds used to create the projects. Once those bonds are paid off, the bill proposes that those express lanes would become general-use lanes.

PANEL SEEKS CHANGES TO WORKERS’ COMP BILLING AND NEW DRUG FORMULARY via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – A state workers’ compensation advisory panel voted to ask the Legislature to consider letting regulators establish a drug formulary in hopes of keeping medical costs under control. The panel also recommended changes to the way Florida’s workers’ compensation system reimburses facilities that treat injured workers, and to tighten the guidelines for authorizing medical care. Although formally named the Three-Member Panel, the group contains only two members at present — Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Tamela Perdue, a senior vice president for Sunshine Health, who represents employers. Gov. Scott has not filled a vacant seat representing workers. The panel sets reimbursement policies and payment levels for health care providers, pharmacists, and medical suppliers working with workers’ compensation claimants.

APPOINTEDDottie PeoplesBen GirtmanDrexel CollinsJanice AncrumKerry MarsalekLarry PowellLance JarvisKathleen RiceKelly WilsonWilliam EdelsteinEdeline Mondestin and Rick Davis to the Department of Elderly Affairs Advisory Council.

CHANTA COMBS SETS UP SHOP AS HEALTH POLICY PARTNERS via Marc Caputo of POLITICO  – Combs, former policy director for former Gov. Charlie Crist, and deputy policy director and associate general counsel for former Gov. Jeb Bush, started Health Policy Partners, which will focus on issue such as “federal funding and regulatory oversight; State political, budgetary and policy positions; relevant competitive intelligence and economic trends; value based, integrated and tailored whole-person care delivery models; population health management; data analytics, predictive modeling, technology and administrative modernization products and services.”

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ORLANDO CITY SOCCER STADIUM UNVEILS 49 RAINBOW-COLORED SEATS AS TRIBUTE TO PULSE VICTIMS via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics – The soon-to-open Orlando City Soccer stadium will have a section of seats painted in bright, proud rainbow colors to celebrate and memorialize the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. There will be 49 seats painted that way in total – one for each person lost in the shooting. They’ll all be emblazoned with the hashtag “Orlando United,” and they’re placed in section 12, as the shooting happened June 12 last year. The rest of the seats are purple and white. The club chose to do this to celebrate further and acknowledge Orlando’s status as an “inclusive, diverse and welcoming community.”

FLORIDA BOWLS SEEING DECLINE IN ATTENDANCE via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union – When the Outback Bowl in Tampa announced an attendance of 51,119 … it became the sixth college bowl game among the eight in Florida to have a decline in attendance from the previous year. Only the Russell Athletic in Orlando (an increase of 8,207 to watch Miami beat West Virginia) and the St. Petersburg Bowl (1,065 more to watch Mississippi State beat Miami of Ohio showed increases and in the case of the latter, it might not be bragging to claim your game went up to 15,717. The TaxSlayer Bowl attendance was 43,102 … down from 58,212 for Georgia-Penn State the previous year but still ahead of the national average for this season … a bit more than 40,000 per game. The Outback Bowl declined by slightly more than 2,000 … the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl tumbled the most, going from 63,113 for last year’s Florida-Michigan game to 46,063 … The Orange Bowl had a negligible decline of 183 fans as 67,432 watched Florida State edge Michigan 33-32. But that was compared to a College Football Playoff semifinal last year … Orange Bowl TV ratings were up 68 percent (6.7 overnight) over the first New Year’s Day Six game last season, the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Still, it was systemic of the overall decline in attendance for bowl games (the Sugar, Cotton, Liberty, Alamo and Texas bowls were among those experiencing lower crowds — the Cotton going down 23,197 and the Sugar 18,040).

LOCALS IN TAMPA BAY HOPING TO CASH IN ON LAST MINUTE FOOTBALL FANS THROUGH AIRBNB via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times – Hotel rooms in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties began booking up months in advance. Most of the hotels in downtown Tampa and the West Shore area have been reserved for the teams, officials, corporate sponsors and media … More than 15 beachfront hotels in Pinellas County have sold out completely, including the Sand Pearl Resort, the Opal Sands Resort, TradeWinds Island Resorts and the Vinoy Hotel. One Alabama alumni group booked 50 rooms for three nights at the TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach about a month before the big game. “We expect that hotel occupancy will be at the 90 percent rate, if not higher, for the game,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. But there are still dozens of accommodations options available on Airbnb, ranging from rooms in residents’ Carrollwood and West Tampa homes for $30 a night to entire houses for rent in South Tampa for $2,000 a night. The Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s office signed a voluntary collection agreement with Airbnb last month to collect tourism development taxes and sales taxes on rooms booked through the service beginning Feb. 1. So while the county won’t get an extra boost from the 700-plus Airbnb rentals listed in Tampa this month, Hillsborough County projects the deal will bring in an extra $250,000 in new annual tax revenue to Hillsborough County if bookings at least match 2016 levels.

WHAT JOE YORK IS READING – AT&T BOOSTS TAMPA BAY MOBILE COVERAGE FOR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP via Kelly Bazzle of WFTS – The company has made permanent and temporary upgrades throughout Tampa Bay to keep their customers connected all weekend. Two Cell on Wheels have been deployed to keep fans connected. They help improve reliability and data speeds. The Distributed Antenna System has been upgraded at Raymond James Stadium to help manage the wireless capacity in heavily-trafficked areas. They have done a 400 percent boost in LTE capacity to improve speeds so that you can post all the selfies, photos, videos and share the experience with your network.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to HCA’s Bryan Anderson. Celebrating this weekend is the Florida Association of Counties’ Cragin Mosteller, the great Diane Roberts and Jonny Torres.

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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