Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 11.16.16 – An urgent appeal; Florida’s growth spurt; Sembler, Ballard on inaug cmte.; Scott opens 2018 door; Freshmen lawmakers learn the ropes

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.


Each morning, at about 3:30 a.m., I wake up to put the finishing touches on the latest edition of Sunburn, the definitive morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Along with my colleague Phil Ammann and, more recently, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, I have been doing this for more than four years. I’ve never asked for anything in return, save your readership. That’s because I am grateful that each of you starts your day with us.

Today, however, I have an urgent request.

Can you spare a turkey?


I’m serious. In the coming days, thousands of hurting families will visit Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa for help with food for Thanksgiving. It’s not just about the food. It’s about the HOPE they feel in knowing that somebody cares about them.

Once again, donations for turkeys are down while demand is up. Metropolitan Ministries needs your help!

I am asking each Sunburn reader to help purchase 50 turkeys this Thanksgiving. You don’t even have to go the store and carry out a Butterball. Just click on this link to donate a frozen turkey right now.

If you choose to donate, please email or message me so we can keep track.

For those wearing proverbial Gucci loafers, if you want to lend an extra hand and match these turkey donations, email me and I will get the word out.

Last year, due to the leadership of former House Speaker Will Weatherford, the generous souls in the political process were able to replace thousands of gifts stolen from one of Metropolitan Ministries’ toy drop-off locations. I am hoping some of you who helped last year can help again by serving up turkey — and hope — this Thanksgiving.

As you donate, please message me as we will match donations up to 50 turkeys total.

Thank you for bringing hope to so many this holiday season.

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The Sunshine State’s population grew by 333,471 between April 1, 2015 and April 1, 2016. That marks the greatest annual increase in residents since 2006, according to a report compiled by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Florida’s population has been driven largely by net migration, with more people moving into the state than leaving. But net migration fell to record lows during 2008 and into 2009, accounting for just shy of 26 percent of population growth in fiscal 2008-09.

Those low levels of net migration were “largely due to national economic conditions.” More simply: The Great Recession meant folks just weren’t moving to Florida.

That didn’t mean Florida wasn’t growing. In 2014, Florida claimed the title as the third largest state (by population). The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2014 that the state’s population was about 19.9 million, stealing the No. 3 spot from New York, which that year reported a population of 19.7 million.

And don’t expect the streets to get any less crowded. The Office of Economic and Demographic Research estimates annual population change will remain above 300,000 net new residents each year for the next five years.

The estimated population in 2021: More than 21.7 million people.

— “Does population surge mean Florida will be parched?” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

DAYS UNTIL: The presidential inauguration: 64; The 2017 Election: 356; The 2018 election: 720.

DONALD TRUMP INAUGURAL COMMITTEE HAS A FLORIDA FEEL via A.G. Gankarski of Florida Politics – Trump tapped former Ambassador Mel Sembler and Brian Ballard to serve as vice chairs of his inaugural committee. The two men join more than a dozen other high profile Trump supporters selected to serve as vice chairs of the committee.

PAM BONDI VISITS TRUMP TOWER via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Bondi was among a string of people to visit Trump Tower today as planning continues on the White House takeover. Bondi is a member of Trump’stransition team but is also a likely candidate to serve in the administration.

— “Bondi announces deal with NFL over ticket pricing” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “Three reasons why Trump might ask Rick Scott to run HHS” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist

IN FLORIDA, ‘UNDERESTIMATED’ RNC TAKES VICTORY LAP via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — The Republican National Committee acknowledged … its own predictive model ahead of last week’s election had Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by 2.8 percentage points in Florida. But the GOP knew the presidential race was volatile. And its model told them which voters to go after as Election Day grew near. “There was movement in those voters, very much, in the last few days,” said Josh Kivett, the party’s regional political director for the Southeast. So, relying on 1,773 paid staffers and trained organizers the party had built across the state over three years, Republicans dialed more voters and knocked on more doors, hoping to achieve some last-minute persuasion.

DID CUBAN-AMERICANS OR OBAMA’S CUBA POLICY COST HILLARY CLINTON THE STATE? UNLIKELY – An analysis by Giancarlo Sopo, a communication strategist, and Dr. Guillermo Grenier of Florida International University concludes that Cuban-American voters were not the decisive factor in Trump’s victory last week as some have argued. To make their case, Sopo and Grenier point to exit and pre-election polling data showing Clinton in the 40’s among Cuban-Americans, as well as municipal-level results indicating that Clinton performed relatively well among Cuban-American voters compared to past Democrats. In the Miami suburb of Westchester, the most heavily Cuban community in the United States, Democrats saw a 14-point improvement from their 2012 totals. Similarly, in traditionally Republican Hialeah, Clinton and Trump essentially tied, vanishing the Republicans’ 2012 9-point lead. Sopo and Grenier argue that Democratic gains in Miami-Dade and survey research results are inconsistent with the argument that Obama’s Cuba policy hindered Clinton’s electoral chances in Florida. Instead, they say that a more reasonable explanation is that shifts among white non-Hispanic voters was the primary cause of Trump’s victory in the Sunshine State and the nation. Full memo here.

RICK SCOTT SAYS HE’S CONSIDERING 2018 BID – During a wide-range interview on Tuesday, Scott conceded that seeking the seat held by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is an “option” for him in 2018. Scott, who was re-elected in 2014, cannot seek another term as governor due to term limits. The governor, who is attending the Republican Governors Association annual conference, also said he was excited that Trump was elected president. Scott said that other Republicans who offered up little or lukewarm support for Trump should now “embrace him.”

BILL NELSON ON 2018: I’LL RUN ‘LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Nelson can’t take a breather after the wild ride of 2016. The Florida Democrat faces re-election in 2018 and a possible challenge from Scott. “Whoever it is, I run my race like there’s no tomorrow,” Nelson said in an interview. Democrats, who failed to gain control of the Senate, will have to defend far more seats than Republicans. What’s more, Democrats saw even more white voters leaving their side. Nelson said that’s a concern but added: “This was an unusual election, and you can’t judge what’s going to happen in 2018 on that. First of all, there’s not going to be nearly the turnout and secondly, it’s going to be in the mid-year of a Trump administration. Thirdly, you’re going to have a Democrat at least for the Senate, the good Lord willing, that cuts through a lot of those party circles.”

JIM MESSINA JOINS PUSH TO GET JOHN MORGRAN TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Before the 2016 election cycle, Jim Messina, who served as campaign manager for Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign, had an idea for prominent Florida trial lawyer and Democratic donor John Morgan: Run for governor. … With the election over and Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race already in the focus of politicos across the country, there is a nascent movement to coax Morgan into a run for governor. Morgan has not returned calls or emails on the issue, but the effort is being led by Democratic consultants Ben Pollara and Brian Franklin, both of whom are close to the Orlando trial attorney. Now Messina, who also served as a deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House, wants to be counted among those openly pushing Morgan to run for governor. … “He has the ability to overcome some of his obvious negatives,” Messina said. “Voters will understand he is the true rags to riches ‘only in America’ success story.”

JEFF ATWATER RULES OUT ANOTHER CAMPAIGN via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Members of the Florida Council of 100 business group were surprised to hear the other day Chief Financial Officer Atwater say he won’t run for office again. It’s not a shock, given that the two-term CFO and former state senator sought the presidency of Florida Atlantic University in 2014 and at the last minute backed out of a widely expected run for U.S. Senate … Still, the popular and respected Republican, 58, has always been in the mix of formidable candidates for statewide offices including governor or U.S. Senate.



BIG MIAMI DONOR SAYS HE ‘MIGHT’ WANT TO HEAD FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Throw a big-name donor into the growing list of potential new chairs of the Florida Democratic Party: Stephen Bittel. The Coconut Grove businessman, who heads Terranova Corp., picked up the phone Monday night when a Miami Herald reporter called to ask if he’s thinking of seeking the position. A couple of local Democrats had floated his name. “I might be,” Bittel said. “I care very deeply about our community, state and country, and if enough of our party leadership and grassroots think that I’m the one that can do the best job, I think service to my country is really important.” … Bittel, who raised serious dollars for Hillary Clinton and Patrick Murphy, noted he’s served as the Democratic National Committee’s national finance co-chairman and has been involved with the national and state parties for a long time.

DWIGHT BULLARD’S POSITION ON ISRAEL COULD COST HIM SUPPORT OF JEWISH DEMOCRATS FOR STATE PARTY CHAIR via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald — Bullard, who wants to run for Florida Democratic Party chair, is facing resistance from some Jewish Democrats after he was accused of meeting with a man linked to a terror group in Israel earlier this year. Bullard says that the accusation lacked “merit” and that he is a supporter of the Jewish community. Bullard is one of multiple  candidates who are considering the state party position after Allison Tant announced Friday that she would not seek re-election in January. … NBC6 Miami reported that Bullard was photographed with a tour guide affiliated with the anti-Israel BDS movement, a pro-Palestinian group with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, designated by the State Department as a terrorist group. Bullard told the station the man was a “tour guide in old Jerusalem” and he “had no idea” of his political affiliations. He told NBC6 that he is “pro-Israel, but I’m also pro-Palestine in that people can co-exist. … My position is co-existence.”

— “The lynching of Dwight Bullard” via Leslie Wimes for Sunshine State News

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STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN — “Would you spend $400,000 for a $30,000 a year job” by Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times because that’s an apples-to-bowling balls comparison that puts know value on serving one’s community, but does serve to demonize the political process.

RICHARD CORCORAN BLAZING HIS OWN LEADERSHIP TRAIL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran grins widely when you suggest he’s stealing a page from the “progressive” politics playbook. The Land O’ Lakes Republican held an impromptu press conference Tuesday after he welcomed new members at their two-day orientation session, another Corcoran innovation. He was asked: Prohibiting state representatives from flying in lobbyists’ airplanes? Increasing the ban on former members lobbying their colleagues from two years to six years? Aren’t these usually – dare we say – proposals that come from the other side of aisle? Corcoran would have nothing of it. “I would just say, everything you just said, I reject,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know where you got that concept. That is not who we are.” Message delivered: Good government ideas don’t just belong to the Democrats.

FLORIDA SENATE LIGHT ON LOBBYING IN NEW RULES via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Senate President-designate Joe Negron on Tuesday released his chamber’s proposed rules for 2016-18, which didn’t contain the strict provisions of their House counterparts. But the Stuart Republican, set to officially take over next week, still told members in a memo to “review the attached documents carefully” since “the adoption of rules is a significant matter.” Noteworthy changes include: Increasing the ethics training requirement to four hours from one hour; Allowing the Rules Committee to report to the “findings concerning a Senator’s appeal of his or her removal from committee.”

FRESHMAN STATE SENATORS LEARN THE ROPES IN TALLAHASSEE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Newcomers to the Florida Senate were met with a dose of reality Tuesday, in the form of a warning about the state’s iffy revenue forecasts. They also got a dose of optimism from Jeff Atwater, the state’s chief financial officer, who told them Florida is in relatively good shape compared to other big states like California, New York, and Illinois. Between 2009 and 2014, 31 states raised taxes by more than $100 per capita, 26 raised debt, and 18 did both, Atwater said. “Only one state did not raise its taxes $100 on a per capita basis and did not raise debt, and that’s the state of Florida,” he said. … The new Senate class comprises 20 members — a record, according to Negron, for the 40-member body. He sees the arrival of so many newcomers — many of whom have served in the House — less as a challenge than “an opportunity and a blessing,” he said. …  “Budgets are all about competing priorities,” Negron said. “I think that, within the budget that we have and the revenue that we have, there’s no reason why we can’t undertake some old and some new opportunities based on what’s happing today.”



— “Jack Latvala message heard: Bucs Mike Evans to resume standing for ovation” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

FROM CAPITOL TO COURTHOUSE: BOBBY POWELL SET FOR SWEARING-IN, THEN LEGAL FIGHT FOR SEAT via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post — Powell is slated to be sworn-in next Tuesday at the Capitol along with other lawmakers during the Legislature’s one-day organization session.  But while the rest of the Legislature heads to lunch or to cars for a drive home, Powell will troop across the street to the Leon County Courthouse for a case that will shape his political future. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will hear West Palm Beach Democrat Rubin Anderson’s challenge that he should have been allowed to qualify as a primary candidate in Palm Beach County’s District 30 Senate seat, won by Powell on Election Day. Anderson was disqualified in July after his bank did not honor his campaign’s $1,781.82 check to cover the candidate qualifying fee. Florida law gives a candidate until the end of the qualifying period to correct such a situation. But Anderson had no remedy because his check was returned after qualifying closed. … Anderson had wanted the court to order a new primary with his name on the ballot along with Powell and trial lawyer Michael Steinger, who lost to the Riviera Beach Democrat in the Aug. 30 primary. Powell went on to win the seat over Republican Ron Berman, carrying 54 percent of the vote.

AMBER MARIANO GOES FROM COLLEGE CLASSES TO LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Mariano, the 21-year-old daughter of Pasco Commissioner Jack Mariano and a third-year political science student at the University of Central Florida, traveled to Tallahassee this week for her orientation as a new state legislator. It becomes official on Tuesday, Nov. 22, when she takes the oath of office to represent Florida House District 36. … (Rep. Amanda) Murphy, a Democrat, lost the seat she had held for three years to the Republican Mariano, who only decided to run for the west Pasco seat in June. She was the beneficiary of Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s overwhelming support among Pasco County voters. … Mariano completes her fall course work Dec. 6, the same week she is scheduled to be in Tallahassee for member training. She will be 12 credit hours shy of graduating, but plans to take the next semester off to focus full time on the Legislature. The idea is to continue her education next summer and fall and pick up her diploma in December 2017. … “Honestly, it’s all so surreal,” said Mariano. “I’m so blessed. Thirty-four thousand people saw the potential in me as their representative. But, the work doesn’t stop here. The work continues over next two years to make Pasco, west Pasco, a better place and I’m really excited about this opportunity I’ve been given.”

JEFF BRANDES TESTS FULLY AUTONOMOUS UBER AND LOVES IT via Janelle Irwin of Tampa Bay Business Journal — Brandes … spent the day in Pittsburgh testing out a fully autonomous Uber vehicle as part of his two-year quest to further such advancements in the Tampa Bay region. “It’s one thing to think about this technology coming. It’s another to think about the implications,” said Brandes, who traveled to Pittsburgh Tuesday to try out one of the autonomous cars the ridesharing company is testing. “What does this mean for parking downtown or car ownership?” … Uber opened an Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh in 2015. This September, the company announced a pilot program that puts driverless cars on the road to transport passengers in its popular UberX program. For safety, there is a driver, but only to serve as a monitor in case there’s a situation the technology cannot handle.



RYAN MATTHEWS NAMED DEPUTY SECRETARY AT DEP via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Ryan Matthews has been promoted to deputy secretary for regulatory affairs at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, DEP Secretary Jon Steverson announced Tuesday. Matthews had been director of DEP’s Office of Water Policy for the past year. He takes a position previously held by Paula Cobb, who has served as deputy secretary since January 2015. “Ryan brings a deep understanding of many of Florida’s most pressing water and environmental issues to this role,” Steverson said. “His knowledge and experience in all levels of government will be a valuable asset to our regulatory programs.” Matthews was with the Florida League of Cities from 2011 to 2015 and previously served as political director of the Jeff Kottkamp for attorney general campaign in 2009 and 2010.

SHRINKING SHORES: FLORIDA RENEGES ON PLEDGES TO ITS BEACHES via Ryan Mills and Eric Staats of the Naples Daily News — For all beaches do for Florida — protect coastal infrastructure, generate billions in sales taxes from tourism each year and spare residents from a state income tax — Florida leaders give little back in return. … State leaders have reneged on a commitment to invest in Florida’s 825 miles of beaches, providing only some of the annual money promised in 1998. This comes as the Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency charged with protecting Florida’s shores, has doubled the number of miles of critically eroded beach to 411 because natural habitat, recreation, historical resources and, mostly, development are threatened. Local governments pay the most to protect Florida beaches, raising at least $755 million for them over a 10-year period ending in 2015, a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Naples Daily News shows. The local share outpaced about $400 million the federal government contributed to beaches during the period, and about $302 million from the state. It’s part of a pattern of broken promises made to Florida’s beaches, which have received an average of $28.8 million annually from the state over the past decade — not much more than the $27.4 million lawmakers gave to libraries this year. State leaders also have failed to deliver money promised to keep sand out of Florida’s dozens of inlets, a major driver of beach erosion.

MIAMI-DADE MAYOR RESISTS ‘SANCTUARY CITY’ LABEL via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — With Trump promising to crack down on “sanctuary cities” that aren’t helping federal authorities apprehend undocumented immigrants, some mayors warn they’re ready to do battle with Washington on the issue. In Miami-Dade, Mayor Carlos Gimenez argues there is no battle line to be drawn because the label doesn’t apply to his county. “We comply with the law,” Gimenez said Tuesday. “We’re not a sanctuary city.” Miami-Dade does decline some federal requests to detain individuals wanted for non-criminal immigration violations, a policy that helped land Florida’s largest county on a list of so-called sanctuary cities in a recent Justice Department report. And while Miami-Dade has already felt pressure under the Obama administration to fight the “sanctuary” label, the designation is getting far more attention after Trump’s upset win last week.

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CORCORAN: NEW RESTRICTIONS DRAW LITTLE CRITICISM FROM LOBBYISTS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Corcoran says he has not heard forceful pushback from lobbyists as he works to embed new restrictions lobbying in the chamber’s rules. “The only reason they have power is we voluntarily and abdicate what is rightfully ours, and what is rightfully ours belongs to the people,” Corcoran told reporters. Among changes to the House rules are that members can no longer fly on planes owned by registered lobbyists, create a database of which bills and issues lobbyists are working to influence, ban lawmakers from having business deals with registered lobbyists, and ban texting during official meetings, which impacts a key line of communication between members and lobbyists. Dave Mica, chair of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, sent a letter to Corcoran last week to try and ensure his industry has input in the rules changes. “We felt it was important to provide stakeholder input to avoid any unintended consequences and to minimize unnecessary regulations, as many of us are small business owners,” wrote Mica, a lobbyist for the Florida Petroleum Council. Corcoran said the House rules will be written by its members and that if a lobbyist wants input they should run for office.

DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN IN LOBBYIST COMPENSATION REPORTS via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsThe latest lobbyist compensation reports may have readers think they’re seeing in triple vision. For the third quarter, the top 5 earners in registered legislative lobbying, in order, were Ballard Partners, Ron Book, Southern Strategy Group, Capital City Consulting and Greenberg Traurig. Look familiar? That’s because that was the same top 5 for the second quarter, though in a slightly different order. And it’s the same top 5 for the first quarter. The results were posted by LobbyTools Legislative IQ on Tuesday. That’s because those firms are always “embroiled in the biggest legislative fights of the session and they always deliver for their clients,” said Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting’s co-founder.


Paul Bradshaw, Southern Strategy Group: Florida State College at Jacksonville Foundation

Glenn Kirkland, Jonathan Menendez, Kaleo Partners: Presidio Networked Solutions, LLC

William Peters: Department of Economic Opportunity

RURAL HOSPITALS FORM NEW ASSOCIATION via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida — Florida’s rural hospitals have formed a new association. The Florida Rural Hospital Alliance was established Nov. 1, and the former legislative affairs director of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Mike Murtha, has been named president. The group’s objective is to promote policies to aid rural hospitals in providing optimal healthcare, Murtha told POLITICO Florida. To that end, the association will focus its efforts in the upcoming session on rural hospitals’ continued ability to process off-site lab specimens in order to diversify their revenue base.

FLORIDA TAXWATCH BLASTS SANFORD BURNHAM’S ESCAPE PLAN via Terry Roen of Florida Politics — Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit government watchdog, has urged state leaders to hold Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute accountable for the $155 million in tax incentives they received to move to Florida. The Florida Department of Economic Development (DEO) asked Sanford Burnham last month to return half, or $77 million in taxpayer money, if it leaves the state. Sanford Burnham fell short by 66 jobs of reaching a state-mandated July goal. … “Taxpayers must have faith that every dime they provide for public use is being spent wisely and prudently, said Dominic Calabro, executive director of Florida Taxwatch. “It is critical that all incentives include guarantees that hold recipients accountable for performance expectations while providing a mechanism for a refund when those promises aren’t kept.”

FIRST IN SUNBURN – PERSONNEL NOTE: ESTELLA GRAY JOINS HILL+KNOWLTON – Estella Gray, an award-winning public affairs communicator, is joining Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Tampa office, company officials announced. Gray will serve as an account supervisor and will support the firm’s public affairs, corporate and healthcare practices. She most recently served as the government affairs program manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. There, Gray was the government affairs spokesperson for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, working closely with county governments, municipalities and utilities. Gray also has been a senior project manager at the Collins Center for Public Policy, and worked in public affairs at the Florida League of Cities, advocating on behalf of Florida’s 410 municipalities. She has an undergraduate degree in public relations from Florida A&M University.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our great friend, Darrick McGhee of Johnson & Blanton.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD to Elijah Whitney Ray, the beautiful baby boy of Elizabeth and Whitney Ray.

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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