Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the public affairs firm known for unparalleled relationships and winning strategies: Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris secured her place in the national consciousness on this date 14 years ago. On November 13, 2000, in the midst of Florida’s historic presidential recount, Harris announced that she would not revise the next day’s deadline for counties to submit final vote counts, despite hand recounts underway in several counties. Harris’ action triggered a month of court battles that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, which upheld George W. Bush’s 537-vote margin of victory in Florida.
Now, on to the ‘burn…
WILL FLORIDA EVER BE A BATTLEGROUND AGAIN? via Mike Dorning of BloombergPolitics
Florida has been the swingiest of swing states for multiple cycles — notably in 2000, when it was the ultimate electoral battleground. Democrats won the state in 2012 by a razor-thin 0.9 percentage point margin. And in this year’s gubernatorial race, incumbent Republican Scott narrowly edged out former Democratic governor Crist.
But while electorally the state has bounced back and forth, the demographic line is much straighter and less ambiguous—which could mean that Florida will swing less and less in national elections. The state is inexorably becoming more diverse, with growing populations of blacks, Hispanics and Asians, and fewer and fewer of the aging whites who’ve buoyed Republican prospects in years past. If each racial and ethnic group votes the same way and turns out at the same rate as they did in 2012, according to a simulation by Patrick Oakford of the Center for American Progress, the Democrats’ margin would expand to 3.4 percent. “It doesn’t mean Republicans will never win Florida,” said Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi. “But it means it will become more and more of an uphill fight.”
And Florida is a microcosm for what’s happening in battlegrounds across the country. The national population shift is playing out in key competitive states across the presidential electoral map. Notwithstanding the Republicans’ midterm victory, Democrats appear to be winning the Demographic war.
Demography isn’t destiny and no election is an exact replay of the last. Electoral coalitions shift with the times. Compelling candidates and messages draw in new voters. A potential Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016 might, for example, excite fewer blacks to vote yet win over more whites. Still, absent Republic gains with minority voters, the changing electorate provides Democrats a growing structural advantage in holding onto the White House.
Since 1996, non-Hispanic whites’ share of eligible voters has declined an average of 2 percentage points every presidential election, to 71 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
WITH JOE NEGRON VS. JACK LATVALA UNSETTLED, ANDY GARDINER TAPS LIZBETH BENACQUISTO, BILL GALVANO TO LEAD SENATE FUNDRAISING EFFORTS Full blog post here
Because it is still unclear who will succeed him as Senate President, Andy Gardiner has named Lizbeth Benacquisto to lead Republican Senate fundraising efforts in advance of the 2016 election cycle.
Traditionally, the Senate President Designate would be the titular head of the Senate campaign arm, but the race between Joe Negron and Jack Latvala remains unsettled.
“While it is tradition to turn over the fundraising apparatus to the incoming president-designate,” writes Gardiner in a memo to the other members of the Republican Senate Caucus, “as Senate President Don Gaetz did with me for the 2014 cycle, this designation has yet to be determined.”
Gardiner does not want to appear as if he is picking sides between Negron and Latvala, so he’s relying on Benacquisto.
Supporting the Fort Myers Republican will be newly named Majority Leader Bill Galvano, according to Gardiner’s memo to members of the Florida GOP Senate Caucus.
Negron and Latvala both claim to have the inside track to win the presidency in 2016.
REGGIE FULLWOOD TAKES IN $23K FOR SPECIAL HOUSE DISTRICT 13 ELECTION Full blog post here
Democratic state Rep. Reggie Fullwood received backing from a few powerful Tallahassee players to raise $23,000 in October for the House District 13 special election.
A pair of paperwork errors prevented Fullwood from qualifying in the November election for Duval County’s District 13, leading to the schedule of a special primary and election.
In the primary, set for Dec. 16, Fullwood will run against Jacksonville City Council member Johnny Gaffney, with the winner facing Jacksonville Republican Lawrence Jefferson in special general election scheduled Feb. 17.
Among the contributions Fullwood received in October are from AT&T, the HCA healthcare chain, a Florida Realtors PAC and the Florida Home Builders Association.
Fullwood’s total now stands at $26,900, with $10,204 in expenditures as of Oct. 31, according to the Division of Elections. Gaffney took in $250 in October, for an overall total of $30,915 and spent $4,072 through Oct. 31.
Jefferson raised $2,150, loaning his campaign $200.
PAUL RENNER FILES TO RUN FOR TRAVIS HUTSON’S HOUSE SEAT via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News
Jacksonville attorney Paul Renner has filed to run for the Florida House seat vacated by Rep. Travis Hutson. Hutson is running for the Senate seat vacated by former Sen. John Thrasher.
Renner, a Navy veteran, lost to Jay Fant by 2 votes in the Republican primary back in August for a House seat representing parts of Duval County. Renner had the support of Thrasher and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis against Fant.
Tea party leader Derek Hankerson, who lost to Thrasher in a primary in August, has told the media that he will run for the House seat vacated by Hutson.
Earlier this week, businessman Donald O’Brien, who chaired the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, filed to run for the seat.
Retired Navy Cpt. Dave Sullivan, the chair of the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee, has expressed interest in running for the seat, which represents all of Flagler County and parts of St. Johns and Volusia counties. The special primary has been set for Jan. 27, 2015, with the special election to be held April 7.
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MORNING MUST-READ: 45%OF FLORIDA HOUSEHOLDS CAN’T AFFORD COST OF LIVING via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times
The 15 percent of Floridians stuck in poverty is bad enough. But the real shocker is the alarming number of Floridians who hold jobs but still cannot meet the basic needs of their households.
A new United Way of Florida report finds a startling 45 percent — or 3.2 million — of all households in this state cannot afford basic housing, child care, food, health care and transportation. In the broader Tampa Bay area alone, that translates to more than 600,000 households in seven counties that are unable to consistently afford the cost of living in Florida. Conditions in those households still lag behind prerecession levels, the “Study on Financial Hardship” report says.
A week after the elections, and amid bullish talk of a rebounding state economy, it’s out of vogue to spotlight such a huge portion of our own communities unable to make ends meet. That’s one reason why it’s important that the United Way organizations in Florida, including Tampa Bay’s United Way Suncoast, issued a report on struggling households so dire it’s painful.
We hear about this problem, if at all, in snippets. Too many folks cobbling together three jobs to try and generate the income of one. Too many stuck in part-time work. Too many unable to find affordable housing. Too many public protests by fast-food workers seeking better pay.
Is this report a not-so-subtle hint to give more to the United Way? No doubt. Is it also a veiled call for a higher minimum wage? Perhaps. In last week’s elections, voters approved higher minimum wages in five states, joining 25 others that already have passed such laws in recent years.
PAM BONDI DENIES TRIPS AND LOBBYISTS HAVE INFLUENCE OVER HER via Michael Van Sickler of the Miami Herald
Ahhh, the first Cabinet meeting after winning re-election.
It should be a time to glory in getting confirmed for another four years, take a deep breath, and relax.
And it was all of that after an uneventful Cabinet meeting for Gov. Scott, who looked more relaxed than he has in months, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.
But it wasn’t such an easy welcome back for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who faced questions stemming from a spate of stories from the New York Times, the Times/Herald and AP about a series of trips she’s taken where out-of-state lobbyists have access to her and her staff (we’re talking dinners, drinks and socializing).
But since the New York Times broke the story about how Dickstein Shapiro, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm, has lobbied Bondi at the same time a series of cases against their clients in Florida have fizzled, she’s pretty much maintained that the firm’s access hasn’t influenced her at all.
Surrounded by a clutch of reporters asking questions about her trips, Bondi stuck to that talking point.
FLORIDA RANKS FIFTH IN BUSINESS CLIMATE, BUT TAX APPEAL MAY BE OVERRATED Full blog post here
Florida’s business climate ranks fifth in the nation, according to a new national report.
Yet in a Budget Watch white paper released today, independent government watchdog Florida TaxWatch points out flaws in the report, which may have over-calculated the appeal of the state’s tax system.
Florida’s high ranking comes from the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan economic think tank based in Washington, DC. Every year, the group issues a Business Tax Climate Index, which compares tax structures between states. In this year’s Index, Florida is the largest state in the top five; Texas came in tenth. California, New York and New Jersey ranked as having the worst tax climates.
“Florida’s tax structure is one of the many factors that makes Florida a good place to do business,” said Florida TaxWatch president Dominic M. Calabro. “However, there is always room for improvement. Instead of focusing on Florida’s 5th place ranking, policymakers should look at where they can make needed reforms to help welcome additional capital, more jobs, and further economic growth to the Sunshine State.”
Even though the state scored highly in all tax categories of the Index, Calabro notes that property and sales tax rankings may be overstated. One factor given the most weight in the Tax Foundation rating is personal income tax; Florida does not have individual income taxes.
Calabro argues that Florida’s property tax structure shifts burden to non-homestead properties, such as businesses. In addition, high sales and excise taxes rate, as well as taxes on commercial leases, communications, and non-residential electricity may not have been reflected accurately when Tax Foundation ranked the state’s sales tax.
Among the reforms called for by Florida TaxWatch is elimination of the sales tax on commercial leases, reducing communications services tax, eliminating tangible personal property tax, and collecting online sales taxes.
FSU PROVOST GARNETT STOKES SEEKS NEW JOB AT UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI Full blog post here
Florida State University Provost Garnett Stokes, who acted as interim president during the selection and approval of former state Sen. John Thrasher, might be leaving Tallahassee.
On Monday, Stokes interviewed for the provost position at the University of Missouri, reports the Columbia Daily Tribune.
In the next few weeks, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin will choose the school’s new provost from four candidates, to start on campus by the spring semester.
As provost since 2011, Stokes became interim president in March after then-FSU President Eric Barron announced he would be taking a similar position at Penn State University.
Interviewed in September as one of 11 people vying for the FSU presidency, Stokes was not selected among the finalists.
MIA JONES SET TO RETURN AS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER PRO TEMPORE Full blog post here
Jacksonville Rep. Mia Jones has been tapped for a second term as the House Democratic leader pro tempore. Democratic-Leader Mark Pafford emphasized Jones’ expertise on health care and her knowledge as a lawmaker when announcing her as part of his leadership team.
Jones was first elected to the Florida House in 2008 and was a member of the Jacksonville City Council from 2003 to 2008. She is a special assistant to the mayor of Jacksonville as a health commissioner.
House Democrats will meet Monday to elect its leader for the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. The elected leader of the caucus then nominates a leader pro tempore.
Pafford is the designated leader who is expected to be elected Monday but Daytona Beach Rep. Dwayne Taylor has mounted a challenge, blaming Pafford for the Democrats losing six seats in the mid-term election. Taylor said he has the votes to deny Pafford the position, an assertion Pafford has dismissed as a distraction.
ROMANO COLUMN: WILL RED LIGHT CAMERA LEGAL BATTLE COME BACK TO HAUNT CITIES? via the Tampa Bay Times
Last month, a district court of appeal ruled the South Florida city of Hollywood had improperly outsourced its law enforcement authority with the way red light camera violations were handled. That decision is still not final, and there’s a chance the issue could wind up in front of the state’s Supreme Court.
But that ruling led to a pair of lawsuits seeking refunds for citations issued by municipalities through American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the private company that has set up cameras in dozens of Florida cities. The lawsuits are seeking class-action status, which means hundreds of thousands of motorists might be eligible for a refund.
The argument is whether too much authority was delegated to ATS. The common procedure is for ATS officials to review footage, send video of possible infractions to local law enforcement, and then send notices of violations for any cases confirmed by the police. The court essentially said that was too much authority being outsourced.
Even if the court ruling is upheld, it probably won’t mean the end of red light cameras. Municipalities could tweak the process as a remedy.
Palm Beach officials immediately suspended their program after the court ruling, but Tampa officials decided to continue issuing violations.
If the district court decision is still up in the air, the class-action suit faces even greater hurdles since every municipality has slightly different procedures, making a uniform ruling difficult.
And yet, the consequences could be enormous.
For instance St. Petersburg, which recently shut down red light cameras, generated $8.8 million in revenue over a three-year span. A little more than half went to the state, while ATS pocketed $2.9 million, and the city netted about $900,000 after expenses.
MARK DELEGAL NAMED CO-LEADER OF HOLLAND & KNIGHT’S FLORIDA GOVERNMENT ADVOCACY TEAM Full blog post here
A former member of Gov. Rick Scott’s Finance Team 2014 has been appointed co-leader of Holland & Knight’s Tallahassee lobbying effort. The firm announced Wednesday that Mark Delegal, a partner in the Tallahassee office, is the new co-chair of its Florida Government Advocacy Team.
Holland & Knight is an international law firm whose services include government representation. The firm has 20 U.S. offices including eight in Florida. Delegal joined the firm last year.
“In a short amount of time, Mark has made a big impact on our team, showing tremendous leadership and initiative,” said Martinez who has led the team since 2007. “Mark’s industry knowledge and political talent make him invaluable to his clients and exactly the right fit to lead our Tallahassee operation.”
The list of clients whose interests Delegal has represented at the state capitol include the City of West Palm Beach, the Florida Brewer Guild, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Safety Net Hospital Alliance and Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, among others.
The advocacy team he and Martinez will lead include former Congressmen Jim Davis, Ron Klein and Miguel De Grandy along with Kerry Feehery, Karl Koch and Kimberly Case.
Delegal said the stage is set for Gov. Scott to pursue a bold agenda in his second term. He said Scott is energized and with incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner and Speaker-Designate Steve Crisafulli, Scott has agreeable, accommodating types of personalities with which to work.
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TWEET OF THE DAY: @AnthonyPedicini: We can land @ESA_Rosetta on a #comet 311 m miles away, but I don’t have cell service on I-10 in Florida.
CONTEXT FLORIDA: SOCIAL MEDIA, STEVE SCHALE, FAMU AND MEDICAL MARIJUANA
On Context Florida: As Plato once wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Laurie Uttich wonders if the ways we now connect make it difficult for us to remember Plato’s point. She is still trying to figure out what role social media should play, wondering if the 98 percent of her positive posts also add to the collective perception that other people’s lives are “perfect.” The morning after the election, tired and a little dejected, Steven Schale stood with five Indians and four Pakistanis inside the Tampa International Airport, seeing them back off to Washington, DC. What he didn’t expect was what two of them said: “you have changed my entire view of your country.” Chris Timmonssays that once aware that FAMU fans were dissatisfied that football Coach Earl Holmes was fired four days before the school’s homecoming, Athletic Director Kellen Winslow formed a search committee to hire the next coach. Most people — on Facebook, at least — acknowledged how unusual that was. Jamie Miller calls for everyone to stop calling the effort to legalize medical marijuana “Support Amendment 2.” Now, Miller says it is time the GOP Legislature should pass a sensible medical marijuana bill.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to lobbyist David Ramba.