Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 3.28.17 – Disruption day in the Capitol; Bondi’s D.C. moves; Max Steele exits

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.


With the House set to tackle legislation aimed at vacation rentals and the Senate taking up a bill focused on ride-booking services, it seems like 2017 might just be the year lawmakers embrace some of the technological advancements many Floridians use on a regular basis.

A recent survey from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showed 41 percent of Floridians thought online platforms and technologies — like Airbnb, HomeAway, Uber and Lyft — helped Florida’s economy. Not surprising: 55 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds said they thought this technology was helpful to Florida’s economy.

While the proposals advancing through the Legislature could be seen as a boon for consumers (and the tech companies), local governments could end up on the losing end when it comes to their home-rule authority.

Take, for instance, a bill (HB 425) aimed at vacation rentals. If approved, the bill would roll back local ordinances and regulations of vacation rentals to ones on the books in 2011. Any ordinances passed after 2011 would be thrown out.

It’s clear there’s support for vacation rentals: The Mason-Dixon survey found 93 percent of Floridians said tourists should be able to rent accommodations other than hotels during their trips to Florida.

Supporters of the measure say the regulations can stifle the tourism industry. During a meeting earlier this month, Lori Killinger, a lobbyist for the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, said the vacation rental industry is a $31 billion a year industry, but that goes to one homeowner at a time.

Local governments are coming out in opposition to the bill, saying home rule authority should give them the right to decide for themselves what to do about vacation rentals.

The bill cleared its first House committee earlier this month, and is expected to be discussed during the 8 a.m. House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meeting today.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to discuss a bill (SB 340) that would regulate transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft. The proposal creates minimum insurance requirements and requires background checks — and preempts any local ordinances and rules on these companies.

The proposal has the backing of Uber and Lyft, but local governments and the groups representing them are less than pleased.

The Senate bill will be discussed when Judiciary Committee meets at 3 p.m. today, while the House proposal (HB 221) is will get its first hearing on the House floor on Thursday.

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MIKE HUCKABEE REITERATES OPPOSITION TO 2018 RUN via Kelly Humphrey of the NWF Daily News — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made one thing perfectly clear during his speech Saturday at the Okaloosa County Republic Party’s annual Lincoln Dinner. He is not now, nor will he ever be interested in running for governor of Florida. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. “There may be somebody thinking about it, but let me be real clear — it ain’t me,” Huckabee told the packed house of more than 300 people. “There is a greater likelihood that I will have transgender surgery than I will run for the governor of any state, at any time, or anything, anywhere. It ain’t happening.”

IS PAM BONDI WHITE HOUSE BOUND? via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In a sign she might be bound for the White House, Attorney General Pam Bondi made a special Monday trip to meet with President Donald Trump and two Cabinet secretaries to talk about children’s issues with fellow Floridians and former football greats Tony Dungy and Derrick Brooks in tow. Bondi’s visit, which included meetings with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, gave a small indication that she’s testing the waters for an as-yet-unnamed job in Trump’s White House before her term expires in 2019.

Saying she’s happy with her work in Florida, however, Bondi would not discuss her next move — despite months of speculation about whether or when she would leave.

STEVE BITTEL VISITS TALLAHASSEE TO RALLY DEMOCRATS TO ‘MOVE FORWARD NOW’ via Florida Politics – Florida Democratic Party Chairman Steve Bittel came to Tallahassee Monday to detail his efforts to rebuild following the November disaster. “It’s been a disheartening time,” Bittel said, but he urged members of the Leon County Democratic Party to transform their disappointment into action.  “We should be angry. We lost Florida, and we shouldn’t have lost Florida. I candidly say all over the state, that loss is on us. We could have done more. It was close. We all regret it. We can only move forward now. He sees a chance to pick up three seats in the state Senate next year, for 18 total in the 40-member body. (Rene Garcia will be term-limited out, and Frank Artiles and Dana Young seem gettable, he said.) He believes Bill Nelson will win re-election to the U.S. Senate. Especially if Donald Trump inspires a pro-Democratic wave election. “But there’s a lot to do,” he said.

STATE PAID LAW FIRM FOR MEETING WITH HOUSE SPEAKER via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Newly-released billing records show that in October 2014 the firm of Broad and Cassel charged the state’s economic development agency ahead of a meeting between its affiliate, the state Division of Bond Finance, and Corcoran – putting the meeting in the crosshairs of a new review by the governor of potential conflicts of interest. At the time Corcoran was not speaker but he already was viewed as one of the most powerful members in the Legislature.

Corcoran, who has worked at Broad and Cassel since 2011 in its Tampa offices, told The Associated Press that he was unaware that his firm asked to be paid to prepare for the meeting with him. But he said he attended the 2014 meeting as a legislator and not because he was required to do it for his job. He said he and all legislators are routinely asked by friends and colleagues to meet with people to discuss issues and problems they have with state government. “Just because I work in a firm doesn’t mean I can’t do legislative aspects for people I know,” Corcoran said.

SEMINOLE TRIBE: JUDGE’S SLOTS RULING COULD COST STATE ‘MULTI-BILLIONS OF DOLLARS’ via Florida Politics – If it looks like a slot machine, and plays like a slot machine, it’s a slot machine, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is telling state leaders. An order by a Tallahassee judge, first reported by, declared that certain slot machine-style entertainment devices aren’t slot machines under state law. The Tribe disagreed. It now says those games violate a deal between the Tribe and the state, known as the Seminole Compact. That could have “massive consequences costing the Tribe and the State to lose multi-billions of dollars,” according to the Tribe’s recent court filing. In a letter sent last Wednesday to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola said the games were “an expansion of gaming” and a “serious violation” of the compact, which guarantees the Tribe exclusive rights to slots outside of South Florida. If so, that would entitle the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

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HOUSE HEARS BILL TO ALLOW UTILITIES TO CHARGE FOR EXPLORATORY FRACKING via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The House Subcommittee on Energy and Utilities on Tuesday will hear the proposal sought by Florida Power & Light to allow the company to expand its rate base by charging customers for investments in natural gas fracking operations in other states. It’s the only bill on the agenda for the committee’s three-hour time slot and it’s sudden appearance on the committee calendar surprised even the committee’s chair, Rep. Kathleen Peters who had been told by House leaders that the bill was not going to get a hearing.

HOUSE PANEL VOTES TO ABOLISH PIP INSURANCE EFFECTIVE JAN. 1 via Florida Politics – A House committee voted overwhelmingly Monday to do away with personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance in Florida. The vote in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee was 12-2, with Jay Fant and Blaise Ingoglia the holdouts. PCS/HB 1063 passed despite concerns by insurers that they need stronger protections against bad-faith lawsuits by people injured by their policyholders.  Medical providers, meanwhile, argued that requiring accident victims to file lawsuits would make it harder for them to get paid. Michael Grant, a Republican from Port Charlotte, summed up the mood among many committee members. “This isn’t a perfect bill,” he said. “But I can’t continue to vote for or sustain a PIP environment that is just completely broken.”

HOUSE TRAUMA CENTER BILL CLEARS FIRST HURDLE via Florida Politics – A limit on how many trauma centers can open in Florida would be erased under legislation that cleared its first committee Monday. The bill (HB 1077), sponsored by state Rep. Jay Trumbull, was OK’d on a 10-5 vote. Among other things, it also does away with the system of trauma service areas and regions, relieves the Florida Department of Health of setting standards for the centers, and would streamline the process for new ones to open. Trumbull, a Panama City Republican, told the panel a main reason for the bill was to cut down the many lawsuits against the department, which has to OK new centers.

HOUSE JUSTICE BUDGET PLAN CUTS $1.3M FROM ARAMIS AYALA’S OFFICE via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The budget proposal released by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice takes a $1.3 million whack at the office of State Attorney Ayala, putting funding for 21 full-time staff members into a reserve under the state Justice Administrative Commission for “state attorneys with reassigned death penalty cases.” The proposal comes after Ayala has come under biting criticism from House Republicans — as well as praise from members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus — for her recent announcement that she would not seek the death penalty in any case, including the high-profile case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd.

LAWMAKERS MERGE TWO BILLS TO EXPAND MEDICAL SERVICES FOR ABUSED CHILDREN via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Both bills related to child protection issues. SB 1454, sponsored by Sen. Doug Broxson, and SB 1318, sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, were so similar in nature they decided to join them together in the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. It gives doctors two years to comply. It adds the statewide medical director for child protection as an official who must be consulted in the screening, employment, and termination of child protection team medical director statewide. It requires the children’s medical services program within the Department of Health to convene a task force to develop a standardized protocol for forensic interviews of children suspected of being abused. It also changes service districts as service circuits, and district medical directors as child protection team medical directors. It would require that each child protection team medical director be a licensed physician and board-certified in specified specialty area.

SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE POSTPONES CONSIDERATION OF TESTING BILL via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times– Several members of the committee back Sen. Bill Montford’s SB 964, while the panel was slated to hear SB 926 by newly named member Sen. Anitere Flores. Just as the meeting ensued, Sen. David Simmons late-filed six amendments to the Flores bill, aimed at making it look more like Montford’s measure. They included: Ending the mandate on using value-added measures associated with test results to determine teacher evaluations; eliminating several high school end-of-course exams; allowing districts to use paper-pencil tests rather than electronic ones; and studying national alternatives to state high school language arts and math tests. Sen. Tom Lee, a co-sponsor of SB 964, called for the Flores bill to be temporarily postponed just as it came up for discussion. The committee voted 5-4 in favor, and moved on to a workshop on charter schools.

— “This is an abomination, senator says of proposed changes” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald

BILL TO EXEMPT FLORIDA CREDIT UNIONS FROM REGULATIONS ADVANCES IN SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved SB 1620 … filed by West Palm Beach Democrat Bobby Powell that would exempt credit unions from regulation under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. However, there were also discussions about rolling back federal consumer protections by Donald Trump, leading Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer to attempt a late-filed amendment. Farmer said common law fraud protects consumers only when someone makes an affirmative misrepresentation, and that recipient lies on that misrepresentation. If no statement is made or no question is asked, something still unfair to a consumer would not be actionable under common law fraud rules, he said. That’s what the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act is all about. After Powell had said he did not have enough time to review the proposal and called it an unfriendly amendment, Farmer withdrew it, adding that he hopes to consult further with Powell about it before it goes to its next committee.

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BATTLE OVER BUILDING CODE CHANGES COULD TAKE CENTER STAGE IN HOUSE, SENATE TODAY via Florida Politics — Lawmakers in both chambers are scheduled to consider legislation Tuesday that could change the way the Florida Building Code is updated; a move that could have a big impact on the construction and insurance industries. The proposals (HB 901 and SB 860) essentially flip the set of building codes the construction industry uses as its standard. The Senate provisions have garnered the support from some in the construction industry, but opponents have worried it could lead to a loss in federal funding or turning back the clock on the state’s building codes. Under current law, Florida uses the International Code, building regulations developed by the International Code Council and used across the country, as its baseline. The Florida Building Commission adopts the International Code, and then makes Florida-specific amendments and changes when it adopts the Florida Building Code. The Senate proposal removes the provision requiring the International Code be used as a baseline, and instead requires the “6th edition, and subsequent editions, of the Florida Building Code,” be used as the foundation for the development and updates to the state code. It also calls on the commission to review the Florida Building Code every three years “to consider whether it needs to be revised.”

CONSUMER PROTECTION COALITION LAUNCHES AD ON ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS CLAIMS via Florida Politics — The coalition launched a radio and television ad campaign Monday to warn homeowners of how Assignment of Benefits abuse could cause insurance rates to skyrocket in Florida. … “Today, Florida homeowners are being targeted by dishonest home repair vendors, roofers and water mitigation companies who team up with shady trial lawyers to take advantage of them,” said Logan McFaddin, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association, a coalition member. “Because of this rampant AOB abuse in Florida, our coalition is warning Florida consumers about the negative impacts this unscrupulous activity can have on them.” … The animated video ad features a couple signing their insurance policy over to fix a leaky roof and says the practice will cause insurance rates to go up across the state. The ad then tells viewers to call their lawmaker and ask them to vote on SB 1038 and not to “be a victim of fraud and abuse.”

SMALL BIZ OWNER, STATE & LOCAL ASSOCIATIONS URGE SUPPORT FOR BEER GLASS BILL — The owner of Cabos Island Grill is calling on House members to support a measure (HB 853) sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson that would all retailers to accept branded glassware at no cost from the beer industry. “Glassware is a significant cost driver to my small business, especially when taking breakage and theft into account; and, while I would like to be able to purchase the appropriate glassware to serve the different varieties of beer we have on premise to make my patrons visit more exciting and enjoyable, it is simply too costly,” said Mike Ferrara, owner of Tallahassee’s Cabos Island Grill and Bar, in a statement. Ferrara went on to say the bill would allow him to partner with the beer industry to receive “appropriate-style glassware, at no cost, to serve with the beers” he has available for his patrons. The proposal is also backed by the Tallahassee Bar & Hospitality Association, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Associated Industries of Florida, and the Florida Retail Federation. The bill will be heard during the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee meeting at 8 a.m.

HAPPENING TODAY – CHILDREN’S ADVOCATES HOST EVENT TO DISCUSS HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF FLORIDA’S CHILDREN — CFO Jeff Atwater will be among the speakers at the 2017 Children’s Week address set to take place at noon on the steps of the Old Capitol. The focus of this year’s event is the health and well-being of Florida’s children. Surgeon General Celeste PhilipAlan Abramowitz, the executive director for the Florida Guardian ad Litem program; Wansley Walters, the chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet; Zackary Gibson, the chief child advocate and director of the Office of Adoption and Child Prevention; and the Rev. Wayne Wiatt, the senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church are also expected to speak.

HAPPENING TODAY – FGCU DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Wings up! It’s Florida Gulf Coast University Day at the Florida Capitol. The day-long event is meant to give visitors a chance to meet with students, faculty and alumni to learn more about the Southwest Florida state university, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Displays will be set up on the second floor rotunda from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

HAPPENING TODAY — COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will discuss a bill aimed at changing local governments ability to regulate vacation rentals when it meets at 8 a.m. in 212 Knott. The House Health Quality Subcommittee will discuss a bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment when it meets at noon in 212 Knott. The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a proposal that could revise testing requirements when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in 102 House Office building. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that creates a framework for the BP settlement money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill when it meets at 9 .m. in 110 Senate Office building. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will discuss a bill dealing with changes to the Florida Building Code when it meets at 11 a.m. in the 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss a bill that would regulate ride-booking services like Uber and Lyft when it meets at 3 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building.

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FAMILY AFFAIR: FORMER EFI CHIEF CHRIS HART, FAMILY OPEN THE HARE & THE HART via Florida Politics — Hart, the former president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, and his wife, Amy, recently opened The Hare & The Hart, a home décor and design firm in Tallahassee. The family-owned company specializes in toile with a hometown twist. “As a tribute to the town I’ve called home for a good part of three decades, I have designed a toile that shows some of its iconic sites and scenes,” wrote Amy Hart on the company’s website. “Depicting venues running the gamut from the new amphitheater at Cascades Park to the 1600’s-era Mission San Luis, I’ve brought my sketches together in a design that tells the love story of a town full of history, canopy roads, magnolias, rolling hills, beautiful architecture, gardens, and hip new hangouts.” The Hare & The Hart debuted its toiles during the spring edition of French Country Flea Market. During an interview on ABC 27 earlier this month, Amy Hart said the toile was designed to “celebrate our town.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: MAX STEELE DEPARTS FLA. DEMOCRATIC PARTY via Florida PoliticsSteele, who has been Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party, announced via email he is leaving the organization. This is his last week. “It’s been great working with you all and I’m sure I will be in touch in the not too distant future,” he wrote in a message to reporters. Steele’s departure follows that of executive director Scott Arceneaux as newly-elected chairman Stephen Bittel reorganizes the party’s administrative staff. For now, Johanna Cervone will remain Deputy Communications Director and Hispanic Press Secretary.

APPOINTEDJoseph Brister and Robert Halman to the Immokalee Water and Sewer District of Collier County.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — As the healthcare bill blame game continues, Trimmel Gomes explores what’s next after the GOP’s failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Plus, the battle over local control intensifies as the Florida League of Mayors calls on state lawmakers to “back off.” Gomes interviews League of Mayors President, Carol McCormick of Palm Shores. Also, a special tribute to the life of Dr. Brian Dassler who served as the deputy chancellor of Florida’s Department of Education. Dassler recently passed away of apparent natural causes. Gomes interviews his friend and colleague, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – It’s all-American day at the Governors Club with chicken & rice soup, corn salad, arugula salad, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, fried chicken, beef pot pie, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed yellow squash, and cauliflower au gratin.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend, Elliot Günther.

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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