Sunburn for 1/1 — A morning read of what's hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics sponsored by Tucker/Hall — a top-notch public affairs and public relations firm. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team, success stories and case studies.

THANK YOU FOR THE FEEDBACK (AND RAVE REVIEWS) FOR THE NEW SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

@jeffreybillman: The @SaintPetersblog design is excellent. Check it out.

@KenWelch: Great job on the site redesign btw.

@KevinCate: … all dressed up for 2013. Great redesign, Peter!

“Well done, Peter. Please keep us well informed and keep up the good work. God bless, Mike.” — Representative Mike Fasano

@mikegriffinFL: Great job, Peter!

YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

“Reach across the aisle.” — Tim Center

“Our New Years Resolution is to continue to do “whatever it takes” to provide positive, professional public affairs representation of our clients’ views to state and local government entities in an honest, legal, moral, and ethical manner.” — Jack Cory

“Mine is to use social media more so that I can be listed in your top 10 Tweeters next December!” — Keyna Cory

“Give up my addiction to #Sunburn? There’s not enough Nicorette in the world…” — Julie Delegal

“Work to foster a bit of an ‘election détente’ and help those who are crafting common sense solutions provide opportunity, maintain security and don’t break the bank while doing so.” — Seminole Co. Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel

“Get Ronda Storms out of the process… oh wait…” — Bryan Ferris

“Get coozies made with bill number/how to vote, leave at Clyde’s & Lounge, pass bill” — @FLCapHot

“My New Years resolution is to be more grateful. I have so much to be grateful for and seldom take the time to appreciate it. My brother is still here. my family is stronger than ever.  My friends have my back.  Business is strong. I resolve to slow down, appreciate and be grateful in 2013.” — Anthony Pedicini

“My new year’s resolution is to continue to focus on the value of sound public policy being the best politics — and to recognize that good governing is best achieved when diverse interests compromise, coordinate and cooperate, rather than conflict.” — Ron Sachs

“Do less politics.” — Steve Schale (No, Steve, no.)

“The same as it always is: to serve, protect, and defend the Tiki at the St Petersburg Yacht Club. Because freedom isn’t free.” — Chris Spencer

“To judge what I’m hearing not through the prism of party affiliation but rather on the merit of what is actually being said.” — Mike Scudiero

“Let’s get to work!” — Mark Zubaly

RESOLUTION OF THE DAY via POLITICO

Don’t utter the word “rape” except in condemnation. Lots of Republicans who oppose abortion won in 2012. But some that lost gave Republicans against abortion rights a bad name and helped Democrats brand the GOP as dangerously anti-woman.

Missouri’s Todd Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock blew Senate races because of public comments about their uncompromising resistance to abortion in the case of rape and incest. Akin spoke of “legitimate rape,” and Mourdock said he thinks God intends pregnancies resulting from rape.

… Both Republicans clarified their comments, but the damage was done. Democrats had fodder to accuse Republicans of waging a “war on women,” and Obama carried female voters by double digits. A CNN poll conducted in mid-December found that 53 percent of Americans believe the Republican Party is “too extreme.” That’s 15 percent higher than two years ago in the wake of the midterm elections.

Former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes put it this way in a 2012 post-mortem: she pledged to cut out the tongue of any Republican man if he “says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime.”

YEAR-END STORIES

Auto sales saves the US economy: It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say the U.S. economy was powered by car sales this year. Auto companies are now expected to have sold 14.5 million new vehicles in 2012, according to Kelley Blue Book. That’s a 13 percent rise over last year and the highest number of sales since the financial crisis hit.

From Commie claim to Hooters: the year in PolitiFact Florida: With 2012 coming to a close, PolitiFact Florida editors decided to look back at your favorite fact-checks of a busy political year. We fact-checked an ad by Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson who said of his Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV : “A promoter for Hooters with a history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage.” And we dove into Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West’s claim that “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Ron Sachs Communications, Florida’s preeminent public affairs communications firm. Ron Sachs Communications provides its clients with a competitive advantage built on strategic relationships, dynamic creativity and smart and aggressive communications strategies that generate superior results. If you want to win, you’ll want to have Ron Sachs Communications on your side. www.RonSachs.com ***

OUTLOOK 

Florida Supreme Court faces pension, medical malpractice decisions: Leaving behind months of political turbulence, the Florida Supreme Court in 2013 could decide a series of high-profile cases dealing with issues such as the state pension system and medical-malpractice lawsuits … Justices have already heard arguments in the cases, but as is common, have not yet ruled. It is clear, however, that state leaders and a wide range of interest groups are waiting for the decisions, which, at least in one case, could have a major impact on Florida’s budget. … While the Supreme Court’s behind-the-scenes deliberations are private, three justices will be able to work without having to worry that they could be ousted from their jobs. Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince won merit-retention elections in November after weathering a controversial attempt by some conservative groups to drive them off the court.

Looming Medicaid, Obamacare issues face the state in 2013Dealing with issues that affect the health care of millions of poor and uninsured residents, Florida leaders in 2013 could move forward with a long-awaited overhaul of the Medicaid system and likely will decide how to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act. … Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders want to require almost all Medicaid beneficiaries statewide to enroll in managed-care plans, an effort that has drawn opposition from Democratic lawmakers and some patient advocates. Meanwhile, after waging a legal and political battle, Scott and his GOP colleagues face the reality that the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — is here to stay.

POLITICALLY SPEAKING, FLORIDA IN 2013 WILL BE ALL ABOUT 2014 via Jeff Henderson for Sunshine State News

While a potential matchup between Scott and Crist will draw plenty of national attention, the governor is not the only Cabinet official looking for another term in 2014. Atwater could entice a Democratic opponent and rumors are buzzing that Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, will challenge him in 2014. House Minority Leader Perry Thurston is sending up trial balloons that he could challenge Attorney General Pam Bondi. Waldman and Thurston will face challenges in 2013 as they try to balance their duties in Tallahassee with potential 2014 campaigns. This is especially true for Thurston, who is already coping with a race between three Democrats who want his position after the 2014 elections. … With 15 new senators and more than 40 new members of the House, 2013 should be interesting in the Legislature.

TIMES EDITORIAL: FOR 2013, LOOK BEYOND QUICK FIXES

“The 2013 Legislature has the potential to reform Tallahassee’s pay-to-play culture and restore voter confidence. But can the Republican leadership — including two Tampa Bay lawmakers — rise to the challenge?”

“New House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel has staked his speakership on ethics reform. Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater has been assigned by Senate President Don Gaetz to steer campaign and ethics legislation. Promising reform is easy, but reducing the influence of special interests by cracking down on secretive third-party committees or unethical colleagues will be difficult.”

***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 6, 2013, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members, as well as the lieutenant governor, to discuss  growing areas of the state’s $8 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***

WHAT WE KNEW ABOUT THE FISCAL CLIFF BEFORE WE STARTED DRINKING CHAMPAGNE 

Is there going to be a deal? What’s the latest? A deal appeared imminent late Monday, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declaring shortly before 3 p.m. that the two sides were “very, very close” and had “reached an agreement on all of the tax issues.” President Obama said earlier in the afternoon that a deal was “within sight.” Led by McConnell (for the Republicans) and Vice President Biden (for the Democrats), the two sides had come to tentative agreement on making permanent the current tax rates for individual income under $400,000 and family income under $450,000, and allowing rates to rise to their Clinton-era levels for higher incomes. Accord had also been reached on permanent fixes to the Alternative Minimum Tax, capital gains tax, and estate tax, plus temporary measures to address the child tax credit and earned income tax credit.

What are they still haggling about? The fact that the parties have agreed on tax rates resolves the No. 1 sticking point up to now and bodes extremely well for a deal on the rest. But “the rest” still has to be worked out. Remember, the major components of the so-called fiscal cliff are (1) the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and (2) the spending cuts set to kick in automatically as a result of the “sequester” agreement that resolved the 2011 debt-ceiling fight. With the former largely dealt with, the latter is the biggest thing still on the table. Neither side wants to see defense and discretionary spending indiscriminately slashed as the sequester would do, but Republicans would like to see substantially more spending cuts in other areas to compensate.

DETAILS ON THE FISCAL CLIFF DEAL

Under the proposed accord being hammered out by Biden and McConnell, households earning less than $450,000 would largely escape higher income tax bills, though couples earning more than $300,000 a year and individuals earning more than $250,000 would lose part of the value of their exemptions and itemized deductions.

Low-income households would also benefit from a five-year extension of credits for college tuition and the working poor first enacted as part of Obama’s stimulus package in 2009. And businesses would see a variety of popular tax breaks extended, including a credit for research and development.

The tax on inherited estates would rise from 35 percent to 40 percent, though Democrats agreed to keep in place the current exemption for estates worth up to $5 million. And nearly 30 million households would be protected from paying the costly alternative minimum tax for the first time… The developing agreement calls for a permanent fix.

“FISCAL CLIFF” TOPS LIST OF WORDS PEOPLE WANT BANNED

The AP reviews this year’s additions to the “List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness” and finds “fiscal cliff” received the most nominations.

The nonbinding, tongue-in-cheek decree released Monday by northern Michigan’s Lake Superior State University is based on nominations submitted from the United States, Canada and beyond.

“You can’t turn on the news without hearing (fiscal cliff),” said Christopher Loiselle, of Midland, Michigan, in his submission. “I’m equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair.”

WHY THE PRICE OF MILK IS ABOUT TO SKYROCKET

The Wall Street Journal explains why the price of milk is set to skyrocket shortly after January 1 in what has been dubbed the “dairy cliff.”

Instead of Americans enjoying a bounty after the clock runs out, federal farm policy will automatically revert to a farm bill drawn up in 1949. That will compel the Department of Agriculture to roughly double the price supports for dairy and other farm products.

The USDA could burn through billions of tax dollars buying up dairy products that are unwanted at exorbitant prices.

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. With more than 45 years of combined legislative and regulatory knowledge and experience, Corcoran & Johnston’s ability to navigate through the processes and politics of government and deliver for their clients is unmatched.***

BILL YOUNG TO SERVE ANOTHER TERM AS DEFENSE APPROPS CHAIR

Bill Young will remain chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee next year after being granted a waiver to keep his post, the committee announced Monday.

Young is one of only two House Republicans to receive a waiver bypassing GOP term limits for chairmen, joining 2012 vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, who is staying on as Budget Committee chairman.

ALLEN WEST POSTS CONGRESSIONAL FAREWELL ON FACEBOOK

West offered parting remarks on his congressional Facebook page this afternoon, though he’ll continue to post on a campaign Facebook page.

“It has been an honor to serve the Constituents of Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. I am deeply thankful to have been given this opportunity. It has been particularly rewarding to have met so many of you personally, and I am humbled that our office was able to make a difference in the lives of thousands of individuals by assisting with their Veterans, Social Security, Medicare and immigration needs. … “I have spent my adult life serving this great nation, and I will continue. Tomorrow, this Facebook page will be taken down until the next chapter is revealed. Stay tuned.”

LONG LINES AT POLLS COST 50,000 VOTES IN FLORIDA, STUDY SAYS

An Ohio State University researcher has found that “as many as 49,000 people across Central Florida were discouraged from voting because of long lines on Election Day,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

“About 30,000 of those discouraged voters — most of them in Orange and Osceola counties — likely would have backed Democratic President Obama … About 19,000 voters would have likely backed Republican Mitt Romney … This suggests that Obama’s margin over Romney in Florida could have been roughly 11,000 votes higher than it was, based just on Central Florida results. Obama carried the state by 74,309 votes out of more than 8.4 million cast.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Public Affairs Consultants Inc., one of the oldest and most well respected Public Affairs and Governmental Consulting firms in Florida. The PA Team of Jack and Keyna Cory and Erin Daly have represented clients before the Florida Legislature, state agencies and local governments for over 20 years. They don’t just show up for the legislative session.  Instead they custom design and implement a Grassroots Program for each of their Clients that functions all year long.  As one former legislator stated, “They are tough, well-organized, dedicated to their clients and in full command of the facts.”***

MORNING MUST-READ: WHY HOLDING RICK SCOTT TO CREATING 1.7 MILLION JOBS IS CRAZY TALK by Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

Two years into Scott’s administration, it also becomes harder to distinguish the effects of his policies from the counter-factual — or what would have happened if another governor had been elected.

… The world changed, property values plummeted, and his plan became obsolete. So, how can Scott claim to have created any of those 360,000 jobs?

Future stories will tackle his progress on higher-education reform, regulatory and tort reform (projected to generate 237,700 of his 700,000 jobs) and economic-development initiatives (60,000 jobs projected).

So, the debate over whether it was 1.7 million jobs or 700,000 is largely semantics. Scott hasn’t implemented most of the potentially high-impact policies that were used to model the job-growth.

So before a legitimate cause-and-effect relationship can be implied, a simple baseline question has to be answered: Which of his jobs policies has he actually implemented?

***Walmart and the Walmart Foundation launched “Fighting Hunger Together” a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment through 2015 to help fight hunger in America.  The initiative leverages Walmart’s size and resources to provide nutritious food and the Walmart Foundation’s ability to grant funding to nonprofits that help elevate the issue.  Join Walmart in the fight against hunger by visiting here, Twitter or Facebook, and by asking others to do the same, today.***

GOING INTO EFFECT TODAY via the News Service of Florida

Citizens property rates: Rates for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. customers will begin to rise on Jan. 1. The state-backed insurer is allowed to raise rates up to 10 percent a year under a “glide path” approved by lawmakers that caps rate hikes for the nearly 1.5 million policyholders now insured by Citizens.

Higher minimum wage: The minimum wage in Florida will increase 12 cents to $7.79 an hour on Jan. 1 for the estimated 210,000 minimum wage workers across the state. Under a 2004 constitutional amendment, Florida’s minimum wage is recalculated every year and is tied to the inflation rate. Florida is among 10 states that will increase the threshold on Tuesday. The number of minimum wage jobs is a small percentage of the 7.5 million employed in the Florida workforce. The increase is expected to boost annual incomes of minimum wage workers by about $370 a year, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank that focuses on low-income wage issues. Ninety percent of the low-wage workers are over age 20; 85 percent work 20 hours per week or more; 46 percent have at least some college education, the institute indicated.

New Food code: New laws for food handling go into effect Tuesday, including new categories for safety and sanitation laws, a new inspection process. The new Florida standards put the state in line with a federal Food and Drug Administration-created code used elsewhere. More information here.

PIP changes: Legislative changes to Florida’s no-fault car insurance law go into effect Jan. 1. The measure (HB 119 of 2012) is aimed at reducing fraud with the hope of at least reducing increases in premiums. The two main changes that start Tuesday are that in order for treatment for an injury to be covered under the Personal Injury Protection system, the treatment must be sought within two weeks of a car crash. The other change sets a limit on non-emergency treatment of $2,500, and limits the types of treatments covered. For example, massage therapy and acupuncture will no longer be reimbursed.

Primary care reimbursement rates: The amount Medicaid pays primary care doctors goes up, effective Jan. 1. While federal approval may come later, the rate increase will be retroactive to Tuesday. The reimbursement rates for certain Medicaid services will go up to match what Medicare pays for the same service. The change is part of the federal health care overhaul.

FLASHING HEADLIGHTS TO WARN OF SPEED TRAPS NOW PERMITTED via the Associated Press

Flashing your headlights to alert oncoming drivers that police are lurking on the roadside ahead will no longer be illegal in Florida, though a lawyer who has represented ticketed motorists says a new law legalizing the practice still has loopholes.

A provision legalizing such speed trap warnings is part of a wide-ranging motor vehicle law taking effect Tuesday with the new year. Other changes range from allowing homeless people to get free state identification cards to creating a pair of new specialty license plates. It also would for the first time permit the state to issue specialty driver licenses and ID cards.

DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SPILL RESPONSE

The Florida Commission on Oil Spill Response Coordination has a Tuesday deadline for submitting its report regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response. The commission’s draft recommendations were published in early December and can be found here.

NEW CHIEF OF STAFF, COMMS. DIRECTOR FOR DEPT. OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

The Department of Economic Opportunity  announced that Chad Poppell has been named Chief of Staff and Monica Russell has been named Chief Communications Officer.

Jesse Panuccio, the newly appointed DEO Executive Director said, “Chad brings a breadth of knowledge and experience in government operations and management. Monica has a valuable background in both private – and public – sector communications. I am thrilled that both have agreed to join the DEO team.  With these additions, the management team is eager and ready to fulfill its mission of creating more jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”

Poppell  recently served as the Director of Employee Services at JEA, a municipally owned electric, water, and sewer provider in Jacksonville, and prior to that was the Chief of Human Resources for the City of Jacksonville.

Russell was most recently a partner with the Tallahassee-based consulting firm North Public Relations. She has more than 7 years of experience in both the public and private sectors, and previously worked at the Agency for Workforce Innovation prior to it becoming DEO.

***The Florida Health Care Affordability Summit, taking place in Orlando, Fla., on January 10-11, 2013, will bring some of the most knowledgeable stakeholders in health care to the table – from health plans, hospital executives and health care providers, to some of Florida’s biggest employers and elected officials – to discuss how to make Florida healthier and bring affordable, accessible, quality health care to Floridians. To register to attend or for more information, please visit www.healthcareflorida.com.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to former Senator and now Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett, Geoffrey Becker, and reporter turned blogger extraordinaire Brian Crowley.

HILLARY AND OBAMA MOST ADMIRED: Americans again this year name Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama as the Most Admired Woman and Most Admired Man living in any part of the world. Clinton has been the Most Admired Woman each of the last 11 years, and Obama has been the Most Admired Man five years in a row. First lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Condoleezza Rice are next in line behind Clinton on the Most Admired Woman list, while Nelson Mandela, Mitt Romney, Billy Graham, George W. Bush, and Pope Benedict XVI follow Obama as Most Admired Man.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.