Sunburn for 11/11 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***

FIRST AND FOREMOST: DO YOU BELONG ON THE LIST OF FLA’S TOP TWEETERS?

Each month, SaintPetersBlog had been posting the rankings of the state’s Top Political Tweeters, but a few months ago, the wonderful staffer-nerd who maintained “The List” graduated from college/went off to college/whatever. So we had to put the list back together again. It’s about 90% complete, but we know there are a lot of Political Tweeters who aren’t on the list but should be.

That’s where we need your help. 

If you think you or one of your fellow Tweeters belongs on this list, let us know. Email me at saintpeter4@gmail.com with your name, Twitter handle and Klout.com score

When it comes to determining the Top Tweeters, we prioritize quality, not quantity. The rankings are based on someone’s Klout score.  When someone engages with your content, Klout assesses that action in the context of the person’s own activity. These principles form the basis of their PeopleRank algorithm which determines your Score based on how many people you influence, how much you influence them and how influential they are.

To qualify for this list, more than 50% of your Tweets have to be about Florida politics.

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HAPPY VETERANS DAY!

COMPILATION OF VETERANS DAY MESSAGE FROM FLORIDA’S ELECTED OFFICIALS AND POLITICIANS here.

STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT

“This weekend, Ann and I join all Americans as we express our appreciation for the brave men and women who served our great nation. The bravery and sacrifice of our veterans has preserved and protected the American Dream for generations.”

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Bill Helmich: “The big announcement is….. VET PAC, a non-partisan PAC that will be dedicated to supporting Veteran and Pro-Veteran candidates. Please like the page and consider helping out the cause.” Click here to visit VET PAC.

 

FREE ENTRANCE TO FLORIDA STATE PARKS TODAY 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is celebrating Veterans Day with free park entry for everyone at state parks today. The Florida Park Service encourages residents and visitors to celebrate veterans and active military personnel by bringing them to one of the 171 state parks and trails to enjoy outdoor activities. 

“Veterans Day offers a wonderful opportunity to spend time with a veteran,” said Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service, “I encourage you to invite a veteran to visit a Florida State Park with you. You can then spend the day hiking, bicycling, picnicking, bird watching or a variety of other outdoor activities.” 

As the newest member of the park system, residents will be able to enjoy free entry to Silver Springs State Park in Ocala for the first time. Silver Springs opened as a state park on Oct. 1 after months of renovations to improve facilities and enhance water quality and the environment. The Museum and Environmental Education Center ($2 per person) and the glass bottom boats tours ($9.99 per person) will be available for visitors. 

Florida State Parks also preserve an abundance of historical and cultural sites that honor the nation’s fallen service members. In Apalachicola, visitors can pay respect to Vietnam Veterans at Orman House Historic State Park’s Three Servicemen Statue, a bronze replica of the Vietnam memorial statue in Washington, D.C. For Veterans Day, several parks are hosting special events, including Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach, which is hosting the History of the American Soldier event and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park in Homosassa, where volunteers are organizing a gift drive project for soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

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OBAMA STRUGGLES TO REGAIN IS CREDIBILITY via Dan Balz of the Washington Post

President Obama likes to say he will never again be running for office, but every Democrat knows he will be on the ballot figuratively in 2014, and 2016, as well. Right now they are rightly nervous about that prospect.

A president famous for his unflappability, he is now struggling to square assurances that he is on top of the problems confronting his administration with assertions that he was unaware of the problems as they were developing.

WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS MODE via the New York Times

President Obama’s anger, described by a White House that has repeatedly sought to show that the president was unaware of the extent of the website’s problems, has lit a fire under the West Wing staff.

Senior aides are racing to make sure the website is fixed by the end of the month as they confront the political fallout from presidential promises, now broken, that all Americans who liked their existing health care plans could keep them… Inside the White House, there is anxiety that if the health care problems are not righted, they could imperil the rest of Mr. Obama’s presidency, especially as criticism grows that the president misled consumers about the plan.

Politico: “While the failure of the HealthCare.gov website cast doubt on the administration’s competence, the broken promise threatened to damage the president’s personal credibility — the trump card that has saved him in the darkest days of two presidential campaigns and five years in the Oval Office.”

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OBAMA RAISES CASH IN MIAMI — WITH CRIST AS GUEST via Lesley Clark of the Miami Herald

President Obama arrived in Miami to headline three Democratic Party fundraisers hosted by the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Florida’s newest high-profile Democrat, former Gov. Charlie Crist, was spotted at the Segovia Tower in Coral Gables at a $32,000-a-head fundraiser hosted by personal injury attorney Ralph G. Patino.

Obama moved next to a fundraiser hosted by Jorge Mas Santos, a Cuban American National Foundation leader and CEO of MasTec . There, the president thanked Mas Santos, who stood next to him, and singled out U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Mike Bennett of Colorado. 

Obama referred to his administration’s decision to relax travel restrictions on Cuba and said, “we’ve started to see changes on the island,”  adding the U.S. needs to be “creative and thoughtful” and continue to update out Cuba policies.  

Obama noted that former President Geoge W. Bush once backed the immigration overhaul, but “it’s being held up by a small faction in the Republican Party that says ‘we don’t want to do anything. Our main goal is obstruction.’”

He said the faction needs to learn “there’s a price to pay when you don’t act.”

At the last fundraiser, hosted by Leslie Miller Saiontz, a philanthropist/real-estate and building businesswoman, the president said he has “never been more optimistic” about the country and he said he’s “confident there’s goign to be an adjustment process for Republicans “if they’re rewarded for cooperation.” 

SPOX SAYS OBAMA NOT ENDORSING CRIST JUST YET via William March of the Tampa Tribune

Obama isn’t endorsing Charlie Crist or anyone else in the Florida governor’s race yet, but has strong reasons to be favorable to Crist, Obama’s spokesman told a group of reporters.

Asked whether Obama supports Crist’s candidacy, spokesman Josh Earnest responded, “Mr. Crist is somebody who was a very strong supporter of the president’s re-election.  And the president was certainly pleased to have his support.  Then-Governor Crist, as you know, famously worked closely with the president to implement the Recovery Act, which was very important in helping the economy across the country and the economy in Florida bounce back from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“In terms of the governor’s race in 2014, I don’t have any endorsements to announce at this point. I’m actually not even sure that the field is set in that race, so I don’t want to get ahead of the game on that front.”

CRIST HIRES FORMER FDP STAFFER AS FINANCE DIRECTOR via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

Crist’s campaign has hired Greg Goddard to be his Florida finance director.

Goddard had been working as deputy finance director for the Florida Democratic Party in charge of North Florida. He was previously a top fundrasier for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Goddard is the second fundraiser Crist has hired from FDP. Michael Hoffman, the party’s former deputy finance director overseeing South Florida, will serve as Crist’s deputy finance director.

Jessica Clark is Crist’s overall finance director.

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APPOINTED:  Juan A. Selaya to the Broward County Housing Authority.

GOV. SCOTT’S DELAY ON KEY APPOINTMENT LIKELY AVOIDED EMBARRASSMENT via Steve Bousquet of the Times/Herald 

As the Florida political world knows all too well, Gov. Rick Scott takes his time in filling appointments to boards, commissions and vacancies that arise as a result of deaths or resignations by public officials. A good example is the Commission on Ethics, where the terms of four of five Scott appointees expired last June, but they soldier on as lame-duck members. 

In one high-profile case, however, Scott’s failure to act may have spared him a major embarrassment. It’s the case involving a plot to fraudulently spring two convicted murderers from a state prison.

Last May, Orange County Clerk of Courts Lydia Gardner, a highly respected public servant who was serving her fourth term, died in office after a long battle with cancer. Six months later, Scott has not named a replacement. The office is being run by Colleen Reilly, Gardner’s top deputy, who was appointed interim clerk by Orange County Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry. 

Yes — Belvin Perry. Ring a bell? It should. He’s the judge whose signature was doctored to make it appear that he shortened the prison terms of two killers, Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins, who were sprung from the Franklin Correctional Institution in recent weeks with doctored papers that were processed by the Orange County clerk’s office. Both convicts were soon captured in Panama City Beach. 

Scott’s critics would have had a field day if the phony paperwork had been approved by one of his appointees (imagine this headline: Did Scott’s appointee help free killers?) No one in the clerk’s office has been directly implicated in any wrongdoing, but FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey told legislators this week that the criminal probe is continuing and that arrests are expected. Scott is expected to appoint a clerk for Orange County in the next few weeks.

RICK SCOTT QUIETLY SHOWING HISPANICS HE WILL FIGHT FOR THEIR VOTE via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

Three years ago newspapers were full of Charlie Crist’s minorities mischief. Taking heat from both blacks and Hispanics, Crist was branded an egotist whose efforts to undermine Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio smacked of racial insensitivity. If Crist had raised the tiniest finger in aid of either minority group during his term in the Florida governor’s office, it certainly was lost to the public consciousness in October 2010.

The blow was Politico’s report that Crist was involved in getting Bill Clinton to persuade Democratic nominee Meek to drop his own bid and endorse Crist so he could deny Republican Rubio the Senate seat. Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings remarked at the time, “This is going to cause African-Americans and Hispanics to be mad and vote in greater numbers than they were likely to before this incident.” That was then.

Felix Majores, Central Florida businessman and a contributor to Democratic candidates most of his life, told Sunshine State News, “Charlie’s going to be an easy sell to the Latino community, especially in South Florida. Scott looks right past Latinos and appoints Anglo after Anglo. He just did it again when there was a vacancy in the 3rd DCA. “I think all you have to do is look at how many more Latino appointments Charlie Crist made when he was governor to see why Latinos feel more appreciated with Charlie back.”

Actually, Majores is wrong. During his period in office, Scott has been matching, or bettering, Crist’s record for appointing Hispanics to government jobs, including judicial appointments:

In Crist’s four years, of the 180 judicial appointments he made, 16 are Hispanic. That’s 8.8 percent. In less than three years, Scott made 123 judicial appointments, 13 of which are Hispanic. That’s 10.57 percent. Of Crist’s 2,427 nonjudicial appointments in four years, 206 are Hispanic. That’s 8.49 percent. In less than three years, Scott made 1,534 nonjudicial appointments. That’s 8.47 percent.

Certainly Scott missed an opportunity when he had two solid Hispanic candidates in Jorge Cueto and Jose Rodriguez, but replaced retiring Judge Angel A. Cortinas with Edwin A. Scales III on the 3rd District Court of Appeal. In fact, it was the second time in a row Scott passed over a qualified Hispanic on the DCA.

But with Crist and the rest of the Democrats sharpening their knives and preparing to skew the numbers, quiet may not work. Scott may have to do a lot more showing than telling. It’s unlikely that three and four years later, Alcee Hastings’ prediction will still ring true — that African-Americans and Hispanics will remember and stay mad at Charlie Crist.

As Scott’s pollster, Tony Fabrizio, explained it to the Miami-Dade Republican Women’s Club, minority outreach — especially outreach to Florida’s 4.354 million Hispanics — is key. It’s everything. Minority outreach can make the difference in the 2014 election.

“Otherwise, we’re going to be the party of whites in an electorate, in a shrinking electoral pool, that we can’t win,” Fabrizio said. “Yeah, so we get 65 percent of the white vote. But if they’re only 65 percent of the vote, guess what? You can’t win.”

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REP. KATHLEEN PETERS CONSIDERING RUN FOR CD 13? via Alexis Muellner of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

Reached Sunday, Peters told the Business Journal she has had a lot of encouragement to consider the move. To weigh it all out, she’s been contacting people in north and south ends of Pinellas County to discuss the situation. That has included in-depth dialogue with business, community and nonprofit leaders, and members of her advisory team she put together when she was elected to her District 69 seat a year ago to talk in great detail about whether she should run.

She declined to name those people, yet.

“The key questions are, is there support in the community for me to have that position? Do we have that ability in a short time to raise the money we need to run such a campaign, and is it the right fit for me and my family?”

She is weighing it out, and that includes a dozen more calls Sunday.

She said she plans to make her final decision sometime Monday.

FLASHBACK QUOTE: “I really don’t think the timing is right for a Washington lobbyist to move to our district and run for Congress,” said state Sen. Jack Latvala last week. “I will guarantee you there will be another candidate besides him.”

RICK BAKER ENDORSES DAVID JOLLY

“We need a leader who will be a strong voice for our community and a strong leader in Washington to help turn back the tide of irresponsible federal spending and debt,” said Baker. “David Jolly knows Pinellas and has worked to support Congressman Young’s many efforts – from industry to tourism to the support of our veterans.  David won’t need a guidebook to know where to start and what to do.”

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GAETZ, WEATHERFORD AND BONDI BLAST MEDICAL MARIJUANA AMENDMENT IN FORMAL COURT BRIEFS via Rochelle Koff of the Miami Herald 

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz filed a brief to the Supreme Court Friday afternoon opposing a proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment on Friday afternoon, stating it’s “misleading and inaccurate rhetoric.” 

Their objections largely mirror arguments by Attorney General Pam Bondi, who also filed her brief against the amendment late Fridayafternoon. She said the proposal “hides the fact that the Amendment would make Florida one of the most lenient medical-marijuana states, allowing use for limitless ‘other conditions’ specified by any physician.” 

Ben Pollara, People United for Medical Marijuana’s campaign manager, said arguments by Bondi and the legislative leaders are “a misrepresentation of our amendment” and said accusations that the amendment would make Florida one of the most lenient states “way off base.” 

People United has collected more than 200,000 petitions (121,592 have been validated) to get the amendment on the ballot in 2014 — the group will need at least 683,149 signatures by Feb. 1 — if the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t shoot it down first. 

The Court is slated to hear oral arguments on the ballot initiative Dec. 5. 

“This ‘60s era reefer madness hysteria has to stop,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens who has proposed medical marijuana legislation for three years. “It’s a drug that should be regulated like any other drug. It should to be up to the physician what’s best for their patient.”

MUST-READ — JOHN MORGAN: MY DYING DAD’S PAIN INSPIRED PUSH FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel 

John Morgan’s dad wouldn’t eat. Radiation treatments for his esophageal cancer had burned out Ramon Morgan’s throat and deadened his taste buds. He twisted himself into a fetal position, hallucinating from the pain and drugs he was prescribed and tied to an oxygen tank to help him breathe. Morgan’s younger brother, Tim, who was paralyzed from the neck down in high school, had a suggestion that had helped him: Smoke marijuana. 

“The first time he did it, [the housekeeper] made him a pot-roast dinner, and he ate the whole dinner and had a Miller Lite,” Morgan recalled. “He said it was a miracle.” This is what Morgan, one of Florida’s top political fundraisers, says is driving him to lead the fight to legalize medical marijuana in the state. 

He wants Florida to join the ranks of 20 other states where medicinal-marijuana use is allowed. Through September, he had poured $400,000 into the campaign to place a medical-marijuana constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot. 

That figure could grow past $1 million as the chairman for People United for Medical Marijuana tries to make a February deadline to gather the 683,149 required voter signatures. The group says it has more than 200,000 signatures gathered so far. 

Last week, Crist, a lawyer in Morgan’s firm, announced his bid for governor in 2014 as a Democrat. Morgan has made it a point since 2010 to keep Crist’s face plastered on Morgan & Morgan billboards across the state and is expected to help finance his campaign. Business groups supporting Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election see the marijuana amendment as a mobilization effort for Crist. 

Crist has said he supports legalizing medical marijuana. And Morgan has admitted asking former Obama campaign strategists whether the amendment would likely have any effect on the 2014 race. 

Already, Republicans are lining up against the amendment. 

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz plan to fight it when it goes before the Florida Supreme Court for reviewDec. 5. Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office also will argue before the court that the question’s ballot summary and title are misleading. They say the amendment could lead to pot stores cropping up in strip malls and neighborhoods. The amendment summary says it would authorize “the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” 

The actual ballot language defines “debilitating medical condition” as diseases such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.” That could allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for anything, critics say.

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LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND

With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round. 

Still on: Samantha Bierwiler switched from legislative research assistant to legislative analyst in the House Office of the Majority Whip.

Off: Vincent Aldridge left his position as an attorney for the House Finance & Tax Subcommittee. 

On: Sharon Bradford is the new deputy staff director of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

On: Bradley Butler as an attorney for the House Business & Professional Regulation Subcommittee.

On: Susie Futch as Rep. Ben Albritton’s district secretary.

On: Edward Garza as Rep. Kionne McGhee’s district secretary.

Off: Tricia Hall is no longer Rep. Steve Precourt’s district secretary.

On: Jason Harrell replaced Brad Herold as deputy staff director in the House Majority Leader’s Office.

Off:  Jessica Koburger is no longer a legislative research assistant in the House Office of the Minority Leader.

On: Amanda Neeld as Rep. Matt Gaetz’s district secretary. (Have fun with that!)

On: Stefano Perez replaced Sarah Larsen as Rep. Matt Hudson’s district secretary.

On: Jared Rosenstein as Rep. Bill Hager’s district secretary.

On: Sarah Schmuck as Rep. Clay Ingram’s district secretary. 

Off: Jessie Spradley is no longer with Rep. Charles McBurney’s office

On: Corey Staniscia as Rep. George Moraitis’s legislative assistant.

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DEMOCRAT (AND POPULAR PROF) JUDITHANNE MCLAUCHLAN TAKES AIM AT JEFF BRANDES

Judithanne McLauchlan, a popular associate professor at The University of South Florida St. Petersburg and prominent Democratic fundraiser and organizer, filed on Thursday to run in Senate District 22, setting the stage for a showdown with Republican incumbent Jeff Brandes in a battleground district that spans Tampa Bay.

McLauchlan’s résumé includes jobs in the Clinton administration, working as the political and field director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party and serving as the lead organizer in Florida for Kerry for President in 2004, according to a briefing in the Florida Current.

McLauchlan, the wife of former Pinellas Democratic Party chair Ramsay McLauchlan, is often cited by the media as an expert of Tampa Bay and Florida politics. A Google search of her name returns a long list of mentions in press stories about this campaign or that election.

No matter what her expertise is in politics, McLauchlan faces a daunting challenge by attempting to unseat Brandes, a former Army veteran who now oversees his family’s sprawling lumber and real-estate concerns.

Brandes ran virtually unopposed in the 2012, defeating a write-in candidate, but impressed many observers during the primary when he edged out longtime former lawmaker Jim Frishe with nearly 57 percent of the vote, reports the Current. Prior to that he narrowly defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Bill Heller in a race the Republican Party of Florida targeted very vocally.

TWEET, TWEET: @KirkPepper: Looks like it’ll be fall in Pinellas for me next year. cc: @JeffreyBrandes @CWBill2 @ChrisLatvala @ChrisSprowls

SPEAKER DESIGNATE STEVE CRISAFULLI DRAWS AN OPPONENT

The Republican leader in charge of winning House campaigns for the GOP has drawn a Democratic opponent.

Democrat Joseph Murray filed on Friday to challenge Steve Crisafulli for his District 51 seat in Brevard County. Crisafulli is the Speaker Designate for the 2015-16 legislative sessions.

Crisafulli is probably not too worried. After all, District 51 leans heavily toward the GOP, with 46,679 registered Republicans and 38,993 registered Democrats in HD 51, according to the Florida Division of Elections. Crisafulli’s also raised to date more than $222,883 for his re-election bid. 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS…

… GREG EVERS FUNDRAISING RECEPTION ON NOV. 14 

Sen. Greg Evers, along with Senate leadership, invite you to a fundraising reception on Thursday, Nov. 14, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Palafox House.

… AARON BEAN FUNDRAISING LUNCHEON SET FOR NOV. 15

Join Senate leadership on Friday, Nov. 15, for a fundraising luncheon to benefit Sen. Aaron Bean. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at EverBank Field.

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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Greg Black, Andy Palmer, Herb Sheheane, Metz Husband & Daughton: North Florida Water Working Group (NFWWG)

Travis Blanton, Melanie Brown, Amy Christian, Jon Johnson, Blanton & Johnson: Florida Keys Area Health Education Center, Inc.

Melanie Bostick, Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Disaster, Strategies and Ideas Group, LLC

Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Capital Strategies, Inc.

Danny Jordan, One Eighty Consulting: Florida Keys Area Health Education Center, Inc.; Truven Health Analytics

Jeff Kottkamp, Messer Caparello: Florida Alliance of the Boys & Girls Clubs

David Rancourt, Champion Consultants LLC: Leon County Schools

***101 RESTAURANT and MINT MARTINI BAR welcomes you back to Tallahassee.  A block from the Capitol, 101 is open for lunch and dinner every day.  For reservations please click on www.101tally.com or call us at 850-391-1309. Mint Martini Bar opens Tuesday to Saturday at 5 pm.  This weeks line up: Tuesday (Karaoke), Wednesday (Wine Down Wednesday featuring Dan Fester), Thursday (live music), Friday (Fat Tire Friday with Fester), Saturday (Socialite Saturday with Deep House).*** 

ICYM THEM: BIG SUNDAY READS

BARRON PUSHES FSU TO EXCEL, BOOST FACULTY via Doug Blackburn of the Tallahassee Democrat 

It’s truly remarkable how much the tenor has changed at Florida State since Eric Barron returned to lead his alma mater in February 2010. The university has steadily climbed in the national rankings, up from the low 50s to No. 40 in the most recent listing of premier public institutions. Make no mistake: a top 25 spot is in its crosshairs. Every bit as important, the state has emerged from a ghastly recession, allowing Florida’s lawmakers earlier this year to grant FSU and University of Florida preeminence status, which equates to an additional $15 million a year for five years for each institution to further raise its national profile. But it’s more than that. A faculty that was almost ready to revolt in 2009 now is singing Barron’s praises with gusto. 

“I think the relationship between the faculty and the administration was definitely at a low before Eric got here. He got a honeymoon period, and frankly he’s never left that honeymoon,” FSU computer science professor and Faculty Senate President Gary Tyson said following Barron’s fourth annual State of the University address Thursday. “He’s always been a straight shooter with us. 

“We’re very happy, and now that we’re not shrinking — now that we’re actually getting resources — we’re that much happier,” Tyson added. “We’ve seen even without the resources Eric was a huge benefit to the university. Now, with the resources, I think many of the resources came because of him. I think preeminence is his idea, really.” 

Barron attempted to put the preeminence legislation into perspective during his 35-minute speech before a half-full auditorium at Ruby Diamond Concert Hall. The 62-year-old climatologist turned university administrator wanted to make sure the faculty at Florida State understand what is coming their way. 

That will go a long way toward improving FSU’s dismal 26-1 student-faculty ratio, the worst among the nation’s top 70 public research institutions, Barron said, but will still leave the university short of the 640 needed to reach the 18-1 ratio that would place FSU among the top 25 today. 

Barron, repeatedly thanked faculty for their innovation and devotion to the university, showed some of the swagger associated with FSU’s No. 3-ranked football team, a subject he did not touch on during his talk. As he reviewed some of FSU’s “big ideas” — new interdisciplinary centers designed to be prime candidates for federal grants and contracts as well as for donor gifts — Barron made it clear that he believes FSU is carving out a reputation that will be the envy of many across the nation.

CITRUS GREENING THREATENS FLORIDA ORANGE INDUSTRY via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

It’s the looming disaster many Floridians still don’t know about, the equivalent of a “zombie apocalypse” for the state’s multibillion-dollar citrus industry.  An incurable malady called citrus greening attacks the fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually kills the tree. Florida’s famed oranges are most at risk.

“It’s running rampant,” said Thonotosassa grower Tom Folsom, whose family has farmed for more than 100 years. “We have hundreds of acres just standing there dead. “I’ve had to push down other trees standing since the 1800s,” he added. “My great-granddaddy planted them. It’s hard to imagine.”

He has lost 1,200 acres of groves in the last three years. The disease, which scientists refer to by its Asian name of “huanglongbing,” is now all over the world and in all 32 citrus-producing counties in Florida, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

“There is no question that this is an existential threat to the industry,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said in June. With growers reporting losses of up to 40 percent of their fruit, at risk are more than 75,000 jobs and $9 billion in revenue that citrus generates in the state. Florida accounts for 65 percent of all U.S. citrus, with California a distant second at 32 percent.

Folsom didn’t give numbers but said he drastically cut hiring for picking season over the years as his orange production plummeted: “I can’t tell you I’m making any money at it anymore.”

For next year, the Florida Department of Citrus asked lawmakers for a $58.3 million budget — down $3.8 million from the current year — because of lower revenue from declining citrus crops. The budget request includes about $4 million for greening research.

The enemy is an invader from Asia called a psyllid, or jumping plant louse, and the killer bacteria it harbors. It was first noticed in Florida about eight years ago. The bugs, about the size of a printed letter “o,” feed on citrus leaves and infect the trees with the bacteria as they go. Researchers are looking into ways to cure the disease or to grow a strain of citrus resistant to the bacteria.

In September, Bayer CropScience and Florida Specialty Crop Foundation announced a three-year grant program for greening research. A $200,000 grant was given to Florida’s Citrus Research and Development Foundation in Lake Alfred. That’s after growers put more than $60 million of their own money into the fight against greening over the last seven years. The Legislature approved another $8 million last session. For now, Folsom is spraying his crops with insecticide every 30 days — a costly and mostly ineffective effort, he said.

Folsom, one of those with a heritage of orange growing, said he doesn’t know how much longer he can hold on.  “We survived (citrus) canker, we survived freezes,” he said. “Now, we’re just trying to hold on to what we have. It’s almost impossible. It’s a bleak situation.”

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CONGRATULATIONS to Marian Johnson on the birth of the her first great-grand baby, Adysen Brooke Johnson.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Rep. Dana Young, one of the sharpest, yet kindest members of the Florida Legislature. Celebrating today is the Tampa Bay Times Craig Pittman.

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.