Sunburn for 12/12 — 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.

SUNBURN IN THE DELIVERY ROOM: “Ben and I are so grateful for your exceedingly kind acknowledgement of our little guy’s debut. We have been up for about 72 hours straight and are deliriously sleep deprived and nervous first time parents, so reading Sunburn this morning was a wonderful surprise.” — Eileen Stuart

FISCAL CLIFF TALKS GET SERIOUS

The White House and House Speaker John Boehner’s office held more negotiations on on ways to break the stalemate over the “fiscal cliff,” Reuters reports.

The Wall Street Journal reports talks “have progressed steadily in recent days, people close to the process said, breathing life into talks that appeared to have stalled… The people familiar with the matter say talks have taken a marked shift in recent days as staff and leaders have consulted, becoming more ‘serious.’ Both sides have agreed to keep details private, according to the people, who declined to detail where new ground was being broken.”

Bloomberg notes President Obama has softened his rhetoric about Republicans which “coincides with an acceleration of private meetings and discussions with the clock ticking down on the deadline for a deal.”

DEMONSTRATORS AT REP. JEFF MILLER’S OFFICE FIGHT BENEFIT CUTS AS FISCAL CLIFF NEARS

About 40 demonstrators stood with candles and signs Monday evening in front of U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller’s office in Pensacola to demonstrate their disappointment in possible cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

PROTESTORS RALLY FOR MIDDLE CLASS TAX CUTS IN CONG. BILL YOUNG’S OFFICE by Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing

As the office closed, Young arrived flanked by St. Pete College police officers as well as staff members, including Glenn. One particularly persistent activist went on to loudly ask Young on his stances while getting into close proximity of the 81-year old congressman. It did not end well. Young grabbed the activist by the arm and raised his cane, largely looking like he was attempting to strike the protester until both were separated by the police officers present.

SOUTH FLORIDA POLS STICKING TO PARTY LINES ON FISCAL CLIFF by Erika Bolstad of the Miami Herald

Don’t expect South Florida’s congressional delegation to stray too far from party lines when it comes to dancing on the edge of the fiscal cliff, the end-of-the-year spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect if Congress and the president don’t address them.

Democrats are firmly with President Barack Obama, whose proposal seeks to raise $600 billion over a decade by eliminating tax deductions and $960 billion over the same period by raising tax rates for the top 2 percent of income earners. Many Democrats sounded as though the highly charged presidential campaign was still under way.

Republicans are just as committed to their party.

There’s been “no evidence thus far” that Republicans are truly interested in the middle class, said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

***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.”***

ROLL CALL: BILL NELSON “LUCKIEST” POLITICIAN OF 2012

Rothenberg Political Report editor Stuart Rothenberg, writing a best-and-worst-of-2012 piece in Roll Call, says Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is the luckiest politician in America.

Nelson got 55.2 percent in November to defeat Republican Rep. Connie Mack, who according to Rothenberg “raised little money and apparently figured that oozing cockiness was the best way to woo reporters and voters.”

It’s the third time in a row Nelson has been blessed with a “mediocre” Republican foe, Rothenberg says, noting that Nelson beat former Rep. Bill McCollum in 2000 and the Katherine Harris train wreck in 2006.

CHARLIE CRIST, DEMOCRATIC FRONT RUNNER? via Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post

If Crist runs, he’d have a good shot at winning the Democratic nomination because of the groundwork he laid during the 2012 campaign, and the party’s relatively thin bench in the state.

FLORIDA DEMOCRATS WARY AS NATIONAL PARTY EMBRACES CRIST by Beth Reinhard of National Journal

The embrace from the Democratic establishment as Crist weighs a campaign for his old job carries faint echoes of 2009; only then it was the national Republican Party closing ranks around Crist immediately after he launched a U.S. Senate bid. The early endorsement of the sitting governor over then-underdog Marco Rubio culminated in a giant comeuppance for the Republican Party, as the tea party-infused grassroots revolted against the ideologically squishy governor and the top-down political establishment.

ATWATER NOT SURPRISED via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union

“I’m not surprised by it,” Atwater said with a laugh. “He’s been a Republican, he’s been an Independent, he’s now a Democrat in what’s probably a 48-month period. I don’t know what’s left, maybe there are some other parties out there that would like his participation and might start soliciting.”

RUBIO SAYS HE WOULD HELP SCOTT DEFEAT CRIST by Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

“Why did he change parties when he ran against me to run as an independent? Because he couldn’t get elected as a Republican, not because his principles changed,” Rubio said. “I’ll let him speak to his motives and what he believes in. Voters are going to examine all that and make a decision based on what they think is right for their future. I think Rick Scott’s going to have a great story to tell two years from now and I expect he’ll be re-elected. I think he’ll win convincingly if his general election opponent is Charlie Crist. We’ll find out.”

(Asked by reporter) Will you actively help Scott? “Absolutely.”

TWEET, TWEET: @adamsmithtimes: “today I took my Charlie Crist t-shirts to Salvation Army,” emails longtime Crist friend (moderate Repub)

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by the Smart Justice Summit. With an eye towards creating Smart Justice legislation for the state, the Florida Smart Justice Summit will convene December 12-14 to develop a far-reaching initiative that offers common sense ideas to improve outcomes, reduce costs and enhance public safety for the people of Florida. For more information, visit JusticeSummit.org.***

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS HAND OUT HEFTY RAISES TO TOP STAFFERS by Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, who were sworn in last month, immediately hired new chiefs of staff and paid them more than taxpayers pay elected state Cabinet members. They are paying 62 top policy advisors and staff directors more than $100,000 a year each, and they gave pay raises totaling $252,000 to their 17 highest paid employees.

Giving out the most in raises was Gaetz who promoted 10 people already making more than $100,000 a year in state jobs. The biggest promotion went to his top aide, Chris Clark, whose salary jumped from $77,000 as an aide in Gaetz’s legislative office to $150,000 as the Senate president’s chief of staff. Clark started in the Legislature in 1994, making $12,771 a year. Gaetz said his salary is commensurate with those who have held the job before.

BILL REPEALING ETHANOL LAW IS BACK via the Florida Current

A bill that would repeal a state requirement that gasoline contain ethanol has been filed again.

Rep. Matt Gaetz filed HB 4001 last week. The bill repeals the Florida Renewable Fuel Standard Act of 2008 requiring that gasoline contain 9 to 10 percent ethanol.

Gaetz filed an identical bill a year ago in advance of the 2012 legislative session, saying that ethanol damages some motors and engines and that ethanol production harms the environment by using energy. His bill won support from some tea party groups but faced opposition from ethanol producers.

The bill passed the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee by a 10-4 vote and died without a vote in its final committee stop, the State Affairs Committee. The Senate version of the bill also died without a vote in its next committee after passing one committee stop.

Gaetz got language inserted into HB 7117 saying that the state law does not prohibit retailers from selling unblended gasoline.

“Last year I sort of got what I could,” Gaetz said. “And it was helpful. I think there are now more gas stations selling ethanol-free gas than a year ago. It has been made somewhat more clear there is not a penalty (in state law).”

DON’T FORGET FASANO, CORCORAN & LEGG’S FARMSHARE HOLIDAY FOOD GIVEAWAY THIS FRIDAY

State Representatives Mike Fasano, Richard Corcoran and Senator John Legg announced today that the annual Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway will be held on December 14 from 10:00 to Noon.  The giveaway, which includes fresh food donated by Florida’s farmers, will be held at Redeemer Community Church located at 9230 Ridge Road in New Port Richey.  All needy families are welcome.

“We are once again blessed to work with farmers throughout Florida to provide food at this special time of the year,” Representative Fasano states.  “When so many Floridians are hurting it is wonderful to see our community come together to serve others.”

Every year over 500 plus families are provided with food and other items they need to have a complete holiday dinner.  In addition to food from Farm Share, donations from Publix, AT&T and other individuals and organizations make the event possible.

For more information about the giveaway please contact the office of Representative Fasano at (727) 848-5885.

GOP COUNTY PARTY ELECTIONS

In Bay County, Melissa Thompson defeated current chair John Salak on Monday night.

In Hillsborough, State Senator Tom Lee added to his duties by winning the chairmanship of the county party.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Shawn Foster, Southern Strategies Group: R’Club Child Care, Inc & Wheelchair Transport Service, Inc

***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.***

BLOG POST OF THE DAY: NO MORE FLORI-DUH by Mike Thomas of theEDFLY.com

The people at PIRLS administer a very comprehensive reading test to fourth graders in 53 international education systems, most of them nations like Singapore, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Denmark and so on. There are a few pieces of nations included, like Hong Kong and Florida, which asked to be entered on its own, a very risky move considering that if it backfired, we would be wearing a global dunce cap.

… As an independent nation, Florida kids were bested only by Hong Kong. … This is despite the fact that 56 percent of Florida students are low-income and 57 percent are minority, both higher than the national average.

FLORIDA DEBT LOAD DROPS FOR SECOND YEAR via the News Service of Florida

Florida’s debt load will fall next year for the second time in two years, a $2 billion drop since 2010 that will position the state to go below its debt target for the first time since 2008. Division of Bond Finance director Ben Watkins told the governor and Cabinet Tuesday that the state is slated to go below its 7 percent debt cap, thanks in large part to reductions in bonding programs including Florida Forever and Public Educaton Capital Outlay construction projects. Florida’s total direct debt, which is paid for with taxes, is $26.2 billion. Combined with other debt not directly associated with state tax revenue, a list that includes Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, the state’s debt load is $43.7 billion. Florida ranks favorably with 10 other large states, ranking eighth in the amount of debt and pension obligations.

FLORIDA IS ONCE AGAIN A TOP RELOCATION DESTINATION

More Americans regained their mobility this year, led by a rush of middle-class northerners who had been forced to wait out the economy before retiring to Florida. More New Yorkers trekked to Florida than any other interstate migration — a strong sign that Florida’s growth model is beginning to rebound from the prolonged pause of the Great Recession.

SMART JUSTICE SUMMIT OPENS

The Florida Smart Justice Summit opens with a reception on Wednesday evening at which the speakers include Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle. The summit continues through Friday.

STATE APPEALING DECISION ON SUBPOENAING REPORTER MATT DIXON IN CASE VS. JENNIFER CARROLL AIDE via the News Service of Florida

Prosecutors will appeal a Leon County judge’s decision rejecting an attempt to subpoena a Florida Times-Union reporter in a criminal case against one of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll’s aides, the Times-Union reported Tuesday. Circuit Court Judge Frank Sheffield quashed the subpoena last month, saying prosecutors hadn’t proven that the information they want from Matt Dixon, the paper’s Tallahassee report, can’t be obtained from other sources.

Under a limited privilege granted to journalists, prosecutors are supposed to show that there are no other avenues for gathering evidence before they subpoena reporters. Carletha Cole has been charged with illegally sharing with Dixon a recording of a conversation with Carroll’s chief of staff.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @StephSmithFL: You still refer to DCF as HRS. #SignsYouHaveBeenInSystemToLong

***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Ron Sachs Communication. 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 ***

CAN’T WAIT TO READ: Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who wrote the best seller Game Change about the 2008 presidential campaign, will publish a book about the just-concluded election under the title Double Down: Game Change 2012, the New York Times reports. The book will be out in fall 2013.

GOV. SCOTT AND FIRST LADY LIT THE STATE’S CHRISTMAS TREE: Photo here.

HAPPY TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY: It’s easy to start a PR firm, but it’s not easy to keep it open. Kevin Cate Communications turns two this week. Cate works with more speed and strategy than most, which is why his firm has been successful. Yesterday, he released a web video talking about what makes his firm different. Congrats, Kevin. 

IS SANTA A DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN: In a new PPP poll: 44% of respondents said Santa was a Democrat while 28% say he is a Republican.

MUST-SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The fight to end homelessness by the year 2020 — the stated mission of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness in their 2010 plan — progress isn’t happening fast enough, argues Adam Peck of ThinkProgress, who offers this infographic showing that homelessness could be ended with the money Americans spend on Christmas decorations.

TOP TWEET: The year’s top tweet was President Obama’s “Four More Years” message on Election Night, according to Twitter.

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.