Sunburn for 12/18 — 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.

First and foremost, happy birthday to one of Sunburn’s favorites, AT&T’s Stephanie Smith.

Is there a kinder person in the capital? And what a great life story! Steph Smith is just one of the best, so please join me in wishing her a very happy birthday.

Now, on to politics, right after a message from one of our sponsors…

***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 ***

FISCAL CLIFF TALKS CENTER ON $2 TRILLION PROPOSAL

President Obama and House Speaker Boehner “are discussing a $2 trillion framework on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, that would include roughly a trillion in tax increases and roughly a trillion in savings from entitlement programs,” CNN reports.

“Boehner and the president met in person on Monday, but sources familiar with the talks indicate that the framework under discussion is what Republicans are pushing to get to agreement, but it’s unclear whether the make up of the $2 trillion framework could get support from Democrats.”

Wall Street Journal: “While the White House objected to major parts of the proposal, senior Democrats described it as a tipping point that moves talks away from deadlock. Instead, it cleared the way for both sides to engage in nitty-gritty haggling over exactly where the new income threshold might be set and what should comprise the spending cuts.”

>>>A new USA Today/Gallup Poll finds 66% said both sides should compromise “on their principles and beliefs on tax increases and spending cuts.”

THE NON-RECOVERY RECOVERY IN SOUTH FLORIDA via the Miami Herald

Officially, the recession ended in June 2009. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the national economy began contracting in December 2007 and did not grow again for 19 months. Using taxable sales figures, it’s probably safe to say South Florida experienced a longer downturn. Overall spending contracted for the first time in South Florida in March 2007 and didn’t post a year-over-year gain until February 2010.

“Miami was at the forefront of the housing boom and bust,’’ said Karl Kuykendall, an economist who follows South Florida for IHS Global Insight. “It’s no surprise Miami was early into the recession and somewhat late coming out.”

But whatever the actual duration of the downturn, it doesn’t take much math to realize the economy still feels shaky. South Florida lost its first net job in more than two years in October, when a tiny decline of 300 payroll slots interrupted 26 months of consistent expansion. The upcoming November report out Friday will show whether the losing streak continues.

And while unemployment is off near-record highs set in April 2010, more than 180,000 South Floridians were listed as officially out of work in the last count. That’s almost 90 percent more than the 98,000 people listed as out of work in the first month of the recession.

***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.***

CRIST TO TESTIFY BEFORE US SENATE ON VOTING RIGHTS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Crist will testify Wednesday at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights.

“Crist will offer testimony about the impact of restrictions on voting and the importance of the Voting Rights Act,” read an announcement from Chairman Patrick Leahy’s office. “As Florida governor from 2007 to 2011, long lines at the polls and problems posed by the signature requirements for mail-in ballots prompted Crist to sign an executive order extending early voting.”

The Committee hearing will be Wednesday at 10:00am in the Judiciary Committee hearing room. Testimony and a live webcast will be available on the Committee’s website.

>>>Testifying with Crist will be Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund as well as Gilda Cobb Hunter, a Democratic member of the South Carolina legislature who has opposed voter ID laws.

MORE HEADLINESTimes: Provisional-ballot law prevented little fraud but forced extra workSentinel: Few answers for long lines at Orange, Osceola polls

RANDOLPH THROWS SUPPORT TO TANT IN DEMOCRATIC STATE CHAIR RACE by David Damron of the Orlando Sentinel

The former state lawmaker had been a strong contender for the post himself, but after winning the Nov. 6 race to succeed long-time Tax Collector Earl K. Wood, Randolph opted to drop out of the race.

With another big South Florida departure from the race recently, it looks as though Tant is now a clear frontrunner to take the over statewide chair.

PATRICK MURPHY NAMES ERIC JOHNSON HIS CHIEF OF STAFF

Mark this down as one of the smarter personnel moves made since the elections.

Patrick Murphy, the Democrat who beat U.S. Rep. Allen West in the Treasure Coast’s District 18, has hired his campaign consultant, the smart and savvy Eric Johnson, as his chief of staff. Erin Moffet will serve as Murphy’s spokesperson.

SCARY BLOG POST OF THE DAY: DON’T EXPECT GEORGE LEMIEUX TO GO AWAY by Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

At first glance, LeMieux confronts major challenges to remaining politically viable. In 2009, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by his old ally, then-Gov. Charlie Crist. While LeMieux was Crist’s chief of staff, he supported Marco Rubio in the contest for the Senate seat in 2010, when Crist jumped ship on the Republicans to run for the seat with no party affiliation.

LeMieux clearly enjoyed being in the Senate and hoped to win the Republican nomination in 2012 to challenge long-serving Democrat Bill Nelson and return to the upper chamber. But he gained little traction and, at the urging of state party leaders, pulled out of the race two months before the primary fight to offer an unenthusiastic endorsement of Connie Mack.

While he is still handicapped by his association with Crist, LeMieux is still hoping for a second political act despite his current position as chairman of the board of the Gunster Law Firm. He is only 43 years old, has plenty of time to regroup. Earlier this month, the former senator launched the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University. The university will also archive his papers.

LeMieux is also looking to stay active in national politics. A darling of several prominent national conservative groups and assorted fiscal watchdogs during his brief stay in the Senate — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Taxpayers Union and the Concord Coalition, for example — he has penned editorials in recent weeks on various topics.

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APPOINTED: Jeffrey “Dale” Oliver to the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees

FLORIDA’S RIVERS ARE SICK AND GETTING SICKER by Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s rivers are in trouble.

Of the 22 rivers studied, from Miami to Pensacola, nearly half are in decline because of pollution from lawns, street runoff, wastewater and agriculture, and because of shrinking flows caused by drought and rising demand for water by cities and industries.

Other rivers in the group, while either stable or improving, are profoundly impaired.

Taking care of rivers is difficult and expensive in a state of nearly 20 million residents and in an era of shrinking government budgets and assaults on environmental regulations. Fixing just two rivers, the Kissimmee and St. Johns, which both originate in Central Florida, has cost $2.5 billion so far. Floridians shell out an additional $1 billion a year to various river-related state agencies.

But the state has a compelling reason to protect its rivers: If Florida’s rivers are not healthy, then neither is its water.

GAMING STUDY MAY TAKE TIME

The head of a new Senate gaming committee said his panel wants to study the future of Florida gambling for up to two years before holding public hearings in cities such as Miami, Orlando and Tampa.

“The first thing I need to understand is the complete economic impact of all gambling in the state of Florida,” Sen. Garrett Richter said. “There are a number of interests here. There are the destination casinos that want to come to Florida, there is the jai alai, there is the pari-mutuel facilities that want slot machines, Internet cafes, the Seminole Indians and even McDonald’s and Coca Cola.”

“There are some major challenges,” Richter said about gaming in the state. “I think the financial impact will have some impact but that’s not all nine yards. It’s like the money that goes to education in the (Florida) lottery. Does all the money get there?”

After studying the various gaming interests, Richter said he’d like to have two to four hearings around the state in the same way state senators had a listening tour before redistricting.

ONLINE EDUCATION EXPANSION EYED

The Florida Board of Governors’ Strategic Planning Committee will hold the second day of workshops to discuss expansion of online education. The agenda includes hearing a report from a consulting firm and holding a panel discussion with representatives of public and private universities and colleges and the president of the Florida Council of 100 business group.

***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.”***

LATVALA’S ANNUAL PRODUCE GIVEAWAY TODAY

Oldsmar Cares and Senator Jack Latvala have partnered again this year along with other members of the Pinellas Legislative Delegation and Florida Farm Share to give away fresh produce to families in upper Pinellas County the week before Christmas.

The event will be at the Oldsmar Cares offices located at 163 S.R. 580 West, Oldsmar on Tuesday.

This giveaway begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m. Free produce is available to the public while supplies last. Items to be distributed at this event have included green beans, corn and juice.

When Sen. Latvala served in the Florida Senate from 1994-2002, he initiated Florida Farm Share Free Produce distributions in West Pasco and north Pinellas. In 2011, the Senator had a successful giveaway the week before Christmas at England Brothers Park in Pinellas Park and Oldsmar Cares in Oldsmar.

LEGISLATIVE BRIEFS via the News Service of Florida

BILL WOULD PREVENT FUNERAL PROTESTS

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto filed a bill last week aimed at preventing protests that would disrupt funerals, burials or memorial services. Benacquisto’s proposal (SB 118) would apply to services for members of the military, emergency-response workers, elected officials or minors. People who violate the law could be charged with first-degree misdemeanors.

Earlier this month, Rep. Patrick Rooney filed a similar measure (HB 15), though it would not be limited to services for members of the military, emergency-response workers, elected officials or minors. The issue has surfaced in recent years, largely because a small Kansas church has staged funeral protests to draw attention to its anti-gay views.

DETZNER: ELECTIONS LEGISLATION COMING

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Monday that he has ideas on how to improve the elections process in Florida, but will wait until consulting with his staff to unveil them. Detzner just completed a statewide trip to visit with elections supervisors in several counties whose performance during the November elections was panned. Many of the counties had unique issues, Detzner said, but there were “central themes” that could be addressed through legislation. “I think we have some ideas that can help the citizens and help the electorate vote a little more easy and convenient,” Detzner said. But the secretary of state said he wanted to meet further with his staff and continue to consult with the state’s supervisors of elections before passing his ideas on to Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders.

SACHS BILL TARGETS ‘MALICIOUS’ CAMPAIGN TACTICS 

After winning one of the state’s fiercest legislative elections last month, Sen. Maria Sachs has filed a bill that would crack down on malicious attacks against candidates.

The bill (SB 114) would allow the Florida Elections Commission to impose fines up to $5,000 against candidates, political parties and various types of political committees and organizations if they run ads or do other types of communications that include libel or defamation against an election opponent. The bill says libel or defamation would mean a “false or malicious statement that injures the reputation of a candidate and exposes the candidate to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.” The bill also would require candidates who run ads to attest to their truthfulness within 72 hours.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Claudia Davant, Candice Ericks, David Ericks, Adams St. Advocates: City of Fort Lauderdale

Shawn Foster, Southern Strategies Group: Hernando-Pasco Hospice, Inc

Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Christoper Schoonover, Gerald Wester, Capital City Consulting: Everglades Foundation

Christoper Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: American Traffic Solutions, Inc

***SUNBURN is sponsored in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm.  Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

HAPPY 82ND BIRTHDAY belatedly to Congressman Bill Young.

MEDIA NOTES: Florida Voices is marking its one-year anniversary; The online home for the Palm Beach Politics blog is moving here.

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.