Sunburn for 12/20 — 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.

A note about the publication schedule through the remainder of the holidays. It’s likely Sunburn will be cooling off during Christmas week, although we reserve the right to turn the heat back up if news warrants. Regardless, Sunburn will be back on your Galaxy IIIs, iPhones or whatever other devices you receive for Christmas in the new year.

Please check out my op-ed for Florida Voices. It offers a helpful gift guide for Santa as he decides what political presents to place under the tree. Among two of my favorites ‘gifts’ I’d give:

For Charlie Crist — A very long cruise in a part of the world where there are no TV cameras: The former Republican-turned-Independent-now-Democrat has not yet said he is running for governor in 2014, yet he is already a ubiquitous presence.  Were Crist to decide to run, his most difficult opponent may not be Rick Scott or Alex Sink but voter fatigue as Floridians find themselves tired of seeing Crist’s face everywhere — from Morgan & Morgan billboards to a near-permanent residence on MSNBC.

For Adam Putnam — One of those mind-erasing neutralizers from the Men in Black movies: Depending on the settings, one facing the red beam and devoid of sunglasses loses any memory of a specified time. With that, Putnam could erase the memories of the reporters present at the press conference who heard the otherwise sensible agriculture commissioner tout the stat about Florida soon becoming home to one million concealed weapons permit holders. Putnam held his presser just two days before the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

For Jack Latvala — A couple of pledge cards for his bid to be Senate president: After his slate of candidates lost in this year’s primary elections, the maverick state senator is likely a few votes short of the pledges from his colleagues he needs to preside over the upper chamber in 2017. Unfortunately for Latvala, the pledge cards he needs can be found in Sen. Joe Negron’s stocking.

For Alex Sink — Accessories and jewelry that go with the color green: With every leftward move Crist makes, Sink counters with a me-too rebuttal revealing her envy of the ease with which Crist is winning over the Democratic Party. Then again, what does it say about Sink, a lifelong D, when two polls already show her trailing Crist for the party’s nomination?

Read what I’d give to Gov. Scott, CFO Atwater, Mike Fasano, Will Weatherford and Bill Young here.

Thank you for your readership. And a very Happy Christmas to you and yours.

Here’s what’s burning this morning…

BARACK OBAMA NAMED TIME MAG’S ‘PERSON OF THE YEAR’

“Two years ago, Republicans liked to say that the only hard thing Obama ever did right was beating Hillary Clinton in the primary, and in electoral terms, there was some truth to that. In 2012 the GOP hoped to cast him as an inspiring guy who was not up to the job. But now we know the difference between the wish and the thing, the hype and the man in the office.”

“He stands somewhat shorter, having won 4 million fewer votes and two fewer states than in 2008. But his 5 million-vote margin of victory out of 129 million ballots cast shocked experts in both parties, and it probably would have been higher had so much of New York and New Jersey not stayed home after Hurricane Sandy. He won many of the toughest battlegrounds walking away: Virginia by 4 points, Colorado by 5 and the lily white states of Iowa and New Hampshire by 6. He untied Ohio’s knotty heartland politics, picked the Republican lock on Florida Cubans and won Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis. (Those last two data points especially caught the President’s interest.) He will take the oath on Jan. 20 as the first Democrat in more than 75 years to get a majority of the popular vote twice. Only five other Presidents have done that in all of U.S. history.”

OBAMA TAPS BIDEN FOR GUN CONTROL EFFORT

Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden “to spearhead White House efforts to mold new gun and mental-health policies following last week’s Connecticut shootings, a choice that could prove crucial to getting changes through Congress,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Biden has decades of experience as a senator and is often Mr. Obama’s go-to person when the president seeks to build support on Capitol Hill.”

White House officials say the eventual package of proposals will likely include some new restrictions on guns, particularly assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines. But they say it will also likely involve measures that touch on mental health initiatives and, perhaps, a discussion on the depiction of violence presented in popular culture.”

SLIGHT MAJORITY NOW FAVORS MAJOR GUN CONTROL

A new CNN/ORC poll taken in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting finds that a narrow majority — 52% — of Americans now support major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban on gun ownership by ordinary citizens. Further, 43% say the shooting makes them more likely to support more gun restrictions, up 15 points since the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, AZ.

“All of those numbers are much higher than they were in a CNN poll conducted in January, 2011, indicating that the tragedy in Connecticut may be affecting more Americans more intensely than other recent attacks,” pollster Keating Holland.

There is a significant gender gap, with 62% support for major gun restrictions among women compared with 41% among men, and an even larger partisan gap, with nearly 80% support among Democrats but only 42% among independents and 31% among Republicans.

WORST TWEET OF THE DAY: @TheRickWilson: I’m going long on 30 round AR-15 mags

***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.”***

POLL SHOWS SCOTT’S RE-ELECTION IN JEOPARDY by Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

A poll of registered voters in Florida released Wednesday found that 52 percent say he does not deserve a second term. Scott has already said he plans to run in 2014.

The Quinnipiac University poll also found that Scott is also vulnerable from a primary challenge within the Republican party. The survey said 53 percent of Republicans think another Republican should run against Scott.

“Gov. Rick Scott’s ratings with voters are just awful,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The numbers cannot be sugar coated. When voters in a politician’s own party want him to be challenged in a primary by another candidate, it’s difficult to see it as anything but  outright rejection.”

By contrast the new poll shows that former Gov. Charlie Crist has a 47 percent favorable rating.

FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE Q-POLL

1. This poll is Christmas come early for former Governor Charlie Crist. Whether it be Scott’s negatives or the findings which show Alex Sink essentially unknown by 57% of respondents, Crist could not be happier with these numbers, especially coming at this time of the year when there probably won’t be any other polling done until weeks into 2013. The narrative laid out by this poll — Scott’s very unpopular, no one cares about Sink and Crist is being welcomed with open arms by Democrats — is the one that political folks will be talking about at Christmas parties and reporters will include in their year-end stories.

2. That’s right, if there is any doubt about Democrats embracing Crist, just look at his ratings among D’s: He has a 65% favorability rating with members of his new party.

3. Republicans may still be approving of Scott’s job performance (63 to 19%), but they’re still looking around the room for some one else. 53% said ‘Yes’ when asked if they would like another candidate to challenge Scott, while only 30% said ‘No.’

4. It’s nothing personal against Scott, by the way. It’s his policies, which means these low numbers are his own doing. Respondents like him as a person by a 36%/32% margin, but 52% dislike his policies.

5. Alex Sink can’t be too happy with these numbers, either. She’s ran statewide twice within the last six years and yet  57% of respondents in this poll said they had not heard enough about her.

TWITTERVERSE REAX TO Q-POLL

@cesarfernandezD: Hey, Tallahassee Police: RPOF staffers will be swerving all over your roads today after spinning Scott’s poll numbers. #justaheadsup

@fineout: Internal memo prepared by Scott campaign advisers says @FLGovScott has time to turn around poll #s. Notes Obama had similar bad #s in Fla.

@MarcACaputo: So Q Poll shows FL GOP wants Rick Scott primaried. Know this: It likely won’t happen w/serious candidate. He has 2 much $, 2 good a team

@SaintPetersblog: Reading Q-poll #s, most important question about ’14 gubernatorial race is: Does Carole Crist want to live in Tally for four years.

SCOTT AVOIDS GUNS, BUT TALKS ELECTION REFORM ON CNN by Kathleen Haughney of the Sun-Sentinel

Scott, appearing on CNN with Soledad O’Brien this morning, avoided specifics about what the state could do to avoid tragedies like the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

But, he did finally come forth with some changes he’d like to see to the state’s election process in light of the problems experienced leading up to and on Nov. 6.

Said Scott: “So there’s three things… One, the length of our ballot, Two, we’ve got to allow our supervisors more flexibility in the size of their polling locations and three the number of days we have. We’ve got to look back at the number of days of early voting we had.

TANT’S PREVIOUS LOBBYING EFFORTS DRAW SCRUTINY via the Political Hurricane

Today, my colleagues at The Political Hurricane will be publishing an article regarding the race for Florida Democratic Party chair. The article will discuss Mrs. Allison Tant’s lobbying during the 2000 Florida presidential election recount. Before the election (in 1999 and 2000), Mrs. Tant was one of only three registered lobbyist for DBT Online, Inc., the company responsible for the controversial “central voter file” which purged over 57,000 African-Americans from the voter file.

 At the time of the Florida recount, Mrs. Tant continued to lobby for DBT Online as well as for ChoicePoint (where she was only one of two lobbyists), which acquired DBT Online. Mrs. Tant didn’t leave her position as a lobbyist at ChoicePoint until 9/5/2001, nearly 10 months after it was already known that the company she was lobbying for was involved in voters being purged from the voter file in highly Democratic areas of the state.
***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.***

APPOINTED: Jeffrey D. Gillen as judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

POLICY NOTES

Business as usual at Florida gun shops and ranges: As one national retailer removed semiautomatic rifles from its shelves, the national gun-control debate has sent Florida gun enthusiasts dashing to snag existing supplies.

Florida uses oil spill money for conservation land: Florida is using money from an oil spill settlement for conservation lands in the Panhandle. State officials said Tuesday that half of Florida’s $10 million settlement has been used to buy property and obtain a conservation easement.

Gov. Scott looks to Chile for trade: Just back from Colombia, Gov. Rick Scott is preparing another Florida business mission to South America — this time to Chile. Scott is expected to lead about 100 Florida business and government officials to the Pacific coast nation of 17 million people in mid-May, aiming largely to expand Florida sales.

***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.***

BILL WOULD CLEAR WAY FOR AUTISM DIAGNOSES via the News Service of Florida

Sen. Jeremy Ring filed a bill Wednesday aimed at making it easier for parents to find out whether their children have autism spectrum disorder. Under the bill (SB 128), parents or guardians who suspect their children might have autism could report those suspicions to physicians, who would be required to conduct screenings under American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. If physicians deem it medically necessary, they would send the children to specialists who would make diagnoses. The bill would clear the way for children to see the specialists without first getting referrals or other authorizations from insurance companies. Also, starting in 2014, the bill would require insurance plans to cover a minimum of three visits a year for screening or diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The measure was filed for consideration during the 2013 legislative session.

CHRIS SMITH FILES LEGISLATION REVAMPING “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW

Following through on recommendations from his own task force and commitment to tighten what many critics view as widely abused “get out of jail free” cards, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith on Wednesday announced that he has filed legislation revamping Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

“The tragic shooting in Sanford, Florida, earlier this year, was a call to action,” said Senator Smith. “It underscored the ease with which an aggressor can dodge prosecution simply by claiming fear of bodily harm. And it underscored the abuse of the law by non-law abiding citizens and the confusion law enforcement faced about its basic provisions.

Senate Bill 136, “Self Defense,” contains two important elements Senator Smith’s task force identified earlier this year as critically needed to bolster public safety. … The first provision removes the loophole allowing an individual to provoke violence, or pursue an individual to provoke a violent confrontation and claim a justification defense under the law because of fear. … The second provision removes automatic immunity from arrest or detention and clarifies for law enforcement that a person can be arrested following a questionable death.

IT’S OFFICIAL: FLORIDA PASSES 1 MILLION THRESHOLD IN CONCEALED WEAPONS PERMITS by Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida officials don’t know when, but sometime in the last 24 hours someone received the 1 millionth concealed weapons permit in Florida — making it the first state to reach that mileston.

“We have 1,000,645 concealed licenses as of this morning,” said Amanda Bevis, a spokeswoman for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who oversees the permit program. “Yesterday, we had 999,932, so we crossed the milestone at some point yesterday.”

SMILE: FIRST LICENSE PLATE BILL FILED

In a sign that the 2013 legislative session can’t be far away, Sen. Oscar Braynon filed a bill Wednesday that would create a “Sun, Sea and Smiles” specialty license plate. The bill (SB 132) is the first specialty plate proposed for the spring session, and proceeds from its sales would go to several groups such as the Florida Caribbean Charitable Foundation, Inc., The American Friends of Jamaica, Inc., and the Greater Caribbean American Cultural Coalition, Inc.

STATE ASKS JUDGE TO TOSS SENATE MAP CHALLENGE via Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

Lawyers for the Legislature asked a Leon County judge on Wednesday to throw out a lawsuit seeking to scrap the current districts for the Senate because the Florida Supreme Court had already rejected a challenge to the lines.

The dispute, in a case filed by a group of citizens and a coalition of voting rights groups against the Senate map, plows new ground and could set a standard in a redistricting environment altered by the approval in 2010 of the “Fair Districts” amendments aimed at ending gerrymandered districts.

Courts have already been forced to grapple with several new issues after lawmakers’ first effort, earlier this year, to follow the rules during the once-a-decade redistricting process.

At issue in this case is a statement the constitution makes in a different section about the Supreme Court’s automatic review of legislative redistricting maps: “A judgment of the supreme court of the state determining the apportionment to be valid shall be binding upon all the citizens of the state.”

The motion to dismiss the challenge to Senate districts would not affect a similar effort to overturn the current maps for the state’s congressional delegation because those plans are not reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Because justices approved a second draft of the Senate map — they voided the first draft — in April, attorneys for the House and Senate said Wednesday there was no room for new challenges.

STATE MUST REALIGN ITS EDUCATION REFORM EFFORTS, SEN. JOHN LEGG SAYS by Jeff Solochek of the Gradebook

Florida has several education reform initiatives taking effect over the next two years. Perhaps too many, state Senate education policy committee chairman John Legg says.

“We have all these large planes in the air and we have one runway in 2014,” Legg told the Gradebook. “We want to make sure we implement them in a correct timetable. Our committee is going to be looking at the timetable.”

Already, the Florida Board of Education has heard superintendents complain that the deadlines for fully implementing the Common Core standards, PARCC assessments, end-of-course exams, value-added teacher evaluations and other ongoing changes are proving too demanding.

Legg said he gets the message, though he did not have any particular issue he was looking to push back first. “We will be listening for suggestions,” he said, adding that his committee’s other priorities are to refine current systems and programs such as paths to high school graduation and conversion to digital schools, and not to add new ones.

ALCALDE & FAY TO LOBBY FOR ALACHUA AND ESCAMBIA COUNTIES via Dave Levinthal of POLITICO

Alcalde & Fay will be lobbying on behalf of two counties in Florida, according to Senate lobbying disclosures. The firm’s F. Marion Turner, former legislative aide to then-Sen. Connie Mack , will be lobbying for Alachua and Escambia Counties on appropriations bills related to local government funding and on Surface Transportation Authorization issues, reports show.

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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.