Sunburn for 1/4 — 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 – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms. You need their team on your side during this Legislative session for media, grassroots and netroots support. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team and how they can help you.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO … WELL, ME. Seriously, thank you for all of the shout-outs and well-wishes.

COME HELP ME CELEBRATE AT QUORUM — TAMPA BAY’S NOT-TOO-POLITICAL HAPPY HOUR at Cassis American Brasserie beginning at 5:00 p.m. More info on Facebook here.

PERFECT BIRTHDAY WISH FROM A FRIEND: “Happy birthday, Peter, have a great day and hopefully Ella is taking you and Michelle to Bern’s to celebrate orrrrr a good pizza and bottle of wine and the comfort of the couch ain’t too bad, either.”

SHARING A BIRTHDAY WITH ME are several other great people in the process: Tucker Hall’s Razi Amador, Sandy Mortham, Sydney Ridley (legislative aide to Rep. Dana Young) and GOP activist and volunteer extraordinaire Rachelle Warmouth.

Enough about me, on to politics…

IT’S OFFICIAL: OBAMA FIRST PRESIDENT SINCE EISENHOWER TO WIN 51% TWICE

A revised vote count eight weeks after the presidential election finds President Obama nationally won 65.9 million votes — or 51.1% of the vote — against challenger Mitt Romney, who took 60.9 million votes and 47.2% of the total, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Obama is the first president to achieve that level of support in two elections since President Dwight D. Eisenhower was re-elected in 1956.

GOOD RIDDANCE TO THE WORST CONGRESS EVER via Ezra Klein of the Washington Post

What’s the record of the 112th Congress? Well, it almost shut down the government and almost breached the debt ceiling. It almost went over the fiscal cliff (which it had designed in the first place). It cut a trillion dollars of discretionary spending in the Budget Control Act and scheduled another trillion in spending cuts through an automatic sequester, which everyone agrees is terrible policy. It achieved nothing of note on housing, energy, stimulus, immigration, guns, tax reform, infrastructure, climate change or, really, anything. It’s hard to identify a single significant problem that existed prior to the 112th Congress that was in any way improved by its two years of rule.”

CONGRESS USHERS IN NEW MEMBERS WITH OLD DIVIDE via The Associated Press

The 113th Congress conveneD Thursday at the constitutionally required time of noon … There are 12 newly elected senators – eight Democrats, three Republicans and one independent, former Maine Gov. Angus King, who will caucus with the Democrats. They will be joined by Rep. Tim Scott, the first black Republican in decades, who was tapped by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the remaining term of Sen. Jim DeMint. …

“[T]he Senate will have three Hispanics — Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and one of the new members, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. There will be 20 women in the 100-member chamber, the highest number yet. … Eighty-two freshmen join the House — 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Women will total 81 in the 435-member body — 62 Democrats and 19 Republicans.”

MANY NEW CONGRESSIONAL LAWMAKER SADDLED WITH CAMPAIGN DEBT via the USA Today

More than 40% of the 82 incoming House freshmen had more debt than leftover cash in the bank, an analysis of final election reports shows.

For more than two dozen of them, the unpaid bills topped $100,000 each. Seven of the 12 new senators showed debts on their Dec. 6 reports to the Federal Election Commission. As a result, newly elected lawmakers are bombarding their supporters with pleas for campaign money and holding rounds of fundraising dinners, breakfasts and receptions — even before they are sworn in Thursday.

FAILED COUP SHOWS DIVISION N HOUSE GOP

A group of dissident Republicans failed to push Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to a second ballot in his election as Speaker and potentially replace him as leader of the House, The Hill reports.

Twelve House Republicans broke from Boehner in a tense public roll-call vote, either by voting for someone else or deliberately not voting at all — five short of what would have been needed to force a second ballot.”

ALLEN WEST RECEIVES TWO VOTES FOR SPEAKER by Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

To be clear, there are no signs that West wanted the job, which is not required to be held by a sitting member of the House (but always has been). But he did get a couple of votes as part of a protest by conservative House Republicans unhappy with the deal House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio brought to the floor Tuesday to bring the country back from the fiscal cliff. That raised tax rates on income over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples despite GOP resistance to increasing rates.

West got two votes, short of Boehner’s total of 220. It also came in behind the 192 votes for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the three for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Both Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., voted for West. Among the other “candidates” to get votes from GOP or Democratic defectors were other members of Congress and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

WORST QUOTE OF THE DAY: “A holstered gun is not a deadly weapon… But anything can be used as a deadly weapon. A credit card can be used to cut somebody’s throat.” — New Hampshire state Rep. Dan Dumaine, quoted by the Concord Monitor, opposing a move to ban guns for the chamber floor.

***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 ***

DEMS DREAM OF 2014 GAINS AFTER FISCAL CLIFF FOLLIES by Alexander Burns of POLITICO

Democrats, facing a challenging fight to retake the House of Representatives in 2014, see a promising new line of attack rising out of the fiscal cliff follies: casting the Republican congressional majority as a terminally dysfunctional body … It’s a meaningful shift from the Democrats’ message in 2012, when President Obama’s party gained a modest eight seats in the House attacking Republicans as ultraconservative allies of the super-rich. … Democratic strategists now say that competence, as much as ideology, will be at the core of their midterm message. … New York Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the [DCCC], said … ‘people … tend to blame Republicans for this chaos’ and the minority party has two years to explain to voters how the fallout from that hurts their lives. ‘If we continue to be the problem solvers and Republicans continue to be the problem, we will have a very strong path to getting the majority,’ Israel said. ‘Republicans are drawing those contrasts with every cliff they try to throw us off.’

The House’s image took another hit Wednesday when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie … lashed out at congressional Republicans for failing to schedule a vote on aid for Americans affected by Hurricane Sandy. … The path to a Democratic majority remains narrow, … thanks to the post-2010 redistricting that shored up the GOP’s hold on once-competitive districts across the nation. If Republicans were to lose control of the chamber in 2014, it would likely be thanks to grievous missteps on the part of their own leaders and candidates, in addition to any successful Democratic campaign. …

Republicans contend that the 2014 cycle will most likely be defined by questions about spending, on which the GOP has long held an advantage. … GOP strategists privately acknowledge it would be a problem if the party somehow allowed itself to become synonymous with Washington dysfunction. But that would require mismanaging future fiscal confrontations … Doug Thornell [of SKDKnickerbocker], a former senior Hill aide [said:] “Many of their seats are so Republican that maybe they’re not so concerned about the general elections. But I think we’ve learned in wave elections, it doesn’t really matter how conservative or liberal your seat is. … There are opportunities that exist today that didn’t even on Election Day.”

JEB BUSH: GOP ‘SHORTSIGHTED’ ON SOME ISSUES

Former Governor Jeb Bush says the GOP lacks foresight on some issues and is perceived as too exclusive a political party. “I think on a couple of issues I worry that it’s shortsighted,’’ Bush told Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning,’’ without going into detail.

“In terms of the tone of the debate, it sends a signal: ‘We want your support but you can’t join our team.’ I mean, that’s the short term implications of this.’’

Demographically, Hispanic voters are going to be very important to the Republican Party, Bush told Rose. “I think there needs to be a lot more intense efforts to recognize the demographics of the country are changing,’’ he said. “And our messaging, not our views, not our principals, but how we message our views needs to change as well.’’

Bush, who had been eyed by the GOP to run for president last year, said he declined to throw his hat in the ring for “personal reasons, family reasons.’’ Asked if he has decided that he does not want to be president, Bush responded: “I’ve not made that decision.’’

>>>Joe Scarborough,on Republicans voting for a 43:1 ratio of taxes to spending cuts: “This is a party without any viable leadership. … Let’s talk about a politician who has done everything right … Chris Christie.”

RUBIO COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS UNCHANGED

Rubio will serve again this Congress on the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Small Business Committee.

RUBIO ANNOUNCES TWO NEW STAFF HIRES

Rubio announced that Alberto Martinez is joining his staff as Deputy Chief of Staff and Brooke Sammon as Deputy Press Secretary. 

“I’m proud to welcome Albert and Brooke to our team and am excited about the entire staff we have in place for the productive and important year ahead,” said Rubio. “I look forward to the legislative work we’ll be doing in the 113th Congress, including our initiatives to expand middle class opportunities and reform America’s broken immigration system. These new hires will bolster the great team we have to serve the people of Florida and help us advance these important initiatives.”

PHOTOS OF THE DAYA rally and march by immigration reform activists from across Florida briefly turned tense when Orlando Police officers were dispatched to the central Florida office of Sen. Marco Rubio, Thursday. The officers arrived en masse to enforce the city’s fire code after dozens of demonstrators filled the hallway outside Rubio’s office during the march in downtown Orlando. A smaller group of demonstrators met with Rubio’s staff to discuss their concerns.

JOHN MICA TO CHAIR OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE

As expected, Mica announced that he’s taking a subcommittee chairmanship in the House Oversight and Government Report committee. The move puts him in line to take over as chairman of the full committee in two years, when U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa is term-limited out of that post.

Mica’s move comes after he was term-limited out of the chairmanship of the transportation committee after six years as ranking member and chairman. He’ll remain on that panel as the senior Republican member, retaining his influence over policy and money decisions affecting roads, airports, railroads and the Transportation Security Administration.

Mica’s new chairmanship is likely to raise his national profile. With jurisdiction over areas ranging from government management and procurement to federal grants and the General Services Administration, the subcommittee has broad range.

***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.***

SCOTT AND SEN. BILL GALVANO TALK EDUCATION by Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald Tribune

Scott this week spent more than 30 minutes with State Sen. Bill Galvano talking education issues over lunch in Zolfo Springs in Hardee County.

“We talked about how we both want to see an increase in funding for education,” said Galvano, who is the Senate education appropriations chairman.

BILL FILED TO SPEED UP FORECLOSURES via The Tampa Bay Times

A “faster foreclosures” proposal that faced sharp consumer outcry and protest last year has resurfaced in a more moderate form this year, with a new bill filed by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo on Thursday.

The bill, HB 87, offers a slew of changes to the civil procedures governing foreclosures in Florida—the state with the highest foreclosure rate in the country.

Most of the provisions appear to be aimed at speeding up and cleaning the foreclosure process, which currently takes  more 600 days to run its course in Florida.

The bill would require mortgage lenders to certify that they have the correct paperwork proving they have the right to foreclose. Paperwork problems gummed up the foreclosure system in Florida and across the nation in 2010 and 2011, leading to a massive $25 billion mortgage settlement with banks accused of using faulty documents to foreclose on homeowners.

REVENUE, PENSIONS TOP ISSUES FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS by Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida

City and county governments are hoping the state’s improved financial picture will give them some breathing room and quell a recent trend in Tallahassee to place limits on how local governments can raise revenue and how that money can be spent. 

… County governments are looking for the state to pick up the tab for juvenile justice detention and Medicaid while providing counties with more flexibility in how they can spend collections from the communication services tax, which they say is one of the few major sources of discretionary revenue.

“All told, the three of those combined is about $700 million, so it’s a pretty significant hit when you look at them, especially taken together,” said Cragin Mosteller, spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Counties. 

… For cities, much of the flack is over pensions paid to police and firefighters. While many cities have adequately funded pensions, some municipalities have seen their ability to fund pension benefits erode as the economy went south and tax collections dipped. 

“For cities, the biggest issue is pensions,” said Scott Dudley, director of legislative affairs for the Florida League of Cities. “I guess you could call that our ‘super priority,'” Dudley said.  

DUVAL DELEGATION

The Duval County Legislative Delegation meets today from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Jacksonville Council Chambers.

PALM BEACH COUNTY DELEGATION

The Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation holds a public and local bill hearing at 2 p.m. Friday i n the Village of Wellington City Hall

***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: Dr. Stuart I. Kaplan and Dr. Christopher B. King to the Board of Optometry.

EDITORIAL HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Sex blogging school official must go

FLORIDA BOARD OF EDUCATION SEALS DEAL WITH NEW COMMISH TONY BENNETT via The Gradebook

Tony Bennett didn’t hesitate to take the job as Florida’s next education commissioner once offered the post by the State Board of Education on Dec. 12.

He started house hunting in Tallahassee the day after the unanimous vote, after making public appearances with Gov. Rick Scott in Tampa. That was before he reached terms of employment with the board.

Less than a week after the board’s decision, chairman Gary Chartrand sent Bennett a letter detailing the the pay and benefits associated with the job. The board, which did not publicly discuss the specifics, gave Chartrand the power to negotiate an agreement. The commissioner does not get a contract, and serves at the board’s pleasure.

The bottom line: Bennett will get a salary of $275,000 — the same amount as his predecessor. He also will get 176 hours of annual leave, 104 hours of sick leave, and one 8-hour personal holiday each year. His insurance will be the same as all other state employees.

RPOF MEETING IN ORLANDO

The Republican Party of Florida holds its annual board meeting Saturday and Sunday at the Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Drive, Orlando.

STATE REVENUE BEAT FORECAST LAST MONTH

Florida general revenue tax collections in November were $10.3 million higher than expected, putting the year-to-date revenue collection estimate at $260.2 million above the earlier forecast, state officials said Wednesday.

The amount is barely a blip, but shows a continuing improvement in the economy that’s slightly outpacing earlier rebound projections. Sales tax collections slightly outpaced the August estimate, though in a barely statistically significant way, according to the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

The good news, however, was that sales tax collections in the building sector came in nearly 7 percent higher than earlier projected, and documentary stamp tax collections – which reflect real estate transactions – were also slightly higher than expected back in the summer. Corporate income tax collections were also higher, but much of the difference there was due to audit assessments.

>>>A Revenue Estimating Conference to discuss monthly revenue estimates by the OEDR is at 9 a.m. in room 117 of the Knott Building in Tallahassee.

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.