Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.
I FIRED A GUN FOR THE FIRST TIME
There are more than 300 million guns in the United States of America, more than twice there was in just 1968.
Gun sales have increased in recent years. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. gun-makers produced nearly 11 million guns in 2013, the year after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. That’s twice as many as they made in 2010.
“There’s a gun for every man, woman, and child, more or less,” Deborah Azrael of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center told NPR for a report where these statistics originated..
But that doesn’t mean every man, woman and child has a gun. The number of armed households has actually declined to about 1 in 3. So an ever larger number of guns is concentrated in a shrinking number of homes.
Like I said, there are more than 300 million guns in this country and I can’t recall having met any of them before.
Many people grow up around guns. Many people reading this newsletter can recall fond memories of a family member teaching them how to shoot. Many of my friends are avid gun enthusiasts.
But guns have never been part of my world. In fact, I can’t say I have ever heard a live gunshot, save for a handful of military events and funerals.
On Wednesday, my worldview changed. I’m not exactly sure how that view has changed, but there was my outlook before I went to the gun range and there is my outlook after shooting at the gun range.
Guns are loud. Louder than they are portrayed in the movies and TV. The sound is focused and concussionary. The rat-a-tat-tat you expect to hear is a Hollywood creation.
I can’t imagine having to hear that sound wake me from my sleep. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the poor souls who have become accustomed to the sound of gunfire. No one should, but I know millions have.
Guns are scary. Or should I say, being at the gun range for the first time was scary. I won’t lie. I was reduced to the childlike fear of not wanting to do something I thought I could do. I even asked my patient ex-Marine (well, once a Marine, always a Marine, right?) of a father-in-law who was there to guide me if we really needed to … do this.
But after I squeezed the trigger on my Remington Tactical Shotgun and felt God’s power course through my finger, I was alive in a way I have never been before. It was like controlling a thunder storm.
BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.
A million thoughts have raced through my head since firing those first shots … thoughts about the brave soldiers who walk through a hellfire of bullets and shrapnel to keep us safe … thoughts about the rookie cop who has to decide in a split second whether to unleash the judgment loaded into his gun … thoughts about the thousands of Americans whose deaths somehow involved a gun … thoughts and prayers to God asking that I never be put in a position where I have to fire a gun at my fellow man.
So many thoughts Wednesday at the range I could barely concentrate on the target in front of me.
BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.
After firing off those first rounds, all I conclude is … I will be back soon to the gun range. After all, this is …
THE GUNSHINE STATE
“STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW CHANGES INCH TOWARD FULL SENATE VOTE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Sen. Rob Bradley … sponsor of SB 344 … spent 20 minutes answering questions posed mostly by Democratic senators who probed the need for and implications of the bill. Bradley’s legislation would shift the burden of proof in a pre-trial hearing from defendants to prosecutors, requiring state attorneys to prove “by clear and convincing evidence” why a defendant could not claim “stand your ground” in self-defense cases … legislation is in reaction to a Florida Supreme Court [decision] … that defendants who claim a stand-your-ground defense have to prove before trial why they’re entitled to that immunity, but Bradley contends the justices “misinterpreted legislative intent” of the decade-old law.
SENATE PANEL CHAIRMAN SAYS BILL TO OPEN CAMPUSES TO GUN TOTING STUDENTS IS DEAD via Mary Ellen Klas and Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – “I don’t think this is a Second Amendment issue,” said Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla … whose committee hear all the gun bills. “I think what we’re talking about here is campus safety and the best way to address that issue and whether the proposed cure is worse than the disease.” He said, however, that he will hear a separate gun bill, SB 300, that would allow concealed-carry license holders to openly display their guns in public and private spaces. The announcement came on the same day … Debbie Wasserman Schultz … added her voice to the Democrat’s opposition to the array of pro-guns’ bills moving through the Florida Legislature.
BILL WOULD CUT COST FOR CONCEALED WEAPON LICENSE via Florida Politics – SB 772 would drop the cost of new concealed weapons permits from $70 to $60, and renewals would go from $60 to $50 … sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter … It is a priority of … Adam Putnam, whose department issues concealed weapons permits. “We strive to provide exemplary service to the law-abiding, eligible applicants seeking a concealed weapon license, and reducing the application fee is just one more way we can make this process more convenient and affordable,” Putnam said.
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RICK SCOTT SIGNS FIRST LAWS OF 2016: WATER POLICY, SPECIAL NEEDS BILLS INTO LAW via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Together, the legislation represents a joint agenda set out by Gardiner … and Crisafulli … after they took office in 2014: a comprehensive re-write of state water policy and an expansion of resources available to help people with special needs get an education and career training. “It’s a great start to session,” Scott said. “I know we’re going to have a great finish to session, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun along the way.” Both Crisafulli’s water bill and the Gardiner Scholarship — which senators named the expansion of Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for children with special needs — failed to pass last session, held hostage in the budget blowup. That doesn’t mean there aren’t detractors, however. While some environmental groups endorsed the new water policy, others have been outspoken against it. This week, former Gov. Bob Graham wrote a letter opposing the legislation on behalf of the Florida Conservation Coalition.
SCOTT ON SEMINOLE COMPACT: ‘I DID MY JOB’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Scott … continued to sound lukewarm on the prospects of his renegotiated deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would let them keep blackjack at their casinos. “Well, I did my job. We took the time; we have a good compact … but I respect the leadership of the House, President Gardiner. Now it’s up to them; they’ll decide how we go forward with this,” he said. It’s unclear at best whether the Legislature will approve the deal this session; committee chair Rob Bradley said changes to the Compact would likely be offered and considered “one by one.” It also has to be OK’d by federal Indian gambling regulators.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce December job numbers during the dedication ceremony for Hertz’s corporate headquarters at 10 a.m. at Hertz Corporate Headquarters, 8501 Williams Road in Estero.
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TIA MITCHELL WITH THE SCOOP DU JOUR — FLORIDA HOUSE, SENATE TO UNVEIL BUDGET NEXT WEEK via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Budget subcommittees are scheduled to meet Jan. 28 to review the details of their portions in the budget. Then a complete draft budget, including conforming and implementing legislation, will be published on Jan. 29 … The full Appropriations Committee will debate and vote on the budget on Feb. 3. The budget is scheduled for debate and a vote on the House floor Feb. 10 and 11 … The Senate is on a very similar timeline.
DEMOCRATS OBJECT, BUT PROPOSAL TO TERM LIMIT APPELLATE JUDGES ADVANCES IN HOUSE COMMITTEE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – A proposal that would amend the Florida Constitution to limit Supreme Court justices and appellate judges to two six-year terms was approved by the House Appropriations Committee … “I think it’s a great bill,” said an enthusiastic Richard Corcoran, the House Budget chairman … He said that there are only two checks on justices currently, one being a “draconian” impeachment process that has never played out in Florida. The other are retention elections, in which judges are always re-elected back to the bench … John Wood is sponsoring the bill in the House (HJR 197). He said that with presidents, Florida legislators and in many cases county commissioners subject to term limits, why not judges? Several Democrats spoke out against the proposal.
JEFF BRANDES DRAWS DIVERSE SUPPORT FOR ASSET FORFEITURE OVERHAUL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – An array of conservative and progressive interests stood in the Rotunda to support … Brandes‘ bill to rein in what’s known as civil asset forfeiture. “Before your private property can be taken, you must, at least, be charged with a crime,” Brandes told reporters … “If law enforcement is going to maintain those assets, you have to be convicted of that crime.” Michelle Robinson, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, also was at the event, [saying] such forfeiture is “fundamentally un-American … When a case is so thin that you can’t get a conviction or even a plea deal, it’s not right to take their belongings … It can include someone’s entire home, and that’s incredibly punitive for people who aren’t even convicted of a crime.” Also at the press event was anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. He said overhauling asset forfeiture law was ultimately about upholding property rights.
HYDRAULIC FRACTURING BILL HEADED TO HOUSE FLOOR via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The House state affairs committee … voted to approve a measure (HB 191) that, supporters say, creates a regulatory framework for fracking in Florida. Among other things, the bill requires drillers to get a permit before they can use fracking, calls on the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a study on the effect these techniques have on Florida, and increases the penalty to $25,000 a day per violation. The amended version of the bill … also includes language that attempts to alleviate preemption concerns voiced by local governments. The revised version of the bill now states no permits will be granted unless an applicant notifies the local government that they are applying for a permit.
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SENATE DEMOCRATS HOPE NEW MAPS BOOST THEIR POLITICAL FORTUNES via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Over the past two election cycles, state Republicans have raised $162.4 million compared to the Democrats’ $64 million, a nod to the fact the GOP controls state government. With Republicans still in control, that dynamic is not likely to end anytime soon. However, the Senate’s decision … to not appeal redrawn political districts does give Democrats the biggest glimmer of hope they’ve had in a long time … Part of the problem has been the Democrats’ inability to recruit and fund quality candidates. Incoming Senate minority leader Oscar Braynon … who is coordinating Democratic races for his chamber, said he hopes the new maps slowly start to change that. Braynon said he’s under no impression Democrats can take back the chamber during the 2016 election cycle, but wants to hold out hope. “If the suns move, the stars align, and you find me $30 million.” Some large checks flowing to Republicans could begin going the other way if Democrats start taking seats in the Senate, Braynon said. He specifically pointed to Sens. Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson. Both are likely future Senate presidents … as a result, have raised large amounts of money for political committees they control. “Those [contributions] are all based on what they are going to do when they get to that point down the road,” Braynon said. “That’s potential, but if you read the tea leaves now and see us moving in a different direction” that can change. “The answer is yes,” he said when asked if he thought the new maps could help with national donors. “I think with the way these maps are drawn, it drums up national attention. But it also grabs attention in Tallahassee that this chamber is moving in a different direction.”
DANA YOUNG FILES TO RUN IN NEWLY CREATED STATE SENATE SEAT IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “This morning, I officially filed to run in the newly created Senate District 18, serving the citizens of Tampa and western Hillsborough County … While I am excited about this new opportunity to continue to serve my community, my focus now, as House Majority Leader, is on the work of the House of Representatives during the 2016 Legislative Session. I look forward to returning home after Session in March to begin this new chapter in my public service.” The newly drawn-up Senate District 18 seat encompasses western Hillsborough County, extending from MacDill Air Force Base north to Pasco County. Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman indicated that she may also enter the race for the Republican nomination.
***A special message from Florida’s horsemen: While legislators debate using hard-earned taxpayer dollars for corporate relocation incentives, Florida employers who’ve been hard at work for decades could lose everything, thanks to “decoupling”— a Big Casino cash grab and gambling expansion plan tucked inside the Seminole Compact. It seems senseless to kill established Florida businesses, while spending public money in hopes new business may materialize. But Florida could do just that when “decoupling” leaves horse racing investors with NO WAY to do business and NO CHANCE to recoup financial return. Gambling policy should be about growing Florida’s economy. Not padding the pockets of Big Casinos. Florida’s horsemen oppose decoupling in ANY form. NoDecoupling.com.***
— 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
POLLS GALORE – PART 1: A CNN/ORC poll in Iowa shows Donald Trump leading the GOP race with 37%, followed by Ted Cruz at 26%, Marco Rubio at 14% and Ben Carson at 6%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has opened up an eight-point lead over Hillary Clinton, 51% to 43%.
POLLS GALORE – PART 2: A new Economist/YouGov Poll shows Donald Trump maintaining a wide lead over the rest of the GOP field with 38%, followed by Ted Cruz at 19%, Marco Rubio at 14%, and Ben Carson at 7%. No other candidate gets more than 4% support.
POLLS GALORE – PART 3, 4 & 5: A new Loras College poll in Iowa finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 26%, followed by Ted Cruz at 25%, Marco Rubio at 13%, Ben Carson at 8% and Jeb Bush at 6%. A new Monmouth University poll shows Cruz leading with 27%, followed by Trump at 25%, Carson at 11%, Rubio at 9% and Bush at 7%. A new Emerson College poll shows Trump leading with 33%, followed by Cruz at 23, Rubio at 14% and Carson at 9%.
NATIONAL REVIEW PUBLISHING SPECIAL EDITION OPPOSING DONALD TRUMP’S BID FOR PRESIDENCY via CNN – National Review, the conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley, will publish a special issue on Friday opposing Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency, the publication revealed Thursday night. The cover was tweeted by the magazine shortly before 10 p.m. ET.
JEB BUSH’S BROTHER, QUIET SO FAR, COULD RE-EMERGE IN FEBRUARY via Ashley Parker of the New York Times – Bush’s campaign continues its internal deliberations on how to best publicly deploy Bush’s older brother — if at all — a conference call … with alumni from the George Bush and George W. Bush presidential administrations yielded yet another clue. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see 43 on the trail in South Carolina” soon, said Dorothy Bush Koch, Jeb and George W. Bush’s sister. Some voters say they are wary of political dynasties and can’t quite bring themselves for another Bush. But George W. Bush has seen his popularity among Republicans increase since leaving the White House, and could help his brother, who lags in the polls, as a valuable surrogate. [W] … is a natural fit in South Carolina, a state rife with military bases and families, which heads to the polls on Feb. 20. But he could potentially also be an asset in New Hampshire, which votes on Feb. 9, and where his brother needs a top finish to help re-energize his campaign.
GOP PARTY ELDERS AREN’T RALLYING FOR MARCO RUBIO via Burgess Everett of POLITICO – Rubio hasn’t closed the deal with Republican Party elders in Congress who “have nothing but nice things to say” about him, but aren’t “ready to coalesce around him as the man to stop Trump or Cruz from marching to the nomination … While Rubio racked up a string of lawmaker endorsements this fall to rival Bush‘s roster of congressional backers, his momentum on Capitol Hill has since stalled. His performance in the endorsement game, on the cusp of primary season, certainly isn’t fatal given Congress’ dismal ratings. But it does point to a struggle to be anointed the establishment candidate of choice.
BUSH RAMPS UP HITS ON MARCO RUBIO, TED CRUZ via Jordan Frasier of NBC News – Bush is ramping up his critique of the senators rivaling him for the Republican nomination, and his campaign is out with a new video hitting them for shying away from military action against ISIS. “Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio had a chance to stand for fighting against Assad and Isis when the president asked for authorization to use military force and both backed away,” Bush told voters [at a] town hall. The governor specifically criticizes Cruz’s past comment about “carpet bombing” ISIS and Rubio’s evolution over confronting the threat. Bush says the senators changed their positions following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino last year while he has maintained a consistent position since his foreign policy speech at the Reagan Library in August.
MARCO RUBIO’S SUMMER OF ’90: AN ARREST, THEN NEWFOUND PURPOSE via Manuel Roig-Franzia and Scott Higham of the Washington Post – Rubio’s first year of college at a small school in Missouri ended badly. His grades were awful. A neck injury dashed any hopes of achieving greatness on the football field. He was hurting for money. He resolved to go back to Florida and get his life on a path to success. Instead the 18-year-old added to his troubles after returning to Miami for summer break: He was arrested one night in May 1990 for being in a crime-plagued public park after closing time, according to police records and an interview with a friend who was cited with Rubio that night. The previously unreported misdemeanor, which eventually was dismissed, tugged Rubio into the criminal-justice system just one year after the conviction of his brother-in-law in a major drug-trafficking case had exacted a devastating toll on his family. But that summer also marks a turning point for Rubio, the moment when a somewhat aimless young man found a direction and purpose that shaped the highly focused politician who now sits among the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.
— “When Marco Rubio wanted to take prostitutes’ cash” via Tim Mak of the Daily Beast
RUBIO SCALES BACK IOWA ADVERTISING via Kenneth Vogel and Steven Shepard of POLITICO – His campaign has quietly scaled back its ad buys in the state by more than $500,000 … appears due partly to a switch from offense to defense, but it also comes at a time when [Rubio] is focusing his hopes for an early state victory in South Carolina, where his campaign is increasing its advertising buys … Some of the decrease in Iowa ad spending likely stems from the campaign’s switch from 60-second biographical ads to shorter 30-second ads that are considered more effective as responses to attacks … By some calculations, Rubio has been the target of $8.5 million in negative ads in Iowa — by far the most of any candidate in the field. The majority have come from a super PAC supporting … Bush’s floundering campaign, which early on identified Rubio as the challenger best positioned to coalesce the establishment Republican support Bush needed to gain traction.
PAIR OF TAMPA BAY STATE LEGISLATORS SIGN UP TO HELP MARCO RUBIO’S CAMPAIGN IN FLORIDA via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald – State Reps. Shawn Harrison … and Danny Burgess … are joining Rubio’s statewide leadership team … Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker, now has 18 current state legislators on his leadership team, which is co-chaired by … Tom Rooney … and former State Rep. Adam Hasner.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Bush will attend several events in New Hampshire New Hampshire starting with a visit to Timberland in Stratham, followed by one at the Riverwoods Retirement Community in Exeter and an evening town hall in Rochester. Rubio will also be campaigning around New Hampshire.
MEANWHILE … BERNIE SANDERS HAS RELEASED ONE OF, IF NOT THE BEST ADS OF THE 2016 CAMPAIGN. View here.
FLORIDA GOP TO WORK ON MINORITY, MILLENNIAL OUTREACH via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – This weekend … the RPOF has scheduled numerous committee meetings for party leaders and volunteers on such topics as minority engagement and digital engagement … highlighted by a workshop produced by NationBuilder, the political campaign and big data software company. RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia stated. “The Florida GOP will be laser-focused during this meeting and throughout 2016 in electing a Republican not only to the White House, but in all offices across the Sunshine State.”
OH ADAM, WHY DAVID JOLLY’S CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING PLEDGE DOESN’T MEAN MUCH via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Before we start treating Jolly like Mr. Purity in the realm of political fundraising, however, let’s remember that he is not sacrificing a great deal with this promise not to personally twist arms for campaign checks. Why? For one thing, Jolly has never been a powerhouse money raiser any way. In his 2014 special election against Democrat Alex Sink, he raised $1.3-million and she raised $2.7-million, according to the Center for Public Integrity. For another thing, Jolly from the start has been happy to leave the heavy lifting of financing his campaigns to outside groups. In that 2014 election outside groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and RNC, spent nearly $5-million on Jolly’s behalf, while Democratic outside groups spent about $3.7-million helping Sink. He knows his senate campaign will depend far more on independent groups spending money on his behalf than his own dialing for dollars ever will.
DANIEL WEBSTER CONTINUES THRIFT WAYS; STILL UNCERTAIN WHERE HE’LL RUN THIS YEAR via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Webster showed he is continuing thrift ways that annually have him ranked as one of the least spending members of Congress … returning $384,256.64 of his 2015 office budget as unspent … this year’s savings brings the three-term congressman’s five-year total of office budget savings to more than $2 million. Meanwhile … he remains uncertain where he will run for re-election, but insisted he will run somewhere.
***The Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition, comprised of nine Fortune 500 companies, 28 major employers, and more than 400 local businesses in Florida, is formed to support the passage of SB 120 by Sen. Joe Abruzzo and HB 45 by Rep. Holly Raschein. Florida must remain competitive in the global marketplace. This legislation will update the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 by including LGBT protections in the workplace, public housing and accommodations. Learn how you can join our pro-business coalition.***
ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA
Trimmel Gomes’ newest episode of The Rotunda focuses on the fight over school choice in Florida. Supporters of the state’s private school voucher program enlisted the help of Martin Luther King III, eldest son of the slain civil rights leader. Gomes also talks Lt. Gov. Carlos Lòpez-Cantera about life as the states second in command and his campaign for U.S. Senate. Also, Singer-songwriter Aaron Barker drops in for a chat about his hit tunes with George Strait and promoting tourism in the Sunshine state. Plus, a roundup of news around the capitol…
Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Sarasota-Manatee chapter of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History celebrates its 20th anniversary with national President Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.
Facing Florida with Mike Vasilinda: Outgoing Dept. of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio and Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall on the union’s recent rally at the Capitol.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Christine Jennings, Chair of the Sarasota Democratic Party, Pasco County Tax Collector and a Republican Mike Fasano, Mike Salinero of the Tampa Tribune and Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times.
On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Duval County Public Defender Matt Shirk on his upcoming reelection campaign, Tia Mitchell of the Jacksonville TImes-Union on the 2016 Legislative Session, and CD 6 Republican U.S. House candidate Brandon Patty.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Democratic Congressional candidate Bob Poe speaks to Ybeth Bruzuall, a legislative update including the education funding bill that involving Senate President Andy Gardiner, and PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a Bernie Sanders claim about military spending and the war against terrorism.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon and Robin Safley, Director of The State Food Bank.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Political analyst & former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll on Presidential candidates ahead of Iowa, plus attorneys Julie Agent Schlax and Rod Sullivan debate the meaning of a recent ruling on Florida’s death penalty. Plus Jacksonville University Professor Ellen Wald talks energy markets.
HAPPIEST OF BIRTHDAY WISHES to my friend, Brian Aungst, Sr. Also celebrating today is President Don Gaetz, Greg Black, Tim Center, Georgia McKeown. Belated wishes to Sen. Tom Lee.