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Sunburn for January 13 – From SOTU to SOS

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, Jim Rosica, and material from the Associated Press.


President Barack Obama opened his State of the Union speech saying he’d keep it short, in what must have seemed music to the ears of some in the chamber antsy to get to Iowa to campaign for president.

At times, Obama looked like he was one of them, eager to challenge biting criticism from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other Republicans.

Obama was at turns boastful and biting, confident and sarcastic.

 Anyone who says the economy is declining is “peddling fiction,” he argued. Obama characterized skepticism about science and reluctance to adopt technology as absurd. “When the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there,” he said. Claims that U.S. stature in the world is shrinking, he virtually shouted, is “political hot air.”

“The United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth. Period. It’s not even close. It’s not even close!” the president declared.

The president’s final turn at the House podium was his most high-profile entry yet into the presidential race to succeed him. After largely begging off the day-to-day skirmishes in the raucous contest, Obama showed he was more than ready to defend his record and happy to use one of his last chances to seize America’s attention to show Democrats how he thinks it should be done.

Obama has more than his party’s interest at heart. His legacy will be shaped by whether Americans choose a Democrat to succeed him and cement his signature heath care law, environmental policies and immigration programs. Democrat Hillary Clinton has tried to put some distance between her campaign and the president — often saying she’s not running for his third term. That has at times left Obama as his own best defender.

The White House had billed Obama’s speech as a rethinking of the genre, and delivered.


— “The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics. …

“I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close.”

The 9 most memorable lines from the SOTU” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO

TWEET, TWEET: @jmartNYT: “Quite a journey from Grant Park triumph: 8 yrs later, first black president uses much of his last SOTU to warn against resentment politics”

TWEET, TWEET: @RyanLizza: “Amazing to think that in just one short year Donald Trump will be standing at that lectern.”

GOP REAX: NIKKI HALEY URGES NEW DIRECTION FOR NATION, BUT CONSERVATIVES SAY SHE WENT TOO FAR via Gavin Jackson of the Post Courier — Some conservatives accused her, and the Republican Party, of hijacking the State of the Union response to attack brash presidential party front-runner Donald Trump over his harsh stand on immigration.


U.S. Senator Bill Nelson: “It’s frustrating when partisanship prevents the Congress from getting things done. And it’s pretty clear that Americans are fed up with our inability to enact common-sense reforms. While we were able to get a few things passed back in December, there’s still a lot that we need to accomplish. And I will continue to do everything that I can to try to bring people together in a bipartisan way to get things done.”

Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia: “While President Obama may be content with the status quo, the American people will not settle for the Democrat’s failed agenda in 2016 and beyond. Obama’s suggestion of more government intervention is the reason why the American people overwhelmingly distrust big government and say the country is on the wrong track. It is clear that our nation wants to see the next president take a new direction. Our State Party is entirely committed to defeating Hillary Clinton and electing a strong Republican president who will create the real economic opportunity that the American people deserve.”


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It wasn’t quite patty-cakes and make-believe tea parties, but both sides of the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott did their best to play nice on Tuesday, the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session.

His State of the State address was met with polite, sometimes vigorous applause at all the right clap lines, even though he mentioned nothing about most of the pressing issues of the times.

You know, like education, water policy, gun rights, gambling, health care, transportation problems, ethics reforms, open government, insurance … well, you get the drift.

Indeed, the simplest summary of his 27½ minute speech is: $1 billion in tax cuts and $250 million in business incentives equals more jobs, and ISIS is evil. And to be fair, that’s what he cares about.

Not that lawmakers were complaining. In fact, Senate President-designate Joe Negron even told reporters he was “encouraged” by Scott’s remarks.

Which had some asking, why? Negron explained that while the governor was singularly focused on creating jobs, “we can do multiple things this session and I think he’ll be supportive of many of the issues that a lot of us care about, including the environment.”

OK. We get it. Nobody, least of all the current GOP leadership, wants a redux of 2015. It’s still fresh in mind for many that the House took its ball and went home three days early without a budget, forcing a special session to do the one job they’re constitutionally required to do.

Need we mention that lawmakers also convened for two – count ‘em, two – special sessions for redistricting in which no maps were produced? (Insert “You Had One Job” meme here.)

So that leaves us with a don’t-rock-the-boat first day that portends, for now, a shiny-happy-people legislative session.

As current Senate President Andy Gardiner told his chamber: “There’s no doubt that last year was a very unusual year, and I get that … (but) in 59 days we will sine die … and I hope when each of you leaves, you’ll say, ‘You know what, Andy gave me every opportunity to be successful.’ ”

— “Fact-checking Gov. Scott’s State of the State speech” via the Tampa Bay Times

TWEET, TWEET: @BruceRitchie: Gov. Rick Scott scuttles past lip service on environment, devotes full “state of state” speech to tax cuts, economy.

BILL GALVANO “SURPRISED” AT NO MENTION OF SEMINOLE COMPACT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – “It is what it is,” he said. “I think everybody involved in the process around that issue is skeptical we’ll be able to get it through.” Galvano … said the new Seminole Compact will be “workshopped” in his chamber. “We’ll take a look at it and see if there is a better way to operate,” said Galvano, an attorney who helped draft the original agreement with the tribe that was approved when he was a member of the Florida House.

SWFL LAWMAKERS: FEW SURPRISES IN SCOTT’S SOS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “I think there are opportunities for success when you’re consistent, and the governor continues to be consistent with his priorities for job growth in the state of Florida,” said Sen. Garrett Richter … Senate President pro tempore. “There’s something to be said for consistency, and as long as the state continues to grow job opportunities, it’s hard to argue his message.” Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen … said she would need to see more details about the tax cut proposal, but would support it if the state could financially do it. “I think it’s a lofty (goal), but I think it’s a very positive goal … If we can do it and be able to afford to meet the needs of Floridians, then I would wholeheartedly support it. Obviously no one wants higher taxes in Florida.”

AIF HERALDS SCOTT’S ECONOMIC PLAN via Florida Politics – “AIF applauds Governor Scott on his State of the State address, and congratulates him on all he has been able to accomplish for the great State of Florida in terms of fostering a business-friendly environment … Growing our job base, cutting taxes, decreasing red tape and diversifying our economy are just some of the accomplishments that have led to Florida being one of the best places in the nation to do business … We look forward to continuing to work together toward growing business in Florida in 2016.”

PROTESTERS RING ROTUNDA FOR SCOTT’S SPEECH via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Nearly 200 protesters from South Florida jammed the Capitol’s fourth floor Rotunda … The group, part of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, came up in buses and many are being hosted by the First Presbyterian Church downtown … The coalition objects to several bills for the 2016 Legislative Session … including: HB 9: Creating a third-degree felony for re-entering Florida after being deported from the U.S. SB 118: Making it a first-degree felony for a person under a deportation order to continue living in Florida. HB 675: Would, among other things, prohibit “sanctuary cities” like Miami from sheltering undocumented immigrants in the state.

TWEET, TWEET: @BylineBrandon: There’s more screaming during the governor’s speech than in a cheap horror flick

TWEET, TWEET: @GusCorbella: Wooing is never appropriate for the State of the State.  This is a speech in the Chambers of the House, not a Bieber concert

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott kicks off his “Million Miles for a Million Jobs” bus tour at 9 a.m. at Victory Tailgate, 2437 E. Landstreet Road in Orlando. Scott will continue his bus tour with a stop at 1 p.m. at USAA, 9527 Delaney Creek Boulevard in Tampa; before a 7 p.m. stop at Rick Case Kia, 14500 West Sunrise Blvd. in Sunrise.

RICK PERRY LOBBIED SCOTT ON DONOR ISSUE via Matt Dixon of Politico Florida – Perry met with the Florida governor in his Capitol office to lobby him on a dental issue near and dear to MCNA Dental, a Fort Lauderdale-based company that was the single biggest donor to Perry’s failed 2016 presidential bid. … The meeting was not on the public calendar circulated Tuesday morning by Scott’s office, but was added after POLITICO Florida asked about it.

— “House considers dental bill after Perry lobbies Scott” via Christine Sexton of Politico Florida

STEVE CRISAFULLI: HOUSE, SENATE WILL PASS “3 IMPORTANT BILLS” BY END OF WEEK via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “As we look ahead to the next 60 days, I want us to double-down,” said Crisafulli …  “We will do that first by finishing what we started. By the end of the week, the House and Senate will pass three important bills that were part of last year’s Work Plan.” Crisafulli said the House and Senate will take up statewide water policy legislation (HB 7005 and HB 522); an education bill that expands the personal learning scholarship (HB 7011 and SB 672); and a measure (HB 1359 and SB 962) aimed at creating employment opportunities for people with unique abilities. “Members, these are three bipartisan bills we can all be proud to support and deliver for Floridians … Of course, those bills are only a fraction of our work this session.”

CRISAFULLI ADVOCATES FOR RIDE-SHARING LEGISLATION IN OPENING-DAY SPEECH via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “Let’s put the free market to work for Florida families … Let’s cut red tape and create forward-looking, predictable regulatory frameworks to give companies like Uber and Lyft and other disruptive technologies their day in the sun … If people in Orlando or Miami or Tallahassee want Chair [RitchWorkman to be their Uber driver, then we should give them that freedom.” Workman … took a side job as a driver for Uber last year. Crisafulli’s comments are his most enthusiastic yet about backing a bill that would regulate the ridesharing companies that have been operating in Florida for the past couple of years with no state or local regulations.

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: After Sen Galvano’s 11 y/o daughter sings Natl Anthem, Sen Prez Andy Gardiner jokes about leadership races: “She’s collecting pledge cards”

SUNBURN EXCLUSIVE: STATEWIDE POLL FINDS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR INCREASING WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY STANDARDS via press release – As lawmakers resume consideration of the comprehensive water bill this week, a new poll commissioned by Associated of Florida’s H2O Coalition shows strong, bipartisan support for improvements to water quality and quantity.  When asked if they support or oppose a plan with new standards in the state’s water policy as well as efforts to improve water quality, 82 percent of respondents said they would support the plan.

Among the poll’s other findings: When given a list of choices, 25 percent of voters said “improving the quality of water” is Florida’s greatest environmental concern. Seventeen percent (17 percent) each said “dealing with climate change” and “saving freshwater springs.” Fifteen percent (15 percent) each said “cleaning up the Everglades” and “increasing Florida’s water supply.” … The plurality of voters (38 percent) would most like the Amendment One funds to be used for protecting Florida’s drinking water supply. Twenty-one percent (21 percent) would like to see the funds used to protect rivers and lakes.

BILL TO LET VICTIMS OF TERRORISM SUE FOR DAMAGES CLEARS SENATE PANEL via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The bill (SB 996), sponsored by Joe Negron, creates a civil cause for a person injured by an act of terrorism. Under the … bill, a successful plaintiff is entitled to three times the actual damages sustained and minimum damages of $1,000. Negron said under current law, a person can already sue a terrorist under current law. That, he said, is not “likely a good outcome for a person bringing a claim because they’re not going to be able to collect damages.”

FANTASY SPORTS BILL CLEARS HOUSE COMMITTEE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A House bill that would explicitly legalize fantasy sports [passed] the House Business and Professions Subcommittee by a 10-3 vote … Current Florida legislation would require fantasy operators to register with the state and pay licensing fees, as well as verify that players aren’t minors. The measure is opposed by The Stronach Group, which runs South Florida’s Gulfstream Park and “operates the largest interstate (horse-racing) gambling operation in the country,” according to lobbyist Marc Dunbar. Make no mistake: Fantasy sports games are “a gambling industry,” he told lawmakers, adding that the bill from state Rep. Matt Gaetz had no regulatory teeth. Several members of the panel agreed to vote for the bill if Gaetz promised to toughen it up with clearer provisions on revoking licenses and by requiring background checks of site operators.

STRICTER LOBBYING, EMPLOYMENT, ETHICS LAWS ADVANCE IN SENATE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The bill (SB 686), the main ethics package in the 2016 session, would require lobbyists for the first time to report on a monthly basis every bill and amendment they’re trying to influence, including listing the six-digit bar code numbers the Legislature uses to track amendments. Lobbyists could face fines of up to $5,000 for violations. For the first time, legislators would be prohibited from taking outside jobs from firms that get money in the state budget, such as public hospitals, school districts, colleges and universities … For the first time, every mayor and city commissioner in Florida would have to file detailed annual financial disclosure statements, the same as the governor and all legislators must file, listing all assets and liabilities. Board members of Enterprise Florida … would be barred from lobbying for two years after leaving the board, the same as legislators. The bill also would allow the Commission on Ethics to initiate its own investigations, which the agency has sought for nearly two decades. Seven of the panel’s nine members would have to vote to take that action at a public meeting. Under current law, the ethics panel cannot act unless a complaint is filed against a public official.

NO WAITING: BILL WOULD LET FLORIDA STUDENTS PROGRESS FASTER THROUGH GRADES via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times – A bill filed [by] Jeff Brandes … would establish a “competency-based innovation pilot program” which would allow students in Pinellas and Lake counties, and P.K. Younge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, to advance to higher levels of learning after demonstrating a mastery of the subject instead of after a specified timeframe, like a semester or school year. “I think it’s more like CLEP-ing in college,” Brandes said. “If they have demonstrated competency, you could have that opportunity in K through 12.” Brandes said he was inspired by Bill & Melinda Gates’ Foundations grant to implement personalized learning in schools. Pinellas and Lake were the only two counties in the state to win the grant.


— @Jason_Garcia: This is the most important Week 1 of any session I’ve seen (since 04). If things go off the rails this week, may as well go home ’til 2017.

— @GrayRohrer: Ah, the start of the legislative session; where filing a bill = leadership and “partner” is a verb.

— @JessicaBakeman: “It’s never too early to talk about sine die” — Rep. Ritch Workman

— @MearKat00: One down.

FLORIDA TECHNOLOGY COUNCIL RELEASES LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES via Florida Politics – Increasing the emphasis on proper planning for coordinated enterprise IT services for the State of Florida … Supporting investments for adequate resources on a long-term, consistent basis to achieve the efficiencies that well-executed IT services produce … equipping all agencies with the necessary specialized procurement expertise … Consolidating and advancing datacenters in order to modernize applications … Increasing the focus on how to use data from various sectors of state government to improve the lives of Floridians … Opening data efforts to ensure data is accessible to the public … Providing economic incentives to technology companies that bring highly-skilled, high-paying jobs to Florida … incentives to retrain Florida workers for technology sector jobs … Increasing access to government services and information via mobile applications and technology, including the development of a robust mobile or smartphone plan that helps enable all Floridians to have access to digital government services.

INSURANCE, REAL ESTATE COALITION SEEKS HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE REFORM IN 2016 via Florida Politics – The Consumer Protection Coalition seeks to curb a practice known as “assignment of benefits,” where owners sign away their insurance policy to a third party who will collect on their behalf. The 17-member coalition, led by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, contends AOB is being abused to extract more cash from insurance payouts and will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket. ‘’Assignment of Benefits abuse is a huge threat to Florida’s families and businesses and must be stopped,’’ Chamber President Mark Wilson said. “Billboard trial lawyers and questionable vendors are taking advantage of AOB to essentially steal money from consumers and wreak havoc on our state’s insurance market. For the sake of attracting new businesses and jobs, we can’t let that happen.’’

HAPPENING TODAY —  FLORIDA CHAMBER’S CAPITOL DAYS FOCUSING ON ISSUES IMPORTANT TO BUSINESS COMMUNITY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics   — The 2016 Florida Chamber’s Capitol Days kicks off Wednesday. Edie Ousley, the chamber’s vice president of public affairs, said the annual event offers the business community a chance “to talk about issues concerning job creators throughout Florida.” On Wednesday, attendees will start the afternoon with a presentation called “The Florida Scorecard.” That 30-minute presentation will feature Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Proctor took over the helm of the agency Jan. 9.

JONES WALKER, JENNIFER UNGRU SNAG DELOITTE CONSULTING – Jones Walker’s Florida team, including Jennifer Ungru, has picked up Deloitte Consulting as a client. The new representation was listed … on the state’s lobbyist registration website. Ungru was formerly the top staffer to Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Liz Dudek. She also was deputy chief of staff to Scott, overseeing nine agencies, including the departments of Management Services and State.

***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.***

JOHN LEGG EYES NEW POLITICAL OPTIONS, BUT WON’T RUN AGAINST WILTON SIMPSON via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – “We still are running for office,” Legg said. “I will not run against Wilton Simpson. I’ll say that definitively. There’s lots of things that could happen. We don’t know what those things are at this point.” Two potential paths for Legg are to run in another new Senate seat that stretches to the north or to consider the post of Pasco County property appraiser, which will be vacant after November because Mike Wells is not seeking re-election. County Commission Chairman Ted Schrader is already running for the appraiser’s post. Legg said he was on vacation in New York and he was initially confused by the renumbering of Senate districts and the political jockeying that followed, as were others. “Our mistake was, we allowed other people to talk for us, versus him and I just sitting in a room and us chatting things out,” Legg said. “When the numbers popped up, we were like, ‘What’s happening here?'”

FLASHBACK TO 48 HOURS AGO: “Deal struck to avoid John Legg vs. Wilton Simpson primary” via Florida Politics

COMMITTEE BACKING MEDICAL MARIJUANA AMENDMENT RAISES MORE THAN $500K IN DECEMBER via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – People United for Medical Marijuana, the political committee … which runs the United for Care Campaign, raised $571,236 in December. That one-month haul means the organization has raised more than $9.1 million. The committee received hundreds of small donations, or donations under $1,000, from supporters. The Morgan Law Firm, founded by United for Care Chair John Morgan, continued to be a top donor. The political committee spent $679,286 in December, bringing total expenditures to more than $11 million. In December, the vast majority of those expenses were related to the petition process.

MARY THOMAS ENDORSED BY SENATE CONSERVATIVES FUND via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, now the president of the SCF, announced the endorsements: “These candidates are all principled conservative leaders who have strong grassroots support … We need them in the U.S. House to reinforce the efforts of our conservative allies. They will stand up to the big spenders in both parties and work to defend the principles of freedom that make our nation great. We are proud to support … Mary Thomas.”

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DAPHNE CAMPBELL WILL CHALLENGE GWEN MARGOLIS IN NEW SD 39 via Florida Politics – Democratic Rep. Daphne Campbell announced Tuesday that she will run for state Senate in the newly redrawn District 38. New district lines District 38 into a majority-minority district. The race will likely pit Campbell against longtime Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis, who announced she would run in SD 38 last week, though she currently resides within the new SD 37.

DEMOCRAT DAN FIORINI FILES FOR OPEN HD 70 SEAT IN PINELLAS via Florida Politics – Business owner Dan Fiorini filed to run as a Democrat to succeed termed-out Darryl Rouson, setting up a primary against St. Petersburg City Commisioner Wengay Newton. No stranger to politics… he was the legislative aide to former Democratic Rep. Helen Spivey from 1994-1996, and was a founding member of Pinellas County LGBT rights groups St. Pete Pride and Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County.

ANOTHER DEMOCRAT, KEVIN DIAZ, FILES TO CHALLENGE HOLLY RASCHEIN IN HD 120 via Florida Politics – Miami-Dade attorney Kevin Diaz filed to run against retired teacher Artie Leichner in the Democratic primary before getting a chance to face Key Largo Rep. Holly Raschein on Election Day. Despite Democrats’ voter registration advantage over the GOP, no recent candidate has been able to raise enough to give Raschein a serious run for her money.

A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the best people in the process, Chester Spellman.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.

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