Sunburn for November 23 – What’s in your wallet, Rick Scott?

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica.


Gov. Rick Scott plans to release his recommended state budget today in Jacksonville.

Scott’s office said he will debut his “Florida First” budget for 2016-17 at 10 a.m., at Harbinger Sign on Shad Road.

The Florida Channel will carry the announcement live.

Earlier this month, Cynthia Kelly, Scott’s budget director, wrote a memo in which she previewed the spending plan.

Kelly said Florida “will have a record $29.8 billion of general revenue available next year – including $1.3 billion in new revenue.”

“Therefore, because of this historic level of revenue, Gov. Scott is proposing to cut $1 billion in taxes and make a one-time investment of $250 million towards economic incentives at Enterprise Florida this year,” she wrote.

Scott has proposed a $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund, aimed at overhauling the state’s business incentives program. It was modeled in part after a similar fund in Texas.

Crystal Sircy, Chief Operating Officer of Enterprise Florida, told lawmakers last week the $250 million would not be an annual request from lawmakers and is expected to last “several years.”

Kelly also disputed reports of the state only having a $635 million surplus, which Scott’s billion-dollar tax cut would turn into a budget deficit.

“A more appropriate ‘surplus’ is … almost $1.6 billion,” she said, based on her calculations. “Bottom line, there is more than sufficient revenue to fund all of the state’s mandatory increases, as well as the Governor’s priorities, the Florida Enterprise Fund and the proposed $1 billion in tax cuts.”

LAWMAKERS WANT TO ADVERTISE ‘THE TRUTH’ ABOUT RISING PROPERTY TAXES PAYING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION SPENDING via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A spike in school spending will have to come from higher property taxes on businesses and homeowners in Florida, and that has Republican lawmakers demanding the full story be told. “This has got to stop,” says Republican Rep. Fred Costello … [Who] decided it’s time to force Scott and lawmakers to advertise that higher property taxes are paying for higher school spending, and that much of the increase would be shouldered by the same small businesses Scott says he’s trying to help.


Scott is … the eighth least popular governor in America, according to Morning Consult, and one of only 10 governors who has a higher percentage of constituents disapproving of their performance than approving. So given his interest in running for the U.S. Senate in 2018, no wonder the termed-out governor continues aggressively raising campaign money. He has a lot of work still to do to improve his image.

MEANWHILE … JOHN KERRY TO SCOTT: SCREENING OF SYRIAN REFUGEES IS ‘EXTRAORDINARILY THOROUGH’ via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Kerry sent a letter to … Scott that defends the vetting process for Syrian refugees … “Bottom line—under the current system, if there is doubt about whether an applicant would pose a security risk, that individual will not be admitted to the United States as a refugee … Our multi-agency system for vetting refugees is strong, and it has been significantly enhanced over the past few years. Indeed, applicants for refugee admission are screened more carefully than any other type of traveler to the United States … We have tremendous faith in this system’s ability to detect, investigate, and disrupt terrorist plotting in this country, as it has done repeatedly.”

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MUST-READ POLLING DATA via Julie Phelan of ABC News  Terrorism suddenly rivals the economy as the single most important issue to Americans in the 2016 presidential election — and a year out, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds more people paying close attention to the contest than at this point in any race back to 1988.

After years of dominating the political landscape, the economy now has company. Given the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, 28 percent of Americans now call terrorism the top issue in their choice for president, compared with 33 percent who cite the economy. Nothing else comes close. Attention, moreover, is focused as never before. Three-quarters of Americans say they are closely following the 2016 race, including three in 10 who are following it very closely. That’s the highest level of attention at this point in a presidential race in polls back nearly 30 years.


A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll in New Hampshire finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 22%, followed by Marco Rubio at 11%, Ben Carson at 10%, Ted Cruz at 9% and John Kasich at 9%.

MARCO RUBIO’S FIRST TV AD WARNS: ‘WHAT HAPPENED IN PARIS COULD HAPPEN HERE’ via Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post – Rubio released the first TV ad of his presidential campaign on Sunday, a 30-second commercial in which he warns about the threat of a terrorist attack in the United States. This is a civilizational struggle between the values of freedom and liberty, and radical Islamic terror,” Rubio says in the ad, speaking directly to the camera. The ad highlights Rubio’s effort to try to cast himself as the strongest candidate on national security. The commercial is running nationwide on cable TV, his campaign said. A Rubio spokesman declined to specify the size of the ad buy.

DEMOCRATS POUNCE AS RUBIO CALLS FOR MORE FOCUS ON NATIONAL SECURITY, ‘NOT JUST FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE’ via Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post – Democrats swiftly attacked … Rubio … for saying in a television interview that the deadly attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 led to more focus on national security in the United States, which he wants to see continue, and “not just for political advantage.” On “Fox News Sunday,” the senator from Florida was asked whether his foreign-policy credentials are giving him a boost with voters as they focus heavily on choosing a commander in chief in the wake of the attacks. After saying that he expected polls to fluctuate, Rubio weighed in specifically on the Paris attacks, for which the Islamic State terrorist group has asserted responsibility.

“As far as national security, let me just say, I, obviously, am not happy about the events that happened last week in Paris, but I think it’s a positive development that it suddenly has cast — forced Americans to confront more carefully the issue of national security, because it is the most important thing a president will do and that is the most important function of the federal government,” Rubio said.

Democrats quickly criticized Rubio’s remarks and posted a clip of the exchange online. “That he had to go back and explain that the terror attacks merited greater attention ‘not just for political advantage’ reinforces how disrespectful and irresponsible his comments were. This is why Marco Rubio is no foreign policy expert,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Luis Miranda said in a statement.

N.H. UNION LEADER EDITORIAL: JEB BUSH GETS SERIOUS: WILL NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTERS? – Bush outlined a detailed plan to counter ISIS in Iraq and Syria back in August, and revisited his strategy last week during an extensive interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader. The Paris attacks haven’t changed Bush’s approach. He says they’ve validated it.

… Bush has stressed the need for proven executive experience, particularly after two terms with a President who came into office completely unprepared for the job. So far, voters aren’t making such experience a priority.

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Jeb Bush: Worked the Dunkin Donuts drive through in New Hampshire yesterday. Every vote counts.

— “Bush adds to growing military coalition in South Carolina” via

BUSH IN FLORIDA TODAY via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Bush may be struggling to break back into the top tier of candidates nationally but he still has a lot of friends in Southwest Florida, and organizers are expecting a big turnout for a fundraiser on Longboat Key Monday. U.S . Rep. Vern Buchanan is hosting the event at his home with the help of former Sarasota GOP chairman Tramm Hudson. Prominent names on the fundraiser host committee include state Sen. Bill Galvano, former state Sen. Lisa Carlton, former Senate President John McKay, influential developer Pat Neal and former state House Speaker Will Weatherford.

BEN CARSON LOSES HIS HOLD ON IOWAN’S CONSERVATIVES via Katie Glueck of Politico – [A]fter a week of confused comments from the former neurosurgeon and a dismissive critique by his own advisors, Iowans are now consistently voicing doubt about Carson’s credentials to be commander-in-chief. Indeed, they said the terrorist attacks have reordered the candidates in their mind, lifting Cruz and Rubio and, for many, making Carson an afterthought.

GOP GROUP PLANS MOST AGGRESSIVE ANTI-DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN YET via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – [Kasich’s] super PAC is planning to invest $2.5 million in the most aggressive takedown of the poll leader yet — on behalf of an increasingly anxious GOP establishment … The attack will play out over the next two months on radio, TV, mail and online in New Hampshire. Strategists with the pro-Kasich group, called New Day for America, say the budget for the anti-Trump campaign is likely to grow. “We will be the tip of the spear against Trump,” said Matt David, a spokesman for the super PAC … will depict Trump as someone who would be a deeply ineffective commander-in-chief and ill-suited for the demands of the Oval Office.

— “Donald Trump on protester: ‘Maybe he should have been roughed up’” VIA JEREMY DIAMON OF CNN

— “Donald Trump says he saw people celebrating 9/11 in Jersey City” via Jill Colvin of the Associated Press

— “Trump won’t rule out independent run for president” via Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press

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DRAMATIC RISE OF RENEGADE ‘NO PARTY’ VOTERS IS RESHAPING STATE POLITICS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Three simple letters have ignited a civic rebellion in Florida that could reshape the state’s politics for decades to come … NPA … for no party affiliation … They are deserting the two major parties in droves, mostly in South Florida and in greater Orlando, and many are young and Hispanic … they are the fastest-growing segment of Florida’s electorate, but they are a sleeping giant. Many of them don’t vote, and some are so turned off by the negative tone and extreme partisanship of politics that they have no interest in voting … When NPAs are combined with a much smaller pool of minor-party voters, they outnumber Republicans in the three most populous counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, along with Orange and Osceola on the I-4 corridor in central Florida. They eclipse Democrats in seven counties: Clay, Collier, Lee, Martin, Okaloosa, St. Johns and Santa Rosa.

ICYMI – FLORIDA JOBLESS RATE CONTINUES TO DIP SLIGHTLY via the Associated Press – October unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, compared to 5.2 percent in the previous month … the state added 35,200 jobs last month … jobless rate remains higher than the national rate of 5 percent with approximately 492,000 unemployed Floridians.

CARD, CHIP MAKERS MAY BE SAFE IN FIGHT OVER INDIAN BLACKJACK via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics –  Manufacturers of cards and chips who sell to the Seminole Tribe of Florida may be spared, at least in civil court, in any legal throw down over blackjack at the Seminole Tribe of Florida‘s casinos. Gamblers sued not only the Tribe, but card and chip makers, and even the billboard company the Seminoles used to advertise their casinos … the case had no legs, because the Legislature had repealed the section of state law that otherwise would have given them a right to sue. Even if they had a case, the gamblers wouldn’t be able to prove how the card and chip makers and others should be held liable, the judge added … does not, however, automatically foreclose other legal action, including criminal prosecution.

GAMBLING EXPERT SAYS SEMINOLES MAY RUN AFOUL OF ORGANIZED CRIME LAWS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Prof. I. Nelson Rose of California’s Whittier Law School said he first offered that advice to the Senate six years ago, when it sought him out for guidance before the current agreement, known as the Seminole Compact, was enacted. “The legal analysis would be the same,” Rose said … the state “has many ways to prevent the tribe from continuing to offer blackjack and other card games.” Federal law doesn’t allow the state to go onto tribal land to enforce anti-gambling laws. But “Florida, like every other state, has a lot of ways to deal with individuals who are involved with illegal gambling, even if the actual operation cannot be raided,” Rose wrote in his memo.

FLORIDA REPUBLICANS LOOKING TO ASK VOTERS FOR BIG CHANGES IN EDUCATION via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Voters would decide next year whether to bring an elected Education Commissioner back to the Florida Cabinet, under legislation (HJR 767, SJR 942) filed by … Debbie Mayfield … and Rene Garcia. “Public education is a top priority for many Floridians and one of the most important functions of government,” Mayfield said. “By allowing voters to choose their Commissioner of Education we assure that this priority receives the sole attention and focus of the office holder and voters will be able to directly hold that person accountable for the decisions he or she makes affecting our public schools.”

HAPPENING TODAY – SMART SOLAR AMENDMENT WORKSHOP – The proposed Florida Constitution solar-power amendment sponsored by Consumers for Smart Solar will be the subject of a workshop by the Financial Impact Estimating Conference. Meeting begins 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.

LATEST ON THE LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by LobbyTools – With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – the legislative merry-go-round.

Off and On: Nancy Bernier is no longer a legislative assistant for Rockledge Republican state Sen. Thad Altman. She is now the district secretary for Melbourne Republican state Rep. Ritch Workman.

Off: Aaron McKinney is no longer the legislative assistant for Cutler Bay state Sen. Dwight Bullard.

On: Shannon Cooper is now Bullard’s new legislative assistant.

Off: Courtney Vandenberg is no longer a legislative assistant for Clearwater Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Off: Gainesville Democratic state Rep. Clovis Watson is no longer Minority Ranking Member of the State Affairs Committee.

On: Holly Hill Democratic state Rep. Dwayne Taylor is now the State Affairs Minority Ranking Member. Taylor was already on the committee, but changed designations.

Off: Ned Hance is no longer legislative assistant to Spring Hill Republican state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia.

On: Ashley Hofecker is Ingoglia’s new legislative assistant.

Off: Ashley Fairbrother is no longer district secretary to Jacksonville Republican state Rep. Lake Ray

On: Derron Bennett is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee.

On: Leanne Roca is now the district secretary for Miami Lakes Republican state Rep. Jose Oliva.

On: Jeffrey Scala is the new legislative assistant for Hollywood Democratic state Sen. Eleanor Sobel. He most recently worked as a researcher for EarthJustice.

HILLSBOROUGH PTC DEFENDS MONEY SPENT ON LOBBYISTS via Craig Patrick of Fox 13 News – The Florida Legislature created … the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission, or PTC … to regulate taxis, limos and other ride services … as the legislature considered changing or dissolving the commission, the commission hired a firm managed by the brother of incoming house speaker Richard Corcoran to lobby the legislature on its behalf … that may be illegal based on what we found in three attorney general opinions, including one signed by … Pam Bondi … entities created by the state cannot spend funds on state lobbyists without specific authorization … PTC executive director Kyle Cockream, says the commission can hire lobbyists, though it’s not spelled out … “There is a provision in our special act that allows for this kind of relationship take place” … “Does it specifically note lobbying?” we asked. “No,” he replied.


Ron Book, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA, RLKT DB Holdings, LLC

Dean Cannon, Joe Salzverg, Capitol Insight: Florida Municipal Power Agency

Diane Carr: Daycare Health Systems

Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Company: Matrix OneSource

Kevin Doyle, Wexford Strategies: Brunet Garcia, Florida Pancreas Cancer Coaltion

Michelle Ertel, Florida Strategic Advisors: City of Casselberry

Michael Harrell, Marnie George, Tim Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Rural Economic Development Association

Fatima Perez: Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC and Affiliates

WHAT TO GET YOUR FAVORITE LOBBYIST THIS CHRISTMAS: The ultimate Gucci loafer. Click here. H/t Ana Cruz.

***Congratulations to Noreen Fenner and her new venture PAC Financial Management. Fenner and her team have more than 50 years combined experience with Florida’s Elections Code, campaign finance reporting and accounting. Specializing in political committees and candidate campaigns, PAC Financial Management navigates clients through political finance. Meet the team and learn why PAC Financial Management should be your reporting compliance firm.***

CHECK OUT blogger Jacob Engels‘ interview of Morning Joe co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough who were in Orlando for NBCUniversal’s “Know Your Value” tour.  Interview here.

FESTIVUS TO MAKE TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO FLORIDA CAPITOL WITH #MYGAYPRIDEPOLE via Florida Politics – Political blogger (and all-around s**t-stirrer) Chaz Stevens will once again bring his Festivus Pole … as a holiday display in the rotunda of the Florida Capitol. But instead of a modest stack of 16 Pabst Blue Ribbon cans … the 2015 version celebrates Gay Pride, with a nod to the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right … adorned in bright colors, similar to those in a Gay Pride Rainbow Flag. Topping the pole will be a mirrored disco ball. The new, improved Pole will support The Humanity Fund, an advocacy program seeking to combat social injustice with humor … “dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of speech and religion, especially the separation of Church and State.”


The Florida State band turned in quite the star-studded show to wrap up the Seminoles’ final home game of the season. The band saluted “Star Wars” with its halftime show. Watch here.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to former state Rep. Rich Glorioso, the classy Bettina Inclan-Agen, Mark Silva, Chris Spencer’s better half, Gina, and Alan Suskey’s much better half, Aelon. Celebrating today are three of Florida politics’ best: Brady Benford, Chip Case, and Screven Watson. Also deserving of a shout-out is Joe Russo.

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.