Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE NEXT GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham (wait, did I just write that? My apologies Adam, Bob, Jack, John, Phil, Richard, Rick, Billionaire X. Still, best wishes to Gwen.)
ALSO CELEBRATING TODAY is one of the best in the business: Kelsey Swithers of Bascom Communications. But she’s not running for Governor, so she doesn’t get top billing.
HAPPY AP DAY!
It’s time to talk priorities.
Today, The Associated Press hosts its annual legislative planning session on the 22nd floor of the Capitol. The event gives lawmakers a chance to lay out priorities ahead of the upcoming Legislative Session.
And this year, that could mean conflicting preferences from several of the state’s power players.
Things get started at 9 a.m., with Gov. Rick Scott unveiling his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget. The governor already released bits and pieces of his budget: a 5 percent pay raise for sworn state law enforcement here; $5.8 million for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to add 46 counterterrorism agents there.
A few of the requests have been controversial.
Last week, Scott announced he will recommend $618 million in tax cuts. According to his office, the cuts will be to “help Florida families and small businesses.” Among the proposals are a 25 percent reduction in taxes on commercial leases by 2018; creating four sales tax holidays and providing a one-year sales tax exemption on college textbooks.
The proposal has already been met with a bit of resistance. Budget writers warned there’s little wiggle room this year when writing the budget, which means Scott may not get all the cuts on his wish list.
Tax cuts likely won’t be the biggest battle in Scott’s proposed 2017-18 budget. Back in September, the governor announced he planned to ask for $85 million for economic incentives to bring more jobs to Florida. That ask will undoubtedly be part of a larger battle over economic incentives between Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Corcoran is an outspoken opponent of economic incentives, and has said there won’t be “any corporate welfare in the House budget.”
The Land O’Lakes Republican will likely sound off about his position on economic incentives, judicial term limits and several other priorities during his presentation later in the morning.
He’s expected to take the mic around 11:30 a.m.
The session also includes Senate President Joe Negron, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and a panel session on the Constitutional Revision Commission. The session wraps up at 3 p.m.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will unveil his 2017-18 “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget at 9 a.m. at the AP Legislative Planning Session. The Governor’s budget staff will then host a pen and paper background briefing with credentialed press at noon in the governor’s large conference room in The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe Street in Tallahassee. No visual or audio recording equipment is permitted during the briefing.
DEFININING CRITICAL NEEDS COULD COLOR BUDGET FIGHT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida -As Gov. Scott prepares to roll out his proposed spending-plan, one big thing hurdle is immediately evident: budget math. Scott is building his proposal based on a $2.8 billion budget surplus, a figure much higher than estimates by legislative economists. The Legislature’s top number-crunchers project only a $7.5 million surplus in September, and last month added $141 million to that number. The difference between the two figures is more than just dollars-and-cents. It will dictate funding levels for nearly every policy area across the board.
RICK SCOTT WANTS TO CUT $8M IN FEES via Florida Politics – The cuts, according to the Governor’s Office, include: free vehicle title transfers for surviving spouses; free replacement and renewal ID cards for citizens 80 years old and over; and free ID cards for citizens over 80 who surrender their drivers’ licenses. … The proposal also includes free veteran designation on new identification, licenses and renewals; free commercial driver’s licenses for veterans; reducing all fees associated with commercial driving schools by 50 percent; and reducing delinquency fees.
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TOO BAD MARCO RUBIO’S NOT AT AP DAY TO BE ASKED ABOUT THIS … RUBIO SAYS CONGRESS CAN’T GET ANSWERS ON TRUMP IMMIGRATION ORDER via Seung Min Kim of POLITICO – Rubio said Monday that the State Department is refusing to answer questions from Congress about President Trump’s expansive executive order barring immigrants from Muslim-majority nations and refugees worldwide – an assertion that the administration quickly disputed. Rubio said his aides sought to seek additional information from State about how the immigration directive would be implemented, particularly with representatives in Florida’s vibrant tourist sector calling his office with concerns about the order.
“We were told that the directive was, they were not to share any information today,” Rubio told reporters at the Capitol. “I suppose it’s because they are not clear what to tell us yet. But that cannot be a permanent position. We expect answers here fairly soon because we have constituents calling.” The State Department rebutted Rubio: “The Department remains in contact with members of Congress who have reached out regarding the executive orders, and will continue to provide information and assistance as we are able,” acting spokesman Mark Toner said.
WHY NOT ASK RICK SCOTT ABOUT THIS … TRUMP COAXES RICK SCOTT TO RUN FOR PRIZED U.S. SENATE SEAT via Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo of POLITICO – President Trump is personally urging Scott to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018 — and the loyal Trump ally looks increasingly likely to take the leap. Trump and Scott speak about once a week and on several occasions have talked about the race, according to two sources briefed on the talks. The two have known each other for two decades, and Trump likes Scott’s record as governor and as a health care tycoon. “We need you in the Senate. We need business guys like you,” Trump told Scott in a recent phone call, said one source who’d been briefed on it, paraphrasing the conversation. The person added that the president had signaled that he would help the Republican governor raise money.
OR THIS … FLORIDA-MEXICO SUMMIT CALLED OFF AMID TRUMP-MEXICO TENSION via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – A trade summit meant to foster better ties between Mexico’s and Florida’s businesses set for Feb. 22 in Orlando was abruptly postponed Monday, less than a week after Trump threatened a 20 percent border tax on Mexican products coming into the United States and days after the president of Mexico canceled a scheduled meeting with Trump. “Understandably, there has been much uncertainty given the current state of negotiation and trade discussions between Mexico and the U.S.,” Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council wrote to expected attendees of the summit. “And while we remain encouraged about the opportunities to continue to increase ocean trade between Florida seaports and Mexico, we also feel discussions from this Summit would be more productive at a time when more information and clarity can be provided.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will address the Florida Sheriff’s Association Winter Conference at noon at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, 225 E Coastline Drive in Jacksonville.
WHY NOT ASK JOE NEGRON ABOUT THIS … SENATE PREZ RESIGNS FROM GUNSTER LAW FIRM via Florida Politics – Negron has resigned from the Gunster law firm, four days after Gov. Rick Scott suggested ethics reforms affecting lawyer-legislators … One provision would ban lawmakers from working for companies, including law firms, that lobby the Legislature. Gunster has a “Government Affairs Law & Lobbying” practice in Tallahassee … Negron’s resignation was announced Monday by H. William ‘Bill’ Perry, Gunster’s managing shareholder. Negron, a Stuart Republican, had been “of counsel” with the firm, usually referring to an attorney who works on a case-to-case basis for a firm, not as an associate or partner. “Joe has been a great colleague and a valuable member of our litigation team,” Perry said in a statement. “We have accepted Joe’s resignation with both regret and the knowledge he will continue to dedicate his time and talents to the people of Florida as the leader of the Florida Senate.”
WHY NOT ASK RICHARD CORCORAN ABOUT THIS … EX-DEP CHIEF DISPUTES CORCORAN’S CLAIM THAT HOUSE FORCED HIM OUT via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The timing of the resignation by Gov. Scott‘s former environmental secretary, Jon Steverson, has stirred plenty of talk in the state Capitol. Amid House criticism of the size of the legal expenses in a long-running multi-state dispute over water rights, Steverson submitted his resignation … to take a new job at the Foley & Lardner law firm … the day after a House committee publicly posted an amendment to an ethics bill that would subject “appointed state officers” (including agency heads such as Steverson) to the same six-year lobbying ban that would apply to House members who want to become lobbyists. Corcoran didn’t think that was a coincidence. “One day later, or give or take, from the time that we noticed that committee meeting, you see an agency head who resigns who has spent $100 million of taxpayer money on legal fees go and immediately become one of the participants in that law firm that he gave millions of dollars in legal fees to,” Corcoran [said]. Steverson said there was no connection. “Absolutely not,” he said through the DEP’s spokeswoman, Lauren Engel. “He got an opportunity and he took it” … Steverson and the Foley & Lardner firm had been in talks for a number of weeks before his resignation became public.
OR ABOUT THIS … TWO-WEEK-OLD COURT ORDER ON JUSTICE JAMES PERRY STOPS THREATENED LAWSUIT BY CORCORAN via Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga … modified an earlier order and ended retired Justice James E.C. Perry‘s service as a senior justice effective tomorrow. Perry had been serving as a retired justice until the court completed final orders on cases he participated in before retiring Dec. 30. Labarga’s action came in response to a decision by Perry that “he had decided to pursue other things” instead of serving to fill in vacancies on the court until September 2018, as the original order had allowed … The ruling got attention because Corcoran threatened to file a petition before Labarga’s court, challenging the chief justice’s action as in violation of the Florida Constitution. Labarga said in his order that the court “has a long tradition of assigning recently retired Justices to senior service for purposes of completing the work they already had begun on this Court before the dates of their retirement.”
ASK BOTH CORCORAN AND NEGRON ABOUT THIS … STILL NO WORD ON MAKEUP OF CONSTITUTION REVISION PANEL via Florida Politics – With about a week before the start of the 30-day period in which it’s supposed to have its first meeting, the membership of the state’s Constitution Revision Commission is still unknown. Representatives for Senate President Negron and House Speaker Corcoran Monday said they still have not officially closed their application periods. “The President is currently accepting applications,” said Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta, who provided the latest list of 81 names already in. Because of continued interest, Corcoran also is still taking applications, spokesman Fred Piccolo said, after initially extending his deadline to last Friday … As governor, Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. The Governor’s Office has posted its list of 96 applicants online. His office has not signaled when Scott will announce his decisions. Pam Bondi is automatically a member as Attorney General, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga gets three picks. Court spokesman Craig Waters Monday had no news on Labarga’s picks.
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DANA YOUNG FILES FANTASY SPORTS BILL via Florida Politics – Young on Monday filed her own version of a bill that would legalize and regulate fantasy sports play. The Tampa Republican state senator’s “Fantasy Contest Amusement Act” (SB 592) declares such games to “involve the skill of contest participants and do not constitute gambling, gaming, or games of chance.” And it would prohibit the playing of fantasy sports on any “live pari-mutuel event” that could include dog and horse racing or on any amateur sports, such as college athletics. “Today, more than 3 million Floridians participate in fantasy sports,” Young said in an email. “This bill ensures the games they love will continue to be legal in the State of Florida…”
CLAY COUNTY DELEGATION HEARS LOCAL CONCERNS via Florida Politics: Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Travis Cummings, and Rep. Bobby Payne — the three members of the delegation — heard from community advocates, stakeholders, and leaders on Monday … Wayne Bolla, chairman of the Clay Board of Commissioners, lauded the delegation for the veterans’ court and the progress on the First Coast Expressway, and asked for $500 million of funding to come through for that purpose and the replacement of the Shands Bridge … Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless spotlighted his department’s key legislative issue: ERIC, an interstate voter registration program that “provides member states with a list of cross-state matches and in-state updates” … Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis had a laundry list of projects … [among them], a desire to levy up to two mills for capital improvements in the district, especially related to technology needed for 1-to-1 devices and being “competitive with surrounding counties.”
HAPPENING TODAY – LEGISLATIVE DELEGATIONS ACROSS THE STATE MEET — The legislative delegations of Pinellas, Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval, Putnam, and Hamilton counties will meet to discuss issues ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session. The Pinellas County legislative delegation will meet at 9 a.m. at the Largo Public Library, 120 Central Park Drive in Largo. The Broward County legislative legislation will hold workshops with the school board, the county commission, and the League of cities beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 South Andrews Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. The Miami-Dade legislative delegation will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. at Florida International University, Modesto A. Maidique Campus, Rafael Diaz-Balart Hall, 11200 S.W. Eighth St.in Miami. The Putnam County legislative delegation will hold a public hearing on local bills at 2 p.m. at Jacksonville City Hall, 117 West Duval Street in Jacksonville. The Hamilton County legislative delegation will meet at 5 p.m. in the Hamilton County Courthouse, 207 N.E. First Street in Jasper.
INSURERS SETTLE MULTISTATE LITIGATION ALLEGING MISUSE OF DEATH MASTER FILE via Florida Politics – Florida will receive $111,000 in a multistate settlement with three insurance companies over alleged one-sided use of the Social Security Administration’s death master file.Ameriprise Group, RiverSource Life Insurance Co., and RiverSource Life Insurance Co. of New York will pay $1.5 million in all to California, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Pennsylvania, as well as to Florida. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Department of Financial Services, and attorney general’s office announced the agreement on Monday. Florida’s share will cover the costs of investigating the alleged wrongdoing and monitoring the insurers’ compliance with the agreement. California was the managing lead state. The states accused the insurers of using the death file to end payments on annuities but did not use the data to begin paying survivor benefits under life insurance policies.
SUPREME COURT ORDERS ORAL ARGUMENT IN OLD ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LAWSUIT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The state’s highest court set oral argument in what could be a landmark case regarding who pays whom to play old rock ‘n’ roll. The Florida Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear argument April 6 in a case pitting Flo & Eddie, two original members of the 1960s band “The Turtles,” against satellite radio operator Sirius XM. Their most famous hit is “Happy Together.” … The stakes could be huge. If Flo & Eddie win, Sirius XM, internet music service Pandora, and many others “would owe damages not only to (them), but potentially all other owners of pre-1972 sound recordings…”
FORMER LAWMAKER, CITIZENS INSURANCE LEADER APPLIES FOR UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO – Tom Grady is a former one-term Republican lawmaker, the past head of a not-for-profit property insurance company established by the state and a current member of the state Board of Education. Now he wants to lead Florida Gulf Coast University. The Naples securities attorney (said) in November that he didn’t plan to seek the position, explaining that he and the Fort Myers school’s board of trustees don’t agree on a vision for the future. But he later reconsidered, he said Monday.
PERSONNEL NOTE: ALAN WILLIAMS JOINS TIM MEENAN’S FIRM – Meenan P.A. announced today that former state Representative Alan Williams is joining its firm. Williams will initially focus on local government and legislative work in states other than Florida. “With Alan joining our team, his reputation and combined experience in both business and government will help us provide solutions for our clients and enhance our services to clients around the State and Nation” said Tim Meenan. “We are particularly excited about his knowledge of both local government, and the legislature” said Meenan.
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Ron Book, Rana Brown, Ronald L. Book PA: Associated Industries of Florida
Richard Coates, Tidewater Consulting: Organization for Safe Cannabis Regulation
David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: PBA Holdings, Inc.
Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Merlinos & Associates
DavE Ericks, Adams St. Advocates, Ericks Consulting: Waste Connections of Florida
Steven Geller: Geller Law Firm: OSCR
Kari Hebrank, Wilson & Associates: National Utility Contractors Association of Florida
Nick Iarossi, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Community Care Plan
Kimberly McGlynn, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Sportsman’s Land Trust
Peter Murray, Colodny Fass: Florida Property & Casualty Association
Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: Okeechobee Utility Authority
Marlon Onias, Onias Law: Coalition of Concerned Pharmacist and Citizens
David Sigerson, Capital Hills Consultants: OSCR
Jim Spratt, CAS Governmental Services: City of Belle Glade; City of Okeechobee; Town of Pembroke Park
Jennifer Wilson, Adams and Reese: Martin Memorial Health Systems
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ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, President Trump’s ban on immigrants and refugees triggers another round of backlash for the new administration. Tallahassee based immigration attorney Elizabeth Ricci tells Gomes why she thinks parts of Trumps orders violate the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. Gomes also tracks the latest legislative committee week as Speaker Corcoran continued his criticism of Visit Florida’s funding but Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala points out funding support was pushed by the House not the Senate. As Senate President Joe Negron’s pushes plans to buy land for Everglades restoration, opponents argued it would harm instead of help the local economy. Professional Angler Scott Martin tells Gomes there is completely different experience of Lake Okeechobee than what portrayed on television.
COCA-COLA ORLANDO EYE CLOSES FOR MAINTENANCE via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The 400-foot tall observation wheel, which opened in May 2015, is closed through Feb. 9. Maintenance on the Eye is done nightly, but the larger annual maintenance requires a complete closure. The Eye is part of I-Drive 360, a $250 million attraction destination that includes Madame Tussauds Orlando and Sea Life Orlando, which will both remain open.