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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 02.28.17

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Happiest of birthdays to my beloved wife, Michelle. It was six years ago today that a toast on a pirate ship — remember Anthony Pedicini? — led to our fairytale life.

A devoted mother and wife, Michelle makes every day for Ella Joyce and I seem magical, whether it be a perfectly prepared themed-lunch for Ella or the perfectly considered piece of advice for me. Smart, beautiful, elegant, vivacious, thoughtful, generous, devoted … Michelle is all of these and more.

There is a line from the musical ‘Hamilton’ which, in its simplicity, captures how I feel about about Michelle. She’s the “best of wives and women.” I’m no Alexander, but she is certainly both my Eliza and Angelica.

Happy birthday, love of my life.

PROGRAMMING NOTE – Sunburn will be off tomorrow so that I can devote all my time to helping Michelle enjoy her birthday cake.

Now, let’s lead today’s Sunburn with a report from one of my and Michelle’s best friends in the world of journalism, Brendan Farrington…


The Republican-dominated Legislature’s tense relationship with the state Supreme Court is hanging over this year’s legislative session as lawmakers take up two bills to deal with the aftermath of court rulings that Republicans don’t like.

One of them is a fix to the state’s death penalty rules and the other a revision of the “stand your ground” law to better protect defendants claiming self-defense.

It’s no surprise that two other bills are seen as a shot back at the court – a proposal to limit justices’ terms to 12 years and a bill that would require them to file reports to the governor and Legislature on the timeliness of their decisions.

One of House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s priorities this session is to “reign in” the Supreme Court, which he said is trying to serve as two branches of government by writing laws.

“You see decision after decision after decision where courts are legislating from the bench,” Corcoran said.

Of the 2,300 or so bills before the Legislature, House Bill 1 would ask voters to change the state constitution to set 12-year term limits for Supreme Court and state appeals court judges. The fact that it’s the lowest numbered bill is symbolic of its importance to Corcoran.

“Nobody should have an office for life,” Corcoran said.

… For the second year in a row, lawmakers are trying to fix the state’s death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state’s death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. The Legislature responded by overhauling the law to allow the death penalty be imposed by at least a 10-2 jury vote.

In October, however, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions for capital punishment – a decision Corcoran said created upheaval throughout the justice system. Bills are ready for votes in the House and Senate that would require unanimous decisions.

While Republicans are supporting the new death penalty bill, it doesn’t mean they’re happy about being forced to fix the law.

“Do I think the Supreme Court has shown a hostility to the death penalty? Sure. I do, but we have an issue before us,” said Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “The court has made a decision, and we can either ignore that decision and continue to allow paralysis of the system, or we can fix it.”

Another bill addresses a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that states defendants making a “stand your ground” self-defense claim bear the burden of proof during pre-trial hearings. The bill would shift that burden to prosecutors.

Republican Sen. Rob Bradley is sponsoring the bill and he doesn’t hide the fact that Republican lawmakers aren’t fond of the court. He said that tension escalated when the Supreme Court forced lawmakers to give depositions in a lawsuit over the political maps they approved.

“That decision alone has created a real tension between our branches,” said Bradley. “My sense is that they are frustrated by some of the actions they see on the part of our branch. That tension, I don’t think, is unhealthy, but to not acknowledge that there is a tension would be ignoring reality.”

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SPEAKER CHANGES VISIT FLORIDA PLAN AFTER GOP OPPOSITION via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Speaker Corcoran agreed to separate VISIT FLORIDA from a bill that strips taxpayer money from Enterprise Florida and other programs offering corporate incentives he calls wasteful, creating a separate proposal for the tourism agency in the face of GOP opposition. A new bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Renner … would instead carve VISIT FLORIDA into its own proposal, addressing Corcoran’s plan to rein in spending at the tourism agency that many lawmakers and local leaders have praised.

HOUSE MEMBER PROJECTS TOP $2 BILLION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Members of the Florida House have filed 1,028 appropriations projects bills as of Monday afternoon, and the total currently exceeds $2.15 billion. According to House Rule 5.14, in order for a project to be included in the House budget, it must be filed as a standalone bill, favorably considered in committee, and made with non-recurring appropriations. Forty-five bills have met the minimum requirements for inclusion of the House budget so far. So far, 61 bills request appropriations that were vetoed in previous budgets … Members had to file their appropriations project bill request forms by Feb. 7, 2017, and bills must be filed by the opening day deadline of noon Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

HOUSE FILES SHORT WITNESS LIST FOR LOTTERY TRIAL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The House of Representatives’ in-house lawyer also plans to call just two witnesses at trial in Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s lawsuit against the Florida Lottery. House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum … listed JoAnne Leznoff, staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, and Bruce Topp, budget chief for the Government Operation and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. Leznoff, among other things, will testify as to the history of the Lottery’s budget requests, while Topp will talk about the agency’s “fiscal policy” and “communications” between House and Lottery staff about the IGT contract.

BTW – SEMINOLES PAID $40 MILLION IN BLACKJACK SHARE SO FAR THIS YEAR via Florida Politics – Despite ongoing litigation over its right to offer blackjack, the Seminole Tribe of Florida continues to pay gambling revenue share to the state, a total of nearly $40 million for the first two months of the year. Stephen Lawson, spokesman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Monday said the Tribe had deposited the money to cover January and February. The department regulates gambling in the state. The money will go into the state’s General Revenue Fund, Lawson previously said.

FRANCHISE BILL GETS HOUSE COMPANION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Rep. Jason Brodeur filed HB 1069, a companion bill to one by Sen. Jack Latvala that would make it harder to terminate contracts with franchise owners. The bill would also ease restrictions on franchise owners that prevent them from selling or transferring stores without the approval of national chains. “I want to be sure that there is a level playing field for all business owners in Florida, whether they are a small independent shop or a franchisee,” Brodeur said in a statement.


LAWMAKERS BRING BACK BILL TO REFORM HOW JUVENILES ARE TRIED AS ADULTS via Laura Morel of the Tampa Bay Times – State Sen. Darryl Rouson … a co-sponsor of this year’s SB 192, said he is optimistic the measure will move forward this time given the shift in valuing rehabilitation over punishment. “This is a good climate to discuss criminal justice reform,” he said. “I think there’s been a realization that during the 80s we had a lock-them-up mentality and attitude that has not resulted in lower recidivism.” A companion bill has not been filed. Rouson said he is in discussions with a few representatives. Rep. Sprowls … said the measure will be looked at once the House version is filed. “The topic of the juvenile justice system will be something that the House talks about this year,” he said.

HAPPENING TODAY: “House Speaker, Jack Latvala bring VISIT Florida debate to West Palm Beach” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

WHEN WAS THE ELECTION? Rep. Robert Asencio will hold a ceremonial swearing in ceremony and town hall meeting at 7 p.m. at 8625 SW 124 Avenue in Miami.

CORCORAN, RICK SCOTT STILL HOLDING ON CONSTITUTIONAL PANEL PICKS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Senate President Joe Negron have already announced their combined 12 picks. Corcoran last week said he planned to disclose his nine picks next Monday, the day before Session begins. Scott’s office has not said when he plans to announce his 15 selections. As governor, Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. Corcoran, as House Speaker, gets nine picks, as does Negron as head of the Senate.

MYSTERY WEBSITE URGES SCOTT TO NAME ANITERE FLORES CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER via Florida Politics – A privately registered website is urging Scott to name Flores to replace Jeff Atwater when he resigns as the state’s chief financial offer at the end of the coming legislative session. “Ask Gov. Scott to stand with working class Floridians and appoint Flores as our next CFO!” the site urges. The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers website lists the Flores website’s administrator as private. The site includes a button to push to send Scott an email, and gives his office telephone number.

SCOTT: ‘GREAT TO SEE IVANKA TRUMP LAST NIGHT’ via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Gov. Scott …  tweeted a photo of him and Ivanka Trumpfrom [Sunday] night’s Governors’ Ball at the White House. Scott, who had lunch with Trump Saturday, remains in Washington.

DONALD TRUMP MAY VISIT ORLANDO, PALM BEACH ON FRIDAY via Mike Stucka of the Palm Beach Post – On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration warned pilots to expect the kinds restrictions around Orlando that typically accompany Trump’s visits: Flight restrictions 0f about 35 miles and an even stricter restriction of about 11 nautical miles. Those restrictions have been a hallmark of Trump’s visits, but not of trips by Vice President Mike Pence.

TRUMP AND THE MANSION THAT NO ONE WANTED. THEN CAME A RUSSIAN FERTILIZER KING via Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald – The fog of political war has made it difficult to tell the real from the shadow. Except for one very visible landmark: a sprawling, rococo seaside mansion in Palm Beach that Trump himself liked to boast about as an example of his real-estate acumen …  a wild and goofy tale of the Palm Beach real-estate market involving tax fraud, Russian billionaires, lurid divorce-court accusations and … the execrably vulgar taste of the super-rich. It’s a tale that’s now coming to a sad end: That $100 million mansion, once the most expensive home in America, has become its most expensive tear-down. Not a single trace of the compound remains, and soon even its address will disappear: The 6.3-acre estate on which it stood has been broken into three parcels, and one of them has already sold.

MATT GAETZ POSTS VIDEO OF BEING CHEERED, BOOED AT “OPEN GAETZ DAY” – Other members of Congress may have cherrypicked favorable moments at recent town halls, but Gaetz showed warts and all. The new Panhandle congressman posted a short video on YouTube of highlights from his home district “Open Gaetz Day” last week in which he is booed and cheered in turn. Gaetz is seen talking about repealing Obamacare, abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and supporting President Donald Trump on building a wall on the border with Mexico. At one point, a protester yells that Gaetz “should be ashamed,” to which Gaetz responds, “I’m not ashamed of myself.”

PHILIP LEVINE INVITED TO TESTIFY IN SENATE HEARING via Florida Politics – Levine has been invited to testify at a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In a letter dated Feb. 24, committee chair and South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune invited Levine to testify in the hearing, titled “Connecting America: Improving Access to Infrastructure for Communities Across the Country.” Thune said the hearing would focus on the infrastructure needs of communities across the country, and that the committee is looking for testimony “on the policies required to help move people, goods and information safely and efficiently.” The hearing is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

OP-ED – BORDER ADJUSTMENT WOULD SOCK FLORIDA WITH HUGELY HIGHER INSURANCE RATES via Christian Cámara – Congress repeatedly has considered legislation that would have adversely and profoundly impacted disaster-prone states like Florida. Luckily, we were spared passage, over and over again. Unfortunately, a tax “reform” package supported by House Republicans and likely to be introduced soon may contain provisions that would do essentially the same damage. Historically, these bills targeted reinsurance purchased by property insurers from affiliates located offshore. The key change would be to eliminate the U.S. subsidiary’s ability to write off the reinsurance costs from their corporate income. The measures long have been supported by a group of U.S.-based insurance companies, who sought to reduce competition they face from foreign insurers and reinsurers.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA PRESIDENT STEPPING DOWN IN 2018 via The Associated Press – John Delaney … the former mayor of Jacksonville … will retire from his position when his contract expires in May 2018. Delaney has been UNF president since 2003 and he was appointed to the position despite never having worked in education before his selection. Delaney was elected to two consecutive terms as Jacksonville’s mayor in the 1990s. Delaney was often mentioned as a potential candidate for statewide office and he came close to getting appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2009 after then-Sen. Mel Martinez resigned.

PRESS RELEASE ABOUT CHICKEN SH*T: “Environmental Groups Announce Lawsuit Against World’s Second Largest Chicken Producer for Illegal Pollution of Suwanee River.”

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ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, House Speaker Corcoran explains the reasoning behind his push to reform Tallahassee. Gomes also talks with former Tallahassee Representative Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda about her decision to join the Republican Party. Meanwhile, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia pledges to comb the state to convince conservative Democrats to switch to the GOP. A bill to create statewide ridesharing regulation advances as the coalition, Floridians for Ridesharing tout significant bipartisan support. Gomes also shares insights on upcoming reforms facing Florida’s college system from Florida Times-Union Statehouse bureau chief Tia Mitchell and the president of South Florida State College, Tom Leitzel. Gomes also looks ahead to the 2018 governor’s race as Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum announce he’s considering running for the job.


Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners LLC: GVDB Holdings, Inc.

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Atlantic Ocean Club Condominium Association; Boca Towers Condominium Association; Coastal House Association; Pinnacle Apartments, Inc., a Condominium; Plaza East Association, Inc.; Regency Tower South Association; The Commodore Condominium Apartments

Edgar Fernandez, Anfield Consulting: National Council of La Raza

William Helmich, Helmich Consulting: Univision Communications Inc.; Village of Pinecrest

Lisa Hurley, Smith Bryan & Myers: Florida Chamber of Commerce

Andrew Ketchel, Capital City Consulting: The City of Venice

Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Sheriffs Association

GOVERNORS CLUB PATIO TO START CONSTRUCTION via Florida Politics – Praise the lord and pass the Macanudos: The building of the long-delayed outdoor patio in front of the Governors Club starts today (Monday). Allison Ager, the club’s membership and marketing director, says the new “front porch” should be ready in about a month, under the iconic magnolia tree on the corner of Adams Street and College Avenue. “The pavers being used are an environmentally friendly product that will allow water to flow straight through to the ground so the tree can thrive,” Ager says. The project had been hung up in permitting with the city of Tallahassee for years. All this means cigar aficionados will soon be able to puff with abandon during the day: Smoking is prohibited in the club, except on the second-floor balcony and in the lounge after 7 p.m.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD Henry Wayne Stevens, the healthy baby boy of Jodi and Monte Stevens. He was born Friday, weighing in at six pounds two ounces.

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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