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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 11.21.16

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

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


Tomorrow is Organization Session day for the new Florida Legislature.

The event is required by the state constitution, which says that “on the fourteenth day following each general election the legislature shall convene for the exclusive purpose of organization and selection of officers.”

Thus, the job at hand will be to drop the “-designate” from the titles, as the Senate will formally make Joe Negron its President, and the House will similarly name Richard Corcoran its Speaker.

Speeches will be given, legislators sworn in, assignments doled out. Mainly, it will be the first opportunity to gaze out over a different sea of faces in each chamber.

Old ones will be missed, and new ones will be welcomed. The House now has 46 new members and the upper chamber greets new 20 senators.

But state Rep. Matt Gaetz, for example, is off to Congress, and no longer will be heard his refrain — “I reject the premise of your question” — on the (state) House floor.

Across the 4th floor, Sen. Alan Hays said ‘so long’ to his colleagues to become Lake County’s elections supervisor. We likely will never again see him, as we once did, hold up his grandbaby on the Senate floor like Rafiki did to Simba in “The Lion King.”

Some just changed sides of the Rotunda: Thad Altman and Joe Abruzzo had been senators but were elected to House seats (which kind of makes you question the whole nature of ‘term limits’). Darryl Rouson, a St. Pete House rep, ran for Senate and won.

Others learned the lesson of ‘try, try again,’ like Sean Shaw. He’s the Tampa Democrat who ran and lost in 2014 but won election to HD 61 this year.

Still others are political neophytes. New Sen. Lauren Book has never held elected office. Book, a South Florida Democrat, is the daughter of longtime powerhouse lobbyist Ron Book.

Finally, after the pomp and pleasantries, the real work begins, with committee weeks kicking off in December.

THE SCHEDULE — The Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate will meet this week for an organizational session to, among other things, swear-in new members and formally select officers. The House Republican Conference will meet at 4 p.m. in the House Chamber. House Democrats will hold their conference meeting at 6 p.m., also in the House Chamber. Senate Democrats are also scheduled to meet, holding a meeting to elect their new leaders and officers at 5:30 p.m. in the Senate Chamber. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is expected to be in attendance, as is Republican legislative leadership. On Tuesday, the Senate will be called into session at 10 a.m. for an organizational meeting. The House will be called into session at 11 a.m.

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MUST-READ EDITORIAL: RICHARD CORCORAN — FLORIDA’S POWERFUL NEW HOUSE SPEAKER via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Get ready, Florida, for a powerful new speaker of the Florida House of Representatives who’s sure to become a household name over the next two years — likely longer, if he runs for governor as many expect. Perhaps you already know the name Richard Corcoran, who has chaired the House Appropriations Committee for the last two years. In that role, the conservative Republican from Land O’Lakes … made his mark by standing up to Florida Senate leaders who wanted to expand Medicaid health insurance to another 800,000 low-income people. “They want us to come dance?” Corcoran asked in 2015. “We’re not dancing. We’re not dancing this session, we’re not dancing next session, we’re not dancing next summer. We’re not dancing.” Taking it a step further, House leaders packed up and left without fulfilling their one legal duty — passing a state budget. We called it the most dysfunctional legislative session in memory … Corcoran considers himself a more principled conservative, having stood against three policy proposals advanced under Weatherford‘s watch: allowing children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition, allowing children of undocumented immigrants access to a state health care program for indigents, and allowing undocumented immigrants to become members of the Florida Bar. Corcoran’s uncompromising conservative agenda — he’s not one to seek a win-win — has made him the darling of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group funded by David and Charles Koch. And in a four-way primary, AFP’s backing could help him emerge on top. But in a general election, his hard-edge — some say heartless — attitude could be a real turnoff to voters. So be aware. Love him or hate him, Richard Corcoran is about to have a lot more sway over our lives for the next two years. Maybe more.

LEGISLATIVE LEADERS PREVIEW THEIR TENSIONS, DIVIDING LINES via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — … and has little interest in continuing the tradition/charade of recent legislative presiding officers who acted like they were BFFs totally on the same page heading into a legislative session … clear dividing lines and tensions were on display. “I don’t think the Speaker-designate will get along very well with the president-elect,” Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring said after listening to the two Republican leaders cordially talk about their priorities and philosophies for the next session. The next House Speaker sounded adamant that he will clamp down on spending that he depicted as out of control. The next Senate President said limiting spending is important, but so is investing Florida’s quality of life. “

We should be frugal, we should be reasonable, but our state does need infrastructure,” said Negron, noting that Floridians have among the lowest tax burdens and that he is proud of his role helping fund a senior center in his community. “Cultural funding, museums. libraries, making sure we have places where people can meet, I do think those are important” in attracting millennials to Florida. “That’s going to be a big difference between the two chambers of the next two years,” retorted Corcoran, who lamented that “every single legislator spends money like a teenager in a mall with a first-time credit card.” When Negron later suggested that give and take is important between the two chambers, Corcoran neither nodded nor spoke in agreement. The next Senate President said improving Lake Okeechobee, increasing higher education funding and graduation rates and trying to provide more Floridians more access to health insurance through Medicaid are among his priorities. Corcoran was less specific. “We’re going to govern unabashedly principled and unabashedly conservative,” he said. “That creates tensions, that creates internal strife.”

PAM BONDI WANTS LAWMAKERS TO BAN SYNTHETIC OPIOID PERMANENTLY via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida — Bondi plans to ask the Legislature for a permanent ban on the synthetic opioid known as U-47700 … Bondi had already outlawed the substance in Florida under an emergency rule in September to designate it as a Schedule I controlled substance. But the rule isn’t permanent. The drug, several times stronger than morphine, was patented in the 1970s, but has become much more prevalent in the past two years. It has been associated with 46 deaths in the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. It has also been found in tablet form in counterfeit prescription drugs sold on the street. The DEA also designated the drug a Schedule I controlled substance this month, but that designation is temporary, lasting three years at the most.

DANA YOUNG SAYS SHE’LL PROPOSE STATEWIDE FRACKING BAN via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Young told a gathering of political leaders in Orlando this week the bill will be one of her top priorities in the coming session. Young was criticized by environmental groups during her campaign for supporting previous bills on fracking regulation that didn’t include a ban. One of those groups, Florida Conservation Voters, issued a news release praising Young’s pledge to introduce the new legislation. The previous bills would have required a study of possible effects of the oil and gas-drilling technique on Florida’s aquifer; the 2016 bill also imposed a moratorium on fracking until the Legislature could consider the results of the study. Democrats and environmental groups opposed both bills, calling instead for a ban; both passed the House where Young was majority leader, but died in the Senate … she reiterated that she has always considered fracking too dangerous to allow it in Florida, but said she had reconsidered legal arguments she formerly cited against a ban. Young previously argued that if the state imposed a ban without scientific data from a study to show the potential harm, it could be vulnerable to lawsuits from property owners saying the state had unconstitutionally taken their property rights.

DEO’S TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY: ACCESS TO DRIVER’S LICENSE DATABASE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The Department of Economic Opportunity’s top priority headed into the 2017 legislative is to gain access to a state driver’s license database that officials say could help curb unemployment benefits fraud. The department last year sought access to the DAVID system, a database overseen by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. It contains digital images of driver’s licenses that DEO would like to cross-check to confirm the validity of those seeking unemployment benefits, which are called re-employment assistance benefits in Florida.

“A limited number of staff will be using the photographs to confirm identities to prevent fraudulent RA fraud filings,” read a Department document outlining its top legislative priority. “Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are being stolen by criminals who use stolen identities to claim fraudulent Re-employment Assistance,” DEO executive director Cissy Proctor said in a statement about the change last year. “By enhancing DEO’s fraud detection system, we can stay ahead of these criminal rings to better protect Re-employment Assistance dollars.” State law currently gives access to the DAVID System to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Health, the Department of State, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Agency for Health Care Administration, and the Department of Financial Services. The proposed tweak is the department’s only priority headed into this year’s session.

ELECTION FIRES UP CAMPUS CARRY FORCES via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — This week, lawmakers begin preparing for the 2017 session but campus carry advocates and opponents are already locked and loaded for another battle over guns in the classroom. “By next week we’ll know who the committee chairs are and then we’ll have a better idea how to move the bills through the committee process,” said newly-elected Sen. Greg Steube … “But, I don’t see how you can say it’s not a more favorable landscape.” Steube championed loosening gun regulations in the House and said he would continue to push to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry firearms on university and college campuses. His advocacy has prompted a steady stream of educators to Tallahassee to oppose the idea. “This year I will have survey data from directors of counseling centers, chiefs of police and students on campuses that permit concealed carry,” said Marjorie D. Sanfilippo, who has spoken against campus carry each of the last two sessions. Sanfilippo is a professor of psychology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and points to this year’s presidential election as the kind of contentious discussion that would be stifled by the knowledge that one’s classmate may be armed. “I will come to Tallahassee to testify against campus carry as many times as I have to keep it from passing,” said Sanfilippo. The opposition to campus carry is mobilizing. The Florida League of Women Voters earlier this year formed a coalition of more than 100 nonpartisan organizations to promote stronger gun regulations. The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence includes faith-based, education and business groups. It will lobby against campus carry and open carry proposals during the 2017 session. “We knew Steube would be coming back and we’ll be there to stop him,” said Pamela Goodman, the League’s president and a concealed-weapons permit holder. “This is a bad, bad, bad idea,” said Goodman who last year could count on every state university and college president and campus police chief to oppose the bill.

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FOR MIAMI-DADE LAWMAKERS IN NEW ROLES OF INFLUENCE, ‘THERE’S STRENGTH IN PEACE’ via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald — At least seven Miami-Dade legislators — and potentially a few more yet to be announced — will hold powerful leadership positions from now through 2018 under incoming Senate President Negron and House Speaker an …  These roles should ensure Miami-Dade’s mark on everything from school choice measures and gambling regulations to which local projects get funding priority. Both the new Senate president and House speaker have chosen Republican women from Miami as their top lieutenants: Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, respectively. Below them will be a slew of committee chairs from Miami-Dade, too, who will have the ability — particularly in the House — to hold sway over statewide policy and the purse strings of the state’s $82 billion budget. Among those chairs is Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, who Corcoran named leader of the powerful House Rules and Policy Committee. Oliva is also what his Miami colleagues call the “speaker in waiting,” poised to succeed Corcoran as head of the chamber two years from now. For local residents, these positions of influence for Miami-Dade legislators mean the senators and representatives they elected — especially the Republican ones, since that party holds the majority in both chambers — will be among the key decision-makers in Tallahassee with the ability to put the county’s needs and priorities at the forefront for possibly years to come. “It’s access to where decisions get made,” Nuñez said. “We really are in a unique position and our citizens are the better for it.”

NEW DUVAL DELEGATION MEMBERS FACE A LEARNING CURVE via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The Duval Delegation lost over three decades of cumulative legislative experience on the state level as of the November election, and an open question among Jacksonville insiders is one of how quickly the new class conquers the learning curve. Republican Rep. Cord Byrd of House District 11 and Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis of House District 13 hit the ground running without legislative experience. However, the other three newbies – GOP Rep. Clay Yarborough in HD 12, Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels in HD 14, and Republican Rep. Jason Fischer of HD 16 – come in with experience on Jacksonville’s City Council in the case of the first two, and school board experience in the case of Fischer. That experience may be helpful in terms of accomplishing meaningful priorities sooner rather than later. In comments earlier this month, Mayor Curry didn’t project concern about a drop off in performance. “I have a very productive relationship with the current Duval delegation, and I will continue to build relationships with the new members of the delegation. I have and will continue to work with a team of professionals who ensure getting the highest return for the investment of taxpayers. The successes of our team include a solution to the pension crisis and earned us state resources for infrastructure and public safety,” Curry said. In short, the city is going to reinforce its own priorities with robust lobbying. It likely won’t be as urgent as it was last year, when the city pushed all of its chips to the center of the table to get authorization for a pension reform referendum. But that probably won’t be so bad, especially given that there was a point last summer when legislators who made the push for the referendum in Tallahassee (Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. Mia Jones) essentially politicked against the measure when it was on the August ballot.

MIGUEL DÍAZ DE LA PORTILLA SUING ELECTION OFFICIALS OVER STATE POLITICAL COMMITTEE LAW via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida —  A political committee controlled by outgoing State Sen. Díaz de la Portilla is suing state election officials in federal court over state laws that require committees disclose which specific candidate they are supporting. When a committee that is directly aligned with a member or candidate — rather than an organization or outside group — state law dictates that the member list their name on state filings when creating a committee. The Department of State will sometimes advise those seeking to start a committee that they can fill in that section of the application with “to be determined.” Several examples of committees that have done that were included in the lawsuit, which was filed in June in Tallahassee federal court. That’s what Díaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican, and his attorneys did when creating Floridians for Ethics in Judicial Elections, a committee created in 2014 to influence a judicial race. One day after the committee began sending mail pieces, a complaint was filed with the Florida Ethics Commission against the committee for not identifying a specific lawmaker in paperwork filed with the state. The committee’s attorneys, Roger Beaubien and Emmett Mitchell, wrote in the lawsuit that they have filed “countless statements for other political committees” the same way and never had a problem. “This discriminatory prosecution by the commission represents a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” read the lawsuit. The commission found “probable cause” that the committee violated state law, which prompted Díaz de la Portilla to take the issue to federal court. The named defendants are Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees elections and Scott Thomas, who chairs the Florida Ethics Commission.

NEWLY-ELECTED SAM KILLEBREW UNDER FIRE FOR POST THAT SLAMS MUSLIMS via Mike Ferguson of The Ledger — Killebrew is taking some heat for a post shared on his personal Facebook page … The post read: “Liberals are acting like [DonaldTrump is going to kill all the gays, make slavery legal again and take away women’s rights. Did he become a Muslim?” Killebrew, a Republican, received 53 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Bob Doyel in last week’s general election to represent District 41 … “I was wrong,” Killebrew, 71, said about the post he put up Monday. “If that offended people, I apologize.” But Kemp Brinson, a local attorney and former candidate for Winter Haven City Commission, criticized Killebrew … about the post both on his own Facebook page and tagged Killebrew. The post is visible to anyone who can access either page. Brinson wrote, “My newly elected state representative, Sam Killebrew, whom I respect greatly, shared this stupid joke on social media. I think he should be more respectful of his Muslim constituents. He says he doesn’t think all Muslims think this way and I’m reading too much into it. What do you think?”

EPILOGUE — NEARLY $20 MILLION SPENT ON ADS IN FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE RACES via The Associated Press — Final data show that $19.4 million was spent over the last two years to air more than 33,000 commercials in races for the Florida Senate and Florida House. The vast majority of ads were run in state Senate races. The biggest spender was a Republican political committee controlled by Senate President Negron. The GOP majority only lost one Senate seat during the election. The Center for Public Integrity analyzed data about political advertising on broadcast television from Kantar Media/CMAG, a media tracking firm that monitors media markets around the country. These figures cover ads aired over the last two years and do not include ads for radio, online, direct mail or local cable TV ads.

FELON VOTED ILLEGALLY FROM TREASURE COAST JAIL via George Andreassi of TCPalm — A felon serving time in the Indian River County Jail voted by mail in the Nov. 8 election because Florida’s cumbersome system for purging felons from the voter registration rolls had not yet caught up with him … The monthlong investigation found no other instances of questionable voting on the Treasure Coast and the elections supervisors in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties said they received no official complaints about voter fraud in the Nov. 8 election. State law bars felons from voting, unless their voting rights have been restored by the state Office of Executive Clemency. It is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, for someone to vote when they know they are not legally qualified. State law calls for a variety of agencies — such as the court clerk in each county, the state Department of Corrections, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, among others — to report felony convictions to the Department of State. If a felon is registered to vote, the department’s Bureau of Voter Registration Services notifies the county elections supervisor. The supervisors must try to notify the felon he or she is potentially ineligible to vote, so they have a chance to appeal. The process could take as long as 65 days if the felon doesn’t respond to an official letter and a newspaper ad. Indian River County Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan said her office sent mail ballots to the two felons at the county jail because the state had not yet notified her about their status. Deszi Marquis Hayes, 56, of Vero Beach, who is serving a nine-month jail term for a felony traffic conviction, submitted a vote-by-mail ballot to the Supervisor of Elections Office, records show. He was sentenced July 1.

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DAYS UNTIL: Thanksgiving — 3; Premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — 24; Inauguration Day — 59; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training — 85; Start of 2017 Legislative Session — 116: Election Day 2017 — 350: Election Day 2018 — 714.

TRUMP OPPONENTS TRY TO BEAT HIM AT THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE via The Associated Press — Activists are circulating online petitions and using social media in hopes of influencing Republican electors to cast their ballots for someone other than President-elect Trump and deprive him of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become the next occupant of the White House. “Yes, I think it’s a long shot, but I also think we’re living in strange times,” said Daniel Brezenoff, who created a petition for Hillary Clinton and is asking signers to lobby electors by email or phone. “If it was ever plausible, it’s this year.” Trump has won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan undecided, but Clinton is on pace to win the popular vote by at least 1 million ballots. Trump’s opponents are motivated by the outcome of the popular vote and by their contention that the businessman and reality TV star is unfit to serve as commander in chief. Just one elector so far has wavered publicly on supporting Trump. Texas Republican Art Sisneros says he has reservations about the president-elect, but not because of the national popular vote. He told The Associated Press he wouldn’t vote for Clinton under any circumstance. “As a Christian, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump is not biblically qualified for that office,” he said.

— “U.S. election is driving Canada up a wall” via Gary Yordon of the Tallahassee Democrat

REINCE PRIEBUS, THE MIAMI YEARS via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — With the 1996 election approaching, the editors of Res Ipsa Loquitur, the University of Miami Law School newspaper, conducted a completely informal, wholly unscientific poll of fellow students about their favorite candidate for president. Bill Clinton topped Bob Dole “in a landslide,” the biweekly paper reported on Sept. 26, 1996. But more interesting, in hindsight, were two other contenders who appeared further down the list: Hillary Clinton, then first lady, drew 3 percent support, putting her in sixth place — right behind the 4 percent garnered by the fifth-place candidate, a “relative unknown” by the name of Reince Priebus. He was, at the time, a second-year UM law student. Two decades later, it’s Priebus — not Clinton — heading to the White House starting Jan. 20, 2017. Last week, President-elect Trump picked Priebus to be his chief of staff. Most people know Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman since 2011 and a fixture on cable and Sunday news shows, as a Wisconsin political strategist who lost a 2004 state Senate race and later successfully steered the Wisconsin Republican Party as its youngest chairman. Few remember he obtained his law degree far from the Badger State, in sunny Coral Gables, a place that — by all accounts — he thoroughly enjoyed … “I went to school right down the road at the University of Miami,” Priebus said at a Sept. 16 Trump rally at the James L. Knight Center downtown. “Go Hurricanes!”

RICK SCOTT SAYS CHANGE COMING TO HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WHITE HOUSE THANKS TO TRUMP via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times — With Trump‘s Nov. 8 election, Scott will suddenly have a White House ally who the Republican governor says will undoubtedly pay dividends for Florida. “I think we are going to see good change,” Scott told reporters … Specifically, Scott said he expects the federal government to do more now to address toxic algae blooms, provide a faster and better response to disaster declarations, allocate more resources to fight Zika and end legal showdowns on a variety of issues. “When we have a problem and need a solution, at least we have someone to talk to,” Scott said of Trump. Scott met with Trump Thursday in New York — the fourth time he’s spoken to Trump since Election Day.

NO SCOTT, BUT TRUMP MULLING OTHER FLORIDIANS FOR ADMINISTRATION via Ledyard King of USA TODAY — His Cabinet could include other Republicans from the Sunshine State. Among them: Wilbur L. Ross, head of the private equity firm WL Ross & Co., known for investing in and restructuring failing companies. The venture capitalist has been mentioned as the favorite for the Commerce secretary job and is already advising the president-elect on economic matters. Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, has been a prominent figure at some of Trump’s rallies and is a member of his transition team. She’s been mentioned for a possible slot in the Justice Department, but it’s not clear whether that changes now that Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions has been nominated for Attorney General. Jeff Miller, who represents Pensacola and the western Panhandle, chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Miller, who opted not to run for re-election, is often mentioned as the front-runner to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. John Mica, the Orlando-area congressman who lost his seat … He’s the former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where he helped broker a congressional deal on a multiyear highway and transit spending. Mica’s a long shot for the job, but Trump has touted a massive infrastructure bill as an area of bipartisan agreement, and he might view the departing lawmaker as someone who could help him get it through Congress. A wild card in Mica’s favor: The congressman was instrumental in helping Trump turn the government-owned Post Office Tower building blocks from the White House into what is now a Trump luxury hotel.

FAA RESTRICTS AIRSPACE OVER MAR-A-LAGO THIS WEEK; TRUMP LIKELY CAUSE via Mike Stucka of the Palm Beach Post — The Federal Aviation Administration announced … major flight restrictions will be in place around Trump’s palatial Mar-a-Lago from Tuesday through Friday. The Palm Beach estate is near the center of the flight restrictions, which covers a circle about 7 miles across. Palm Beach International Airport is within those restrictions. Flights arriving or leaving from the airport will still be able to fly, as will U.S. Secret Service, military, law enforcement and air ambulance flights. Other aircraft will not be allowed in the area below 3,000 feet. The restrictions will force a detour for aircraft that often follow along the shoreline. A FAA spokeswoman, Arlene Salac, would not say whether the flight restrictions covered Trump. “The Federal Aviation Administration will engage with the U.S. Secret Service about flight restrictions that will be put in place during the transition and for future presidential visits to Palm Beach, Florida. We will work to minimize the impact on commercial and general aviation,” Salac said in an email to The Post. Trump has spent Thanksgivings at Mar-a-Lago for about 20 years.

SHOT: @SaintPetersBlog on Friday: .@AGPamBondi = @realDonaldTrump’s drug czar?

CHASER: Adam Smith on Sunday: The Buzz prediction/recommendation: Bondi as Trump’s drug czar.

BILL NELSON WILL “RESERVE JUDGEMENT” REGARDING SESSIONS NOMINATION AS ATTORNEY GENERAL via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Nelson said little about how he might vote on Sessions when he comes up for a confirmation vote next year. “I will certainly reserve judgment if he is the nominee until we go through the hearings and it comes to the full Senate for a vote,” he said at a news conference at his downtown Tampa district office. “I can tell you that Jeff Sessions and I have worked on a number of pieces of legislation together in a bipartisan way and I’ve always had a very good working relationship with him.” Last year, the two worked on a bill that would reduce the number of H-1B visas from 85,000 to 70,000 a year.

MARCO RUBIO PRAISES TRUMP’S PICK FOR CIA DIRECTOR BUT MUM ABOUT SESSIONS, MIKE FLYNN via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Rubio called Rep. Mike Pompeo, who endorsed Rubio in the presidential race and is a former Army officer, “a strong choice to lead the CIA at this crucial time in our nation’s history. Our intelligence professionals are America’s first line of defense, and it’s essential that our leaders and policymakers have the best possible intelligence as they work to protect and advance our country’s interests … The world is more dangerous than ever, with Russia and China attempting to undermine America’s allies, Islamic terrorism spreading, and increasingly aggressive rogue nations threatening our security.” Rubio has not commented on Trump’s other picks, including Sessions for attorney general and Flynn for national security advisor.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ RIPS STEVE BANNON PICK via David Wright of CNN — “Between the Steve Bannon appointment as his chief strategist, you know, a step and heartbeat next to the presidency, one, you know, one person who fans the flames and gives permission to sexism, racism and anti-Semitism on his shoulder,” Wasserman Schultz said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” … “It’s really getting more and more disturbing.” The Florida Democrat the pick “means that we can’t take Donald Trump at his word after he was elected a couple of weeks ago that he intends to bring the nation together.” The former Democratic National Committee chairwoman … also took aim at another pair of Trump administration appointments announced Friday —  Sessions for attorney general and retired Army Lt. Gen. Flynn as national security adviser. Wasserman Schultz cited Sessions’ unsuccessful appointment to a U.S. District Court by then-President Ronald Reagan, which sank when a former Justice Department employee testified that Sessions had made racially tinged remarks. “Let’s remember that Jeff Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Reagan and at the time was one of only two in 60 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee — which was controlled by Republicans at the time — because of his previous racist statements and really outrageous comments.”

ECKERD COLLEGE PRESIDENT SIGNS LETTER ASKING TRUMP TO DENOUNCE ACTS OF VIOLENCE ON CAMPUS via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — Donald Eastman has joined 109 other college presidents in signing a letter to President-elect Trump, urging him to denounce the “harassment, hate and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your name.” … “Eckerd College has had no such incidents, but the issue is still important to President Eastman,” spokeswoman Robbyn Hopewell wrote in an email. He signed the letter at a meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities this week. Bennington College President Mariko Silver organized the letter-writing effort. She told Inside Higher Ed that she heard fellow college leaders express concern about students’ well-being as hate-fueled incidents grabbed headlines nationwide. She wanted Trump to acknowledge that anxiety and make a commitment to keeping students safe. Since the election, Trump has addressed the broader issue of harassment of minorities, though briefly. This is what he told 60 Minutes: “I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it — if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’”

— “More than 1,500 people march in anti-Trump protest Saturday” via Darlena Cunha of the Gainesville Sun

CHARLIE CRIST UNANIMOUSLY INDUCTED INTO NEW DEMOCRAT COALITION via Florida Politics — By a unanimous vote, the Coalition inducted 10 members-elect — four from Florida — to the progressive centrist group of legislators dedicated to advancing the New Dem vision of economic innovation, competition and national security. Crist recently defeated incumbent Republican David Jolly in the redrawn Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The former Republican governor joins Democrats Val Demings of CD 10, Stephanie Murphy of CD 7, and Darren Soto of CD 9. Murphy had unseated longtime Republican John Mica, who represented Central Florida for 12 terms; Soto became Florida’s first Puerto Rican in Congress. “In a year that was filled with disappointment adding to the New Dem ranks offers a bright spot,” said coalition chair Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin. “The New Democrat Coalition is proud to induct these 10 accomplished and dedicated Members-Elect into our growing coalition.

***PRIDE Enterprises is a not-for-profit corporation that was statutorily designated in 1981 by the Florida Legislature to operate vocational work training programs inside state prisons and to provide job placement assistance for inmate program participants throughout the state of Florida. PRIDE operates 41 inmate training centers in 21 state correctional facilities. PRIDE fully funds its work programs and job placement/re-entry services from the sale of its products and services — all at no cost to Florida taxpayers. Visit to learn more about PRIDE Enterprises.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce the third quarter Florida tourism numbers at 9 a.m. at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, 370 Zoo Parkway in Jacksonville.

FLORIDA’S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE TICKED UPWARD IN OCTOBER via The Associated Press — State officials … announced the state’s jobless rate was 4.8 percent in October. That’s a slight increase over the September rate, although it’s lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. The unemployment rate has hovered around the same place much of this year. The rate rose because people are returning to the labor force and are seeking jobs. Florida added 5,700 jobs in October. That number trailed behind at least 10 other states in the nation, including Alabama, California, Michigan and Wisconsin.

— “In job growth, blue states outpaced red states in past year” via The Associated Press

STATE BUDGET ANALYSTS FORECAST ECONOMIC GROWTH IN FLORIDA BUT HAVE CONCERNS via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News — The slower-than-expected economic growth could affect tax revenue that feeds the state budget, which already promises increased costs next year for Medicaid and education. Budget analysts from the House, Senate and governor’s office gathered for the State Economic Estimating Conference. They agreed Florida would see 109.4 million visitors by the end of this year — 7 percent more than the 102 million visitors in 2015. They expect 114 million visitors next year, or 4 percent more than in 2016. The 4 percent growth in tourism forecast for 2017 would be less than the 4.8 percent forecasters predicted in July. But the 7 percent increase expected for this year would be better than the 6 percent predicted in July. The biggest drop in tourists was from Canada. The state had a 10 percent decline in Canadian tourists this year, and that slide is expected to continue into 2017. The state had 4.1 million Canadians in 2015 and expects 3.7 million this year. Florida expects a 9 percent decrease in Canadian visitors in 2017. The forecasters … will produce a report that will predict the state economy in future years and how it will affect revenue the Legislature will use to build the state budget.

NELSON WANTS PROBE INTO FLORIDA’S USE OF DRIVER RECORDS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — Nelson wants a federal investigation of how Florida uses the personal information of its 15 million licensed drivers. The Florida Democrat wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch … asking her to probe whether the state is selling information for marketing purposes without the drivers’ consent in violation of federal law. Nelson made the request after WTVT-TV reported that 75 companies are getting information in bulk from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and that the agency is not doing anything to ensure the information is used properly. “In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” Nelson’s letter says. “I ask that your agency investigate whether the State of Florida is fully adhering to the intent of the law, as any deviation could be severely harmful to the millions of people who trusted the state.” The agency has collected $150 million in the last two fiscal years from companies requesting driving records. Its executive director, Terry Rhodes, said in a statement that the agency “does not sell driver or motor vehicle information” and that the driving records were handed over as required under federal laws and the state’s public records laws. Beth Frady, a spokeswoman for Rhodes, added that the money collected from companies was based on fees that were set by the Florida Legislature. Rhodes and her agency report to Gov. Scott and the three elected members of the Florida Cabinet.

BETWEEN MIAMI-DADE AND TRANSIT MONEY, A ‘WEB’ OF POLITICS AWAITS via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — When Esteban “Steve” Bovo headed to Tallahassee earlier this year, the chairman of the Miami-Dade Commission’s Transportation Committee had a bold plan to pitch: a new commuter rail connecting the existing Metrorail system to the western suburbs. The pricey blueprint for the $102 million connection in Florida’s largest county had its share of detractors in the state capitol. In particular, lawmakers from Miami-Dade itself questioned the attention paid to the western reaches of Miami-Dade when commuters in the south and north wanted rail, too. The episode illustrates the complex politics involved in transit expansion, which often depends on state and federal dollars to get beyond the planning stage.

A recent Miami-Dade Ethics Commission investigation of a county transit lobbyist offered a detailed look at some of those complexities, and how the push and pull of transportation funding play out in the state capital and beyond. At the center of the probe sits Fausto Gomez, a longtime lobbyist for both Miami-Dade and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, an independent toll board known as the MDX. A Nov. 10 report by the ethics commission accused Gomez of having “sabotaged” Miami-Dade’s transportation efforts in Tallahassee by pushing legislation that would have given the MDX control of special transit districts that Bovo and other commissioners intended to be run by the county itself. Gomez claimed the allegations ignored the complex realities of transit politics, as well as the need for a unified transportation front that melds the priorities of the MDX, Miami-Dade and other players into a single request. Miami-Dade lawmakers “did not intend to pursue or advance individual, piecemeal projects of various County officials, “Gomez lawyer Benedict Kuehne wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to the ethics commission. “[B]ecause Mr. Gomez was experienced in the often complex and inconsistent web of transportation planning, coordination and funding, he used his considerable experience to navigate a potential ‘win-win’ solution for Miami-Dade County.”

NEARLY 100 HAVE APPLIED FOR STATE CONSTITUTION REWRITE PANEL via Florida Politics — A few of the newest names interested in being on the Constitution Revision Commission are Alan Becker, co-founder of South Florida’s Becker & Poliakoff law firm, and vice chair of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development organization. Glenton Gilzean, president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League. Scott appointed him to serve on the 9th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission earlier this year. Bill McCollum, the former U.S. representative from Northeast Florida who served 20 years in Congress, before becoming the state’s attorney general from 2007-11. He also ran for governor in 2010, losing the Republican nomination to Scott. Steven Specht, the Air Force veteran who just unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat in the Panhandle’s 1st Congressional District. He lost to Republican Matt GaetzJulie Waldman, a deputy general counsel for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and a self-described advocate for “children, the elderly and the developmentally disabled.”

WHY ARE THE KOCH BROTHERS INTERESTED IN JACKSONVILLE? PENSIONS. via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — Mayor Lenny Curry threw down the gauntlet earlier this month by proposing to eliminate pensions for all future city employees, upending what is widely viewed as a bedrock of government service, particularly for higher-risk employees like cops and firefighters. Voters this summer approved extending a half-cent sales tax that is intended to serve as a source to pay off the already existing pension debt. But the law requires the city to close a pension plan to new hires before any tax money can be applied to that plan’s debt. The bulk of the city’s pension debt stems from police and firefighter retirements. It’s possible Curry and the unions will find a path forward without much acrimony. “We are committed to working with the city for a solution that is good for our members and the city going forward,” said Steve Zona, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, in a statement. But if negotiations break down and both sides dig in, the city might find itself with relatively little leverage.

Under normal circumstances, state law gives cities a big leg up in collective bargaining through an impasse process. The result of that process gives the City Council the power to unilaterally impose temporary benefits on employees until longer-term agreements are struck. That is a strong incentive for unions to come back to the bargaining table and hear out proposals they might otherwise be strongly opposed to. “We are concerned that the proposed employer match rates are out of sync with the rest of the employment market,” said Andres Malave, communications director for the Florida branch of Americans for Prosperity. “The average employer contribution is only 2.7 percent, and only 10 percent of employers have a match rate of over 10 percent.” But labor officials say it’s not just the size of the benefit that is at issue. Pensions provide employees with an essential guarantee that 401(k)-style plans do not, and that could hurt recruitment and retention efforts, they say.

JOHN THRASHER FINALLY FREE TO LOBBY FOR FSU via Florida Politics — Thrasher has registered to lobby for Florida State University, two years after his installation as the university’s president. Under state law, former legislators must wait two years before becoming eligible to influence their former colleagues. Thrasher’s registration took effect Monday, according to state records. Thrasher is a former House speaker who turned lobbyist with Southern Strategy Group before beginning service in the Senate in 2009. Also lobbying for the university is Kathy Mears, who served as chief of staff to House Speakers Will Weatherford (2012-14) and Steve Crisafulli (2014-16).

SPOTTED at the engagement party for Anna Alexopoulos and Matt Farrar: Allison and Josh Aubuchon, Erin Choy, Katie Crofoot, Kathleen Haughney and Gray RohrAlexis LambertAndrew Liebert, Chris Turner

SPOTTED at the GrayRobinson holiday party in Tampa: Sen. Darryl Rouson, Reps. Shawn Harrison and Jackie Toledo, Dean Cannon, Chris CarmodyMark Proctor 



DISNEY WORLD GIVES SNEAK PEEKS ON AVATAR, STAR TOURS UPDATE via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The tease by WDW Chairman Bob Chapek came just days after SeaWorld announced major additions to three of its theme parks and two weeks after Universal Orlando unveiled plans for a new water park. The announcements were made Saturday at a fan event called D23: Destination D. Both of Disney’s new lands are banking on the success of their movies. “Avatar,” is the top-grossing film in history, with worldwide receipts of almost $2.8 billion and the 11 Star Wars movies have pulled in $21 billion. Disney’s update included a look at Pandora’s entry bridge, which will lead visitors to the base camp of Alpha Centauri Expeditions, the eco-tour group for future explorers. The new attraction will include the Na’vi River Journey, a ride down a river in a bioluminescent rainforest and the Avatar Flight of Passage excursion on a banshee over the world of Pandora. The attraction is slated to open next year. Chapek also shared a new adventure to the Star Tours – the Adventures Continue attraction. He said teams from Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm are working together to add a new mission to the attraction based on elements from “Star Wars Episode VIII.”

FANDUEL, DRAFT KINGS MERGE SHORTLY AFTER LAYOFFS IN MAITLAND via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel – Officials with DraftKings and FanDuel announced the agreement, which is expected to close next year, pending regulatory approval. Financial terms were not disclosed. In what amounted to a joint statement, FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles and DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said both companies will now be able to innovate faster, although details of that were not shared … the merger will help the companies in their ongoing battle with government regulators. The fantasy sports industry has been under intense scrutiny as these companies emerge. FanDuel and DraftKings offer sports fans a way to play fantasy sports, awarding players real money to those who can accurately predict performances of athletes on the field. The move comes just days after FanDuel confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that it had laid off workers in Maitland. FanDuel still employs more than 30 people in Maitland, a company official said … They did not, however, say how many people lost their jobs. Former employees told the Sentinel that roughly 10-15 were let go. In January, FanDuel had grown to an office of about 80 people here. That number has dwindled since, however, after a layoff round in April claimed 55 jobs.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to INFLUENCE Magazine’s Tisha Keller, Anthony Pedicini, and Karen Moore. Celebrating today is our friend, Gina Spencer.

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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