Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica, and Florence Snyder.
TIMELY ADVICE FROM JOE NEGRON: DON’T WASTE TIME
Senate President Joe Negron was a kindly headmaster at this week‘s orientation for committee chairmen and staff directors, offering excellent time management tips that everyone in #TheProcess should take to heart.
“Don’t pass flawed bills” seems like something that should go without saying. But in recent years, legislative committees have gotten into the annoying habit of advancing half-baked bills as a courtesy to colleagues who are spread too thin to do their homework, show up for meetings, and get things right the first time.
Negron is an experienced trial lawyer and very aware that judges, juries and people watching on The Florida Channel do not appreciate having their time wasted or their intelligence insulted. He encouraged committees to spend more time on oversight of state agencies and less time listening to power point presentations.
Lawmakers who heed that advice will be rewarded by voters. The proliferation of power point presentations makes too many committee meetings look like storytime at the local library. If we want scripted television, we can watch the Cabinet.
Perhaps most importantly, Negron encouraged his chairmen to facilitate public participation.
Easier said than done. Ungodly amounts of committee time are consumed with bromides, cliches, inside jokes, sucking up, and chairmen sucking down public comment time blathering about how little time there is.
Let’s stipulate that everybody: 1. Appreciates the opportunity; 2. Is honored to be here; and 3. Would love to work with you.
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HOUSE SPEAKER SUES OVER PITBULL CONTRACT via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Richard Corcoran … filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court for release of details of the largely secret contract the state had with the Miami rapper to promote tourism in Florida. The deal was inked by Visit Florida, the state’s public-private tourism promotion group in August 2015. The amount Pitbull was paid, his official duties, the requirements for the state and even the name of his agent were declared “trade secrets.” “This suit is not about Pitbull or his compensation,” Corcoran said in a released statement. “This is about the audacity of government entities who are under the false impression that they are above the law or believe somehow that taxpayer money is a never-ending river of riches they get to play with.” Visit Florida officials have defended the deal with Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, as generating a positive return for state taxpayers. Pitbull has more than 20 million followers on social media and a large global fan base, especially in Latin America, a target audience for Visit Florida.
LOBBYISTS HAVE A LEARNING MOMENT ABOUT ETHICS REFORM via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – House ethics guru Don Rubottom wrote a poem to explain what the chamber’s new ethics regime is all about: “If you propose it, it should be disclosed before you discuss it, before it shows up in any draft of a bill or amendment, long before it is filed in the House. If others propose, disclose by number.” OK, it’s not for the ages, but it captures the spirit of the thing. Rubottom, staff director of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, was among the House aides who briefed lobbyists Tuesday evening on the arcana of the new ethics rules imposed under Speaker Richard Corcoran. It was part of an ongoing re-education program for the lobbying corps. … “We are going to apply common sense,” Rubottom said. The point is that interested parties should receive sufficient notice. Say hello to a member at a bar or a meet-and-greet? No need to disclose. Monitoring or tracking legislation without advocating for it? “You don’t have anything to report,” Rubottom said. And if a member buttonholes you in a hallway and demands to know what you think about a proposal? “If it surprises you, let the member know you are not free to discuss it because of the requirements” of the new ethics rules, Rubottom said. “If your member is impatient with your respect for the rule, feel free to let chairman Oliva or chairman Metz know of the discourtesy.” That’s Rules Committee chairman Jose Oliva and Ethics chairman Larry Metz.
BAN THE BAG, SOUTH FLORIDA LAWMAKER SAYS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State Rep. David Richardson … filed his bill (HB 93) … [That would] let municipalities with pilot programs “enact an ordinance for the regulation or ban of disposable plastic bags.” Such regulations or bans would be short-lived, however, taking effect “no earlier than Jan. 1, 2018, and expires no later than June 30, 2020.” Such an ordinance “may not include any new taxes or fees,” the bill says. One previous version of the bill imposed a 10-cent surcharge for each plastic bag. Environmentalists have long complained that disposable plastic bags often wind up in the water and on beaches, putting fish and marine animals in jeopardy. Sea turtles, for instance, think the bags are jellyfish, eat them and wind up with intestinal blockages. The Legislature authorized the Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 to produce a one-time “Retail Bags Report.” … “Plastic and paper bags are not inherently bad but they have terrible consequences in a throwaway society – and there are simple, readily available ways to reduce our dependency and properly reuse, recycle or dispose of them,” the report said.
JEFF BRANDES TARGETS NO-FAULT AUTO INSURANCE via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald – Brandes … wants to get rid of a car insurance requirement he says makes driving more expensive in Florida … [He] filed legislation (SB 156) to repeal personal injury protection, or PIP, which covers minor accident claims, regardless of who was at fault. Required under state law since 1972, drivers in Florida must carry $10,000 in PIP, which is also commonly referred to as “no-fault insurance.” The idea was to quickly resolve small-dollar insurance claims that were clogging the courts and get payments to victims faster. “PIP is a broken insurance system, and it does not reflect the reality of Florida’s transportation future,” Brandes said in a statement. “PIP fraud impacts every driver in our state, and no proposal is more effective at reducing premiums than a full repeal of PIP. It’s time to finally bring substantive reform to the automobile insurance market.” The PIP battle is likely to play out in the state Capitol, where the insurance industry holds a great deal of power. The legislative session begins March 7. No House members have filed a PIP repeal yet.
PARLEZ VOUS COMPUTER PROGRAMMING? via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times – Senate Bill 104 … Filed last week by Brandes … the bill would add computer coding as another option for the current foreign language requirement in Florida high schools. “The great thing about this plan is that it’s just an option. It isn’t mandatory,” Brandes said. “If parents and kids think it’s better long-term for their careers, or will make them a more well-rounded person, to learn a foreign language, then they can still take those classes … If they’re more interested in technology and computer sciences, then this would offer them a viable option.” Here’s what strikes me about the bill: 1. It clearly sidesteps the intent to encourage multilingual students. 2. That’s OK. And please don’t take that the wrong way. Fluency in more than one language is a remarkably valuable commodity in the job market, and in life itself. My concern is there are millions of students who have no intention of putting in the work necessary to learn another language and are merely going through the motions to get their credits. So why not use that class time more wisely? It’s not like the bill will allow students to bypass the foreign language requirement for some useless elective, such as weightlifting or journalism. (Yes, I’m kidding. Weightlifting can be useful.) Instead, it would be an introductory lesson in a field with real-world benefits.
TREAT MEDICAL MARIJUANA “LIKE MEDICINE,” ADVOCATES SAY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The right way to put the new constitutional amendment on medical marijuana into effect is to “treat (it) like medicine,” supporters said … the Senate Health Policy committee held its first workshop for the 2017 Legislative Session on medical cannabis implementation. “The states that have done it poorly, with a lack of regulation, allowed folks to market and advertise the notion of getting high,” said Ben Pollara, who leads Florida for Care, the organization advocating for “a strong, well-regulated medical marijuana system.” … “The average recreational marijuana user is not what this is about,” he told lawmakers. “It has to be treated, at every step of the way, with the seriousness that we treat medicine and other health care decisions. There needs to be clear restrictions put in place.” Pollara is in favor of childproof packaging for medicinal marijuana, for instance. Lawmakers now are faced with creating a regulatory system for the dispensing of marijuana to thousands of patients who now qualify for it in Florida. The amendment technically goes into effect Jan. 3 but the Legislature first must create that structure.
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MARCO RUBIO HAS ‘SERIOUS CONCERNS’ OVER TRUMP NOMINATING REX TILLERSON AT STATE via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Rubio, who clashed with Trump during the Republican presidential primaries, had already jabbed Tillerson for his ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the weekend. On Tuesday morning, Rubio noted his continued “concerns” about Tillerson heading the State Department. “While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination,” Rubio said. “The next secretary of State must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America’s foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration and on the world stage. I look forward to learning more about his record and his views. I will do my part to ensure he receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
DONALD TRUMP LOOKING AT TOP RUBIO BACKER AS U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE via The Associated Press – Trump is considering major Republican fundraiser Wayne Berman as the U.S. Trade Representative. Berman is a senior adviser at the Blackstone Group and was a strong supporter of … Rubio‘s failed 2016 presidential campaign. He served in the Commerce Department during President George H.W. Bush‘s administration.
JEB BUSH SCOFFS AT IDEA THAT RUSSIANS INFLUENCED ELECTION via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Bush laughed at the suggestion the Russians influenced the election. “The Ruskies are out there, what, sticking something in people’s brains?’ I mean, come on,” he said in an interview with a TV station in Tennessee. The Russians, Bush said, “had a candidate that they thought would be better than Hillary Clinton, for sure, but they didn’t influence the election. The American people made up their minds on this.” Bush was in Kingsport, Tennessee, giving a (paid?) speech before a group on health care. In the interview with WJHL, Bush also praised Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, saying the Exxon Mobile CEO has “vast experience.” Tillerson initially supported Bush’s run for president and contributed to his campaign.
LEON CIRCUIT COURT WON’T STOP FLORIDA ELECTORS FROM VOTING via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A group of voters contesting the results of the Florida presidential election appealed a lower court ruling denying their bid to block the state’s 29 Republican electors from casting their ballots for Donald Trump next week. The electors are scheduled to cast their ballots in the Senate chambers at 2 p.m. Monday. The Central Florida trio — Leonisia Olivares, Jerry W. Lapidus, and Judith L. Craig — filed their original complaint Dec. 2 contesting the Nov. 8 election. In it, they claimed widespread voter fraud, including tens of thousands of illegal votes cast, thousands of legal votes not counted, and hacking of voter machines. They claim Hillary Clinton would have won if not for all the alleged fraud. But they offered no evidence to support those allegations, except a specific claim made that 25,000 mail-in ballots requested in Broward County were not received. On Friday, the group filed an emergency motion to stop the electors from casting their ballots Monday for Trump until a full statewide ballot hand count is performed. Leon Circuit Judge John C. Cooper denied the group’s motion the same day, noting that even though they filed the original complaint in time — 11 minutes before the Dec. 2 deadline — they didn’t pay their statutory filing fee until three days later. “This fact may call into question whether the plaintiffs have met all statutory requirements to file an election contest in Florida,” Cooper wrote.
ALAN GRAYSON FILES TO RUN AGAIN BUT SAYS IT’S JUST PAPERWORK, FOR NOW via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Democrat from Orlando — who leaves office Jan. 3 because he did not seek re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District — has filed paperwork to run in 2018. And this time he filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County. Yet Grayson insisted Tuesday that the paperwork is simply a legal requirement because his campaign committee continued to raise money since the Nov. 8 election. Federal law requires a candidate to actually be running for something if his campaign is raising money. “The campaign raises money all the time. When the campaign raises a certain amount of money after an election, the campaign is legally required under the Federal Election Campaign Act to file a candidate’s statement of candidacy,” Grayson said in an interview … “The statement of candidacy form requires some kind of designation of an actual district, and the reason for that is the FEC keeps its records in terms of congressional districts,” he added. “Legally, I can run anywhere in Florida.” Grayson said that is why he filed a statement of candidacy Nov. 14. Still, he said he’s leaving open the prospect of another congressional run, whether in CD 11 or elsewhere. “That decision actually gets made not in November or December of 2016. That decision gets made in May of 2018,” Grayson said.
SPOTTED: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Tallahassee, where he met with potential supporters of a 2018 bid for Attorney General. Among those DeSantis met with were Capital City Consulting’s Nick Iarossi and Scott Ross.
WE STILL BELIEVE CLC WILL RUN FOR CFO IN 2018 – CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA GETS LEADERSHIP POST IN GOP LIEUTENANT GOVERNORS GROUP via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera was named to the leadership team of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association. He will serve as co-chair for policy in 2017, the group announced … “Today, with a united government in Washington, D.C. and Republicans at all-time highs in the states, we are faced with an incredible opportunity to advance conservative values from coast to coast at every level of government,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement issued by the RLGA. “As the second-in-command in the states, lieutenant governors will play a critical role in determining and defining policy discussions nationwide, and I am humbled to have been chosen by my peers to serve as the RLGA’s Co-Chair for Policy in such a critical and exciting year.”
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WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – 200,000 NEW JOBS AT FLORIDA SEAPORTS SINCE 2012, SAYS REPORT via the Sunshine State News – According to a new report from the Florida Ports Council, Florida’s 15 seaports are also responsible for $117.6 billion in economic activity, supporting nearly 900,000 jobs, $40 billion in personal income and $4.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. Since 2011, the State of Florida has invested more than $1 billion into Florida’s port system in order to increase capacity, compete with top ports across the nation, and expand Florida’s role as a global hub for trade. An additional $3.7 billion in state, local and private funding has been planned for port capital improvement projects over the next five years. According to the Florida Ports Council, port projects typically produce a return on investment of nearly $7 in state and local tax revenue for every $1 of investment. Florida’s seaports provide well-paying jobs in multiple sectors, including crane and terminal operators, truck drivers, distribution warehouse workers and cargo loading, management and transportation.
TRIAL BAR ALLIES TURN GUNS ON RATINGS COUNCIL IN WORKERS’ COMP HEARING via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – As debate opened over Florida’s 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation premiums, trial attorneys on the Florida Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee targeted the group that proposes insurance rates for carriers in the state. Sens. Greg Steube and Gary Farmer Jr., both attorneys, endeavored to shift the focus from attorney fees — widely blamed for rising workers’ comp rates — and onto the need for carriers to compete rather than charge common rates. “I support a competitive marketplace,” committee member Steube said following the hearing. “That’s one of the things the committee and the Legislature should look at.” Chairwoman Anitere Flores, herself an attorney, said the issue was “definitely on the table” during what she hopes would be a thorough look at the situation. “It seems that the NCCI and rate-making portion is something that had not been really discussed in previous workers’ compensation reforms,” Flores said. Committee members Steube, Randolph Bracy and Debbie Mayfieldhad trial lawyer support in their recent campaigns. Farmer is a past president of the Florida Justice Association, representing trial attorneys. NCCI is the National Council on Compensation Insurance. The group operates around the country, but Florida is one of just a few states in which it proposes rates on behalf of all carriers to state regulators — in Florida’s case, the Office of Insurance Regulation. That office relied on NCCI data in developing the rate increase that began to take effect Dec. 1. Businesses will absorb the higher premiums as they file for new or renewed policies during the next year.
WHERE’S THE SEMINOLES’ GAMBLING MONEY? STATE’S NOT CLEAR via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A state agency that reports to Gov. Scott isn’t clear on the location of millions of dollars the Seminole Tribe says it’s still ponying up from its gambling operations. A spokesman for the tribe last week said they have a “continuing desire to finalize a new gaming (agreement) with the state of Florida” that includes continued exclusive rights to offer blackjack. “As further evidence of its positive approach, the Tribe is continuing to make monthly payments to the state that will total $306 million this year,” Gary Bitner said. What wasn’t clear was what the state was doing with that money. A recent request for explanation to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which regulates gambling, was responded to with a chart showing past payments and projected future payments. (When asked whether those payments would end if no new agreement is approved this year, Bitner said, “As has been noted many times, it is the Tribe’s policy to not discuss the specific content of its compact negotiations with the state.”) Those payments “are made to the Department of Revenue,” according to a DBPR statement, “which should be able to provide more information about the types of accounts those funds are deposited into.” Revenue, however, responded with puzzlement. “The Florida Department of Revenue does not post, reconcile or distribute Indian gaming revenues shared with the State of Florida under the Compact,” its statement said.
FDOT SECRETARY SAYS IT’S TIME TO HIT RESET BUTTON ON TBX PROJECT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold told a Senate Committee … it’s time to hit the reset button when it comes to the controversial Tampa Bay Express Project. “We have had some challenges with getting that project to a point where the local communities that are affected are pleased with where it is, and so we have the benefit of some time before we’re ready to move forward with that project,” Boxhold told the Senate Transportation Committee. “We probably have 2-3 years before that project is what we call ‘production ready,’ ready to turn dirt. And so, we’re going to sort of hit the reset button, bring in additional staff or different staff to manage that project, and work more intensively with the local communities.” … “Needless to say, there are minority communities that are affected,” he said. “Given the project’s magnitude, it’s important that we take the time to get it right. We want a project that not only the department can be proud to build, be proud to put the Governor out there for a groundbreaking, that the local community is just as proud to join us for that groundbreaking.”
SCOOP – NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE TAKES EQUALITY FLORIDA TO COURT OVER LOGO DISPUTE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The National Urban League (NUL) has been complaining for six years that Equality Florida‘s logo is too similar to theirs in appearance. Now the venerable civil rights organization is taking Florida’s leading gay rights group to court to have them stop using it — and wants them to pay for it. In legal briefs filed with the U.S. Middle District of Florida in Tampa last week, attorneys with the National Urban League say that they’ve been using their logo for nearly 50 years, and had it registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1992. Cut to 2010, when Equality Florida began using its logo in its fundraising, marketing, political and administrative materials. The Urban League charged that logo “is confusingly similar — indeed nearly identical — to NUL’s registered trademark,” allege the National Urban League attorneys. The National Urban League first sent a cease-and-desist letter to Equality Florida in March 2013, notifying the group that they considered their logo to constitute “trademark infringement.” Nothing ever happened, however, prompting the Urban League to re-contact Equality Florida in May of this year to once again ask them to stop using their logo, also to no avail. In addition to going to court, the National Urban League has filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the registration of Equality Florida’s service mark.
AP ANNOUNCES YEARLY LEGISLATIVE PLANNING MEETING, A.K.A. “WHO WANTS FREE COFFEE AND BAGELS?” – The Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington emails that Jan. 31 will be the date of the wire service’s annual legislative coverage planning session. Which is kind of a misnomer: No actual legislative coverage gets planned at the meeting. But it is an opportunity for state leaders to address members of the Capitol Press Corps and visiting reporters, editors, columnists and editorial writers from around the state. This year’s invited guests include Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “There will also be a panel discussion on the Constitution Revision Commission and other guests might be invited,” Farrington writes. “Coffee and bagels will be served in the morning and lunch and refreshments will be provided.”
THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE(S) – Erin Gaetz tells Florida Politics she’s opening her own digital content business, Southpaw Content. (Maybe she’s a leftie?) The 31-year-old sister of Congressman-elect Matt Gaetz and daughter of former Senate President Don Gaetz was formerly director of video content for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. “I really want to change how social media content is produced—faster, more engaging and less expensive,” she said in an email. “Most importantly, no more dopey ads of candidates standing around a factory and pointing at things. Digital platforms are a different medium and should be treated as such.” She says she already nabbed a contract with Texas A&M University and will be doing work for north Florida Congressman-elect Neal Dunn. See her work here.
SPOTTED: Brian Hughes in St. Thomas at meeting of National Conference of State Legislators per Twitter – Hughes is leading a discussion on communication strategy for new presiding officers of legislatures from around the U.S. As an adviser to former Senate President Jeff Atwater, Speaker Steve Crisafulli and 3 Senate Majority Leaders (Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Lizbeth Benacquisto and now Wilton Simpson) his expertise is worthy of the invitation. And a gig in St. Thomas this time of year is nice work if you can get it.
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U.S. SUGAR WELCOMES RETURN OF HISTORIC STEAM ENGINE, LAUNCHES RESTORATION PROJECT – U.S. Sugar welcomed the return of Engine No. 148, a steam locomotive it used in the 1950s to haul sugarcane from the fields to its mill. U.S. Sugar re-acquired the steam engine from a private owner and plans to spend the next year or more restoring the retired Florida East Coast engine. Eventually, U.S. Sugar hopes to make the engine operational and add vintage passenger cars for offering public train rides. “This steam locomotive is part of our history, and we wanted to bring it home,’’ said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, during a welcoming home celebration in Clewiston. “We intend to restore Engine No. 148 to its former glory.’’ The engine was shipped via rail from Colorado to Clewiston, where a team of about two dozen U.S. Sugar mechanics and others will inspect the engine and perform an engineering study. U.S. Sugar plans to return the 97-year-old engine to operating condition after its decades-long retirement. To monitor the progress of Engine No. 148, check out #148Homecoming and #USSugar on social media or visit USSugar.com for updates.
ROGUE ONE REVIEW: THIS IS THE FIRST STAR WARS MOVIE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE WHOLE FRANCHISE IS ABOUT WAR via Todd VanDerWerff of Vox – Oh, yes, this is a Star Wars movie — the first of Lucasfilm’s new “anthology” entries to the franchise, which will tell stories in and around the established Star Wars universe. Rather than picking up where last year’s The Force Awakens left off, Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebels got the Death Star plans in the first place, the one that set the plot of 1977’s Star Wars in motion and kicked off this entire saga. As such, the movie is caught between the artistic impulses of its director, Gareth Edwards and its corporate masters. Sometimes, it’s a beautifully constructed antidote to years and years of fake, digitized movie destruction, with precisely crafted frames and genuinely groundbreaking cinematography. At other times, it’s a bumpily edited mess that was too-obviously assembled in post-production from a variety of possible outcomes. It’s a flawed movie, but a good one, sometimes more interesting as a concept than a story. But, oh, what a concept! The unifying theme of Rogue One is simple: People die in wars. If the Star Wars saga is about a war between freedom and tyranny, then a lot of people are going to die fighting that war. Those on the side of good are going to make questionable decisions. Those on the side of evil are sometimes just doing their jobs but will get their lives snuffed out anyway. Edwards emphasizes this inevitable death throughout. When two starships collide, he’ll intercuts shots of the people inside those starships, toppling over, never having realized that this particular day was the day they would die.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. David Santiago, Kyra Jennings, Judge Terry Lewis, and Ian Whitney.