Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.2.16

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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.

EARLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES to the great Ron Book, who turns 64 on Saturday. Recently, we learned that even this Superman has to slow down at some point. But we know Ron will pull through as he always has. Happy birthday to one of the best in the business, a great father and soon-to-be “Coach,” and a very generous soul. All the best, Ron.

The Florida Senate held their organizational session of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, FL November 22, 2016.
The Florida Senate held their organizational session of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, FL November 22, 2016.

PAM BONDI TO MEET WITH DONALD TRUMP via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times –It is planned for 1 p.m. in Trump Tower. The presidential transition has been silent about what Trump and Bondi, who are personal friends, will discuss. Bondi’s name has been mentioned in connection to several high-level positions, including White House “drug czar” and U.S. trade representative. She could also be nominated as a deputy or assistant U.S. attorney general or as a candidate to chair the Republican National Committee. However, she could also be wary of any job that would require a rigorous Senate confirmation process, as Bondi tends to cringe under critical spotlight. Bondi was an early Trump supporter and appeared alongside him at rallies around the state, as well as at the Republican National Convention. For the last week, Bondi has been out of the public eye, missing ceremonial events in the state Capitol, and her office has refused to respond to questions about where she is.

WE WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED IF BONDI ends up serving out the remainder of her term as Attorney General of Florida. Drug Czar is a thankless, low-wattage position that feels like more of a horizontal move for Bondi than a step up. Does she really want to tour the DEA office in El Paso? Of course, if the president-elect asks you to serve the country, you can’t say ‘no’ to that. But this entire situation seems, at this point, like a lose-lose for Bondi. Give up a statewide office in Florida to serve as a general in the losing War on Drugs or not take a position in the Trump administration and have everyone speculating why she didn’t (she didn’t want to go through the Senate confirmation process, etc.)

TRUMP WANTS JAMES MATTIS FOR DEFENSE SECRETARY – Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be secretary of defense, the Washington Post reports, nominating a former senior military officer who led operations across the Middle East to run the Pentagon less than four years after he hung up his uniform. To take the job, Mattis will need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law stating that defense secretaries must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950.

PRESIDENT OBAMA TO VISIT MACDILL AFB IN TAMPA ON TUESDAY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “While at the base, the President will have an opportunity to meet with uniformed leadership from both Commands as well as with some of the men and women stationed there,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “Among those the President will meet are members of our Special Operations community, who over the past 8 years been a key element of our relentless pursuit of terrorists who would threaten the United States of America. The President will offer his personal gratitude–and that of the nation–for the professionalism, skill, and sacrifice of those American patriots.”

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DAYS UNTIL: Premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 13; Inauguration Day – 48; Pitchers & catchers start reporting for Spring Training – 74; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 105: Election Day 2017 – 340: Election Day 2018 – 703.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference at 8:30 a.m. at St. Mary Cathedral School, 7485 Northwest 2nd Avenue in Miami. Scott is expected to give an update on the Zika virus.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: CFO Jeff Atwater and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier will host a roundtable discussion on the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season at 10 a.m. at the Ringhaver Student Center, 2nd floor Virginia Room at Flagler College, 50 Sevilla Drive in St. Augustine.

A SCOOP FROM OUR NEW GUY – APPEALS COURT ALLOWS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PREMIUM HIKE TO TAKE EFFECT via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The 1st District Court of Appeal acted even before a trial judge could decide on a request to delay her ruling last week invalidating the increase under Florida’s open-government laws. For her part, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled following a brief hearing in her chambers that no stay was warranted. “It would not be appropriate for this court to approve further violation of the Sunshine Law and Public Records Law,” Gievers said. But she bowed to the inevitability that the case would be resolved on appeal. “I’m just trying to get you to the appellate court, where you want to be,” she told attorneys present in person and participating by telephone. Even before resolution of the legal situation, businesses were treating the increase as a fact of life. The Florida Chamber of Commerce, for example, issued a written statement complaining that the increase, as applied to new and renewal policies written during the next 12 months, would cost employers $1.5 billion. “Many businesses are telling us they will be forced to delay hiring, or even cut existing jobs, in order to cover this increase in their premiums,” Carolyn Johnson, director for business policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said in a written statement. “A rate like this puts Florida’s competitiveness and job creation directly at risk.” The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved the increase in September, based on recommendations by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI. The office has designated NCCI as the rating agency for workers’ compensation insurers in the state.

JEFF BRANDES FILES AMENDMENT 4 IMPLEMENTING BILL via Florida Politics — The St. Petersburg Republican filed Senate Bill 90, the implementing bill for Amendment 4. The ballot initiative passed with 73 percent support in August. The amendment removed the state’s tangible personal property tax, which taxes solar equipment installed. It also authorizes the Legislature to prohibit the devices from being considered when assessing the value of the property for tax purposes. “The voters of Florida spoke loud and clear that they expect the sunshine state to make the expansion of solar and renewable energy a priority,” said Brandes in a statement. “I have been committed to diversifying our energy portfolio, and I am excited about the opportunity to bring further investment in solar and renewable energy production. This legislation has broad, bipartisan support and I look forward to an early passage of this important bill in the 2017 Session.”

SOUTH FLORIDA HOUSE DEMOCRAT WANTS TO TOUGHEN PENALTIES FOR TEXTING WHILE DRIVING via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics –Weston Democratic state Representative Richard Stark [filed] bill (HB 47) that would allow law enforcement officers to pull drivers over for distracted driving as a primary offense, not a secondary one, as is current Florida law. “It’s nice for people to know that there’s a law, but the reality is that there’s no teeth in the law,” Stark said. Since the advent of cellphones over the past two decades, Florida has notoriously been behind the curve in passing legislation to deal with this technology and how it affects public safety. When the Legislature passed its current law making it a secondary offense to read or send a text three years ago, it came only after 40 other states had previously done so. “Most of the people I speak to publicly recognize that this is an issue that needs to be taken care, but having public support for something and having legislative support for something are two different things,” Stark says about the possibilities of his proposal passing in the 2017 session.

STATE WORKERS COULD LOSE OUT ON MILLIONS AFTER OVERTIME RULE DECISION via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The Labor Department estimates 331,000 Florida workers are affected, and many of them are state workers. A number of state agencies already have requested more than $12 million combined for either pay raises or increased overtime budgets to comply with the rule, which was to have taken effect on Thursday. State workers who were supposed to be eligible for overtime won’t be, according an email sent Thursday from Jim Parry, an assistant general counsel for the Department of Management Services, to union representatives. “In summary, employees who were to be changed from an ‘excluded’ to ‘included’ designation for overtime purposes due to their pay falling below the new minimum pay required by the proposed regulations are being retained in their ‘excluded’ status,” the email reads.

JEB BUSH CALLS FOR AN EDUCATION ‘EARTHQUAKE’ WITH NEW ADMINISTRATION, CONGRESS via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO Florida – Bush … hopes a new presidential administration and Congress will usher in an “earthquake” when it comes to education and federal education funding. “I keep hearing there’s a big shakeup in Washington, D.C. and I hope that’s true,” he said at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual summit. Bush founded the education reform organization in 2008. “This new administration and Congress have the real opportunity to bring wholesale disruption.” Bush also applauded Betsy DeVos, who has sat on the board of the foundation, as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. “What a phenomenal, strong woman,” he said. “She’ll do an extraordinary job as secretary of education.” People across the country are angry and anxious for a reason, Bush said. “The basic institutions in their lives don’t work, education being front and center,” he said. Bush named three major priorities moving forward: First, Congress needs to “cut strings that come with federal education funding and let states innovate with those dollars,” he said. Bush also stressed the need to direct more federal dollars to charter schools and allow states to expand education savings accounts, which allow parents to use tax dollars to pay for services, including private school tuition or therapy for students with special needs.

PERSONNEL NOTE: CHARLIE CRIST APPOINTS AUSTIN DURRER CHIEF OF STAFF via Florida Politics –Durrer has served in senior roles in both the legislative and executive branches over the past 15 years. He was a longtime aide and Chief of Staff to Congressman Jim Moran, a senior Member of the Appropriations Committee, and currently serves as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), overseeing the Department’s data technology mission. “Austin brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and a strong, steady hand to this important position. He’s an impact player who will build our team in Washington with a laser-like focus on serving the people of Pinellas County,” said Crist … “It’s an honor and a privilege to work for Gov. Crist on behalf of Pinellas County,” said Durrer. “He’s no ordinary freshman, and someone who has dedicated his life to looking out for the little guy. I look forward to helping advance his agenda of bringing common sense solutions to Washington, to bridge the political divide, serving as the voice for the people of Pinellas County on Capitol Hill.”

OFFICE ASSIGNMENTS DON’T GO WELL FOR CRIST via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – As an incoming Democrat coming into his first term in a U.S. Congress controlled by Republicans, Crist knew he was going to get the dregs of offices … new representatives have no claim on the offices that are coveted for their locations, size or other features, so they get assigned the worst of the worst offices via a lottery … How did Crist do? About as bad as can be imagined. That last pick in the lottery pretty much means Crist will be looking at offices in the Longworth House Office Building or the Cannon Office Building. There’s no underground train connecting these buildings to the Capitol, so lawmakers will have to brave the elements.

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RICHARD CORCORAN OFFERS LOBBYIST ‘TRAINING’ TO ADJUST TO NEW LEGISLATIVE LIMITATIONS via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – The lobbyist training will cover contract disclosure requirements for lobbyists who represent public entities as well as other rules. “The Rules are in effect now, and many lobbyists are submitting issue disclosures and working with House members to prepare Appropriations Project Requests,” Corcoran wrote to lobbyists Thursday. “We hope you are able to attend one of the training seminars to answer questions that arise as you operate within these new rules.” The House will also have livestream and YouTube videos as well as a public crowdsourcing to ensure ethics compliance.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Mary Andrews: Lee Memorial Health System

Ron Book: Palmetto Surety Corporation

Pete Buigas: Sero Action Fund

Liz Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: The Nemours Foundation

Chris Dudley, Jerry McDaniel, Paul Mitchell, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: Florida State College at Jacksonville Foundation; Genex Services, LLC

Jody Finklea: Florida Municipal Electric Association

Natalie Kato, Lewis Longman & Walker: Florida Mosquito Control Association, Inc.; Southern Poverty Law Center

Jim McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: The Treatment Center

Tim Meenan, Sarah Niewold, Joy Ryan, Meenan PA: Ethos Group; Infinite Energy, Inc.

Jim Peluso: St. Johns River Water Management District

Ben Wolf, ISF, Inc.

Ed Woodruff: St. Petersburg College

WHAT JEFF SHARKEY IS READING – ELON MUSK’S SOLARCITY EXPANDING IN CLERMONT via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel –The company’s new Florida effort comes just weeks after the defeat of an Election Day amendment critics said would have stifled competition. The company … has begun installing solar energy systems in the Orlando area, will hire more people locally and expects to expand to other parts of the state “in the coming months.” SolarCity recently began making loans to help pay for the systems and installations available to any homeowner. The company right now employs 54 people, who have been working in Florida since last year, installing systems in new homes and military family housing from its Florida headquarters in Clermont. The company employs installers, salespeople and others who support operations there. CEO Lyndon Rive did not say how many people the company would hire in Florida, but said it could be hundreds, depending upon demand.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sen. Debbie Mayfield and Joey Redner. Belated wishes to Brian Bautista and Mitch Wertheimer.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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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