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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.8.16

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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.

FIRST LOOK – SOUTHERN STRATEGY GROUP’S 2016 HOLIDAY CARD – Can you even imagine what the White House Christmas party will be like this year? Southern Strategy Group can — and did — in its annual Christmas card. The comic strip-style holiday greeting imagines a conversation between President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In the cartoon, Obama tells Clinton he’s really glad she “decided to come out to the White House holiday party. You know, put the election behind you.” In the next panel, Clinton admits it was a bit awkward at first, telling the president she “just bumped into Donald over by the eggnog bowl.

“Oh, really? What’d you say to him,” the card imagines the president asking. Clinton’s response: “Pardon me.” It’s a riff on a joke President-elect Donald Trump told at the Al Smith dinner back in October. In that joke, Trump told the crowd Clinton bumped into him on the dais and “she very civilly said, ‘Pardon me.’ And I very politely replied, ‘Let me talk to you about that after I get into office.’”

Each year, the Southern Strategy Group Christmas card offers a silly take on the year’s biggest political stories. And while the front of the card may elicit more than a few snickers around Florida’s Capitol, the message inside is sincere: “Happy holidays from your friends at Southern Strategy Group.”

ssg holiday card

JEFF ATWATER WARNS AGAINST KILLER CHRISTMAS TREES via Florida Politics – “Christmas tree fires do not happen often, but they have the potential to be serious fires when they do,” Atwater said in his Department of Financial Services newsletter … “More often than not, these fires occur because the tree has not been properly watered and has become dried out and repeatedly exposed to multiple heat sources,” he said. “The mix of dry tree branches and hot holiday lights can quickly become a tragic combination.” Make sure to top off the water in your tree stand regularly, lest it runs dry. “Don’t place it next to your fireplace, radiator, or any candles that you may be lighting,” Atwater said. “Also, make sure that you unplug your tree when you leave the house to prevent overheating. These tips sound simple — and they are — but you must make sure to follow them.” … “In less than a minute, the entire room is covered in flames,” Atwater said. “I don’t say these things to scare you, but I do say them, so you’ll remember to pay close attention to potential risks in your own house.”


The entire presidential election played out on Twitter, with every debate, campaign rally and new poll documented in real time on the social media platform. (It’s also a favored communication tool of a certain PEOTUS.)

People around the world watched the 2016 Summer Olympics with their devices in hand, celebrating every flip, dive and dash. Notable deaths were documented with #RIP, and everyone freaked over the #GameofThrones twists and turns.

“From news and entertainment to sports and politics, around the world or around the block; it all happened on Twitter,” wrote Leslie Berland, the company’s chief marketing officer, on Twitter’s blog. “Tweets brought people together in laughter, shock, celebration, fear, mourning, and jubilation.”

The company announced this week it launched #ThisHappened, a campaign to reflect back on some of the top events of the year. As part of the campaign, Twitter unveiled a 3 minute and 19 second video highlighting the events of 2016.

The Olympics in Rio de Janiero topped the list of Top 10 Global Trends on Twitter. According to the company, tweets about #Rio2016 were viewed 75 billion times. More than 187 million tweets were sent about the Olympic games, and it’s probably no surprise to know that Michael Phelps had the most mentions during the games.

If politics is more your jam, then here’s some stats for you: Users in the United States sent 1 billion tweets about the 2016 election since the primary debates began in August 2015.

A tweet from Hillary Clinton as she conceded the election was the third most retweeted of the year. Clinton’s “delete your account” tweet was one of the most retweeted of “the entire election,” according to Twitter. President-elect Donald Trump’s response to that tweet was also one of his most retweeted.

PokemonGo, Euro2016 and the Oscars rounded out the Top 5 global trends during 2016, while the Brexit clocked in at No. 6 and #Trump was in the No. 8 position. Game of Thrones earned the No. 10 spot on the list of global trends, according to Twitter.

With the nation’s first tweeter-in-chief slated to take the oath of office on Friday, Jan. 20, we can only imagine 2017 will be another “yuge” year for Twitter.

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BILL NELSON, MARCO RUBIO APPLAUD NIH FUNDING BILL PASSAGE; MOFFITT MONEY PRESERVED via Scott Powers of Florida Politics– Rubio and Nelson both applauded passage by the U.S. Senate of a bill that heads off potential cuts in cancer research at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Senate approved H.R. 34, entitled the “21st Century Cures Act,” by a 94-5 vote … The House of Representatives approved it earlier. The bill provides the National Institutes of Health an additional $4.8 billion over the next 10 years. “This funding will help us retain some of the nation’s best and brightest medical researchers and allow them to continue working on several important projects such as cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s,” Nelson stated in a news release from his office.

RUBIO ENDORSES BLAISE INGOGLIA FOR FLORIDA GOP CHAIR via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican state representative, announced Tuesday that Rubio has thrown his support behind his re-election bid. In an email to Republican Party of Florida executive committee members, Ingoglia said Rubio has “been a great friend to the RPOF” and thanked him for his leadership. … “The Republican Party’s performance in Florida under Blaise’s leadership speaks for itself. We won tough races across the board in the nation’s biggest swing state, and Blaise’s leadership in the GOP’s get-out-the-vote ground operation this past year was decisive,” said Rubio in a statement. “He has worked tirelessly the past two years traveling the state, meeting with activists, and growing our party. Blaise has my full support for reelection as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.” … Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair. Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy in November.

DANA YOUNG, RANDY FINE FILE FOR RE-ELECTION IN 2018 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — State elections records show more than 50 members of the House and Senate have filed to run in two years. While many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, many just came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature. Sen. Young is one of those. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 18 on Dec. 2. While the former House Majority Leader easily won her seat over Democrat Bob Buesing, it was far from an easy campaign. Buesing and Joe Redner, an independent candidate, attacked Young over her voting record. … Records show Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 17 on Dec. 1. … In the Florida House, Reps. Randy FineEmily SlosbergTom LeekAmber MarianoCarlos Guillermo SmithChris Latvala, and Kathleen Peters are among those who have filed for re-election.

PLAINTIFF MISSES HEARING IN ‘WITE-OUT’ CASE AGAINST DAN RAULERSON via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Jose N. Vazquez Figueroa was supposed to be in the Leon County Courthouse Wednesday morning to explain why he should win his suit against Raulerson. Vazquez, who is representing himself, is seeking to disqualify Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, from his re-election this year to his House District 58 seat. Vazquez was his unsuccessful Democratic opponent. His suit says Raulerson’s notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork. The state’s notary manual says no correction fluid of any kind is allowed on notarized documents. Specifically, Vazquez has said Raulerson’s notary “improperly completed” his paperwork by whiting out the date on her notarization of his financial disclosure, changing it from an April to a June date. His request for a “judgment on the pleadings” was scheduled to be heard at 9:30 a.m. When Vazquez didn’t show by 9:45, Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson had had enough. Dodson said he would he would deny the motion, and asked Raulerson’s attorney to notice a hearing for his motion to dismiss the case.

RAULERSON TO UNDERGO BACK SURGERY; NO INTENTION OF RESIGNING via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Raulerson is undergoing spinal surgery Friday for an autoimmune deficiency, taking him out of the Legislature temporarily for four to six weeks while he recovers. But, the third-term state representative (said), “I have no intention of resigning.” Raulerson is working with the House speaker’s office to have other lawmakers present and manage his proposed bills when committee meetings start in January, he said.

HAPPENING TODAY — DAPHNE CAMPBELL HOLDS CEREMONIAL SWEARING-IN IN NORTH MIAMI BEACH — Sen. Campbell will hold a ceremonial swearing-in at 7 p.m. at the Littman Theater, 17011 NE 19 Avenue in North Miami Beach. Prior to the community ceremony, Campbell will attend an invitation-only reception. The reception is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Littman Theater. Campbell, a former state representative, formally took the oath of office during the organizational session in Tallahassee on Nov. 22.

AT ‘LEGISLATIVE UNIVERSITY,’ CONVERSATION TURNS TO ‘TURKEYS’ AND PLANE RIDES AS HOUSE MEMBERS LEARN ETHICS RULES via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –  Some legislative ethics rules may seem complex and nuanced, but those relating to gifts members can receive from lobbyists are fairly cut and dry. “If you remember nothing else … please remember this, please don’t accept or solicit – don’t ask or take – anything of value from a lobbyist or principal,” new House General Counsel Adam Tannenbaum told a room filled with state legislators Wednesday at a mandatory ethics training class. “Keep that phrase in mind: anything of value.” Hoping to hammer home the ethical point, Tannenbaum doubled down: “The primary concern is the attempt to purchase influence or purchase goodwill with the legislator. When you boil all the rules down to the simple principle: members are not allowed to take anything from lobbyists or principals.” Despite the clear-cut language used by the House’s top attorney during the training session, members used the opportunity to poke and prod their lecturer to find any potential loopholes or gray areas in the state’s well established gift ban. “What happens if we have someone who comes to us and wants to give us turkeys for our constituents,” asked Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson of Miami Gardens. Welcome to Day Two of “Legislative University,” where state lawmakers sit through a two-day crash course on everything they need to know about their part-time job in Tallahassee. To answer Watson’s query, Tannenbaum, who recently served as the top attorney at the Florida Department of State, came back to the point he had made earlier in the presentation. “The safest approach for you is that if it’s something of value and given to you by a lobbyist or principal, just don’t take it,” he said. As the discussion about turkeys was concluding, another member blurted out “can you fly on your wife’s plane if she’s a lobbyist?” The question got audible laughter from the room. “Probably not, actually,” Tannenbaum said.

JANET CRUZ HIGHLIGHTS DIVERSITY IN PICKING DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – “In order to build consensus on how to confront the difficult issues facing our state, we must take into account the many varying stakeholders whose futures will be affected by the decisions we make in the Legislature,” Cruz said in a written statement. Leading on policy will be Evan Jenne and Cynthia Stafford. Floor leader is Lori Berman … Serving as whip is Joseph Abruzzo, of Wellington. Deputy whips are John CortesKatie EdwardsShevrin Jones, and Richard Stark.

JOSE DIAZ’S SHORTLIST TO CHAIR HOUSE GAMING AND TOURISM SUBCOMMITTEE via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – With the prospect of another push to pass a Seminole gaming compact looming, House Commerce Committee chairman Diaz said he’s looking for a lawmakers to chair the Tourism and Gaming Subcommittee who has substantive policy experience dealing with gambling. The subcommittee, one of five under the Commerce Committee, is the likely starting point for any gambling legislation in the House. House leaders are expected to meet Thursday to sort out who will chair the chamber’s numerous subcommittees … Diaz said there’s been substantial interest from members to get on the “coveted” Tourism and Gaming Subcommittee, noting that “tourism is important to just about every county in Florida.” But he said his “preference would be somebody who was on the [equivalent gaming] committee last year and went through the motions of seeing just how difficult the negotiation is.”

TWEET, TWEET: @JimRosicaFL: Source: Seminole Tribe refusing to pay “one more dollar” to state w/o new compact. Looks like I’ll be calling @FloridaDBPR tmrw…

SCOTT PLAKON FILES BILL THAT WOULD ALLOW GUNS ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics – The bill, HB 6005, amends an earlier ruling on where guns are and are not allowed, deleting the portion stating that a license to concealed carry a firearm does not allow guns into “Any college or university facility unless the licensee is a registered student, employee, or faculty member of such college or university and the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile.” If the bill passes, guns will be much looser-regulated on college and university campuses. Plakon sponsored a bill that would have done the same thing in 2015, which died on the calendar. If it goes through, guns will still be banned from police and sheriff stations, jails, courthouses, polling places, schools and government meetings.

Plakon was initially not a supporter of guns-on-campus bills – initially, he was “ambivalent” about the issue. But an incident in 2013 at his daughter Jeanne‘s school, in which there was thought to be an active shooter on campus, spurred him to change his mind. “I got a text message from my daughter Jeanne,” he said. “‘Daddy I’m so scared,’ is the way it started off. It was believed there was a shooter loose in Lake Mary High. It took me 13 mins to get there. No parent wants to be in this situation… to have their child on a campus with a shooter, with no way to protect, no one with a firearm anywhere near. I was parent with face against chain link fence, and she’s texting me, crying, scared, hunched under a desk.” Fortunately, it turned out there was no shooter at Lake Mary High that day. But the incident forever changed Plakon’s view on guns on campuses.

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‘HORRIFIC’ CONDITIONS AT FLORIDA PRISON LANGUISH UNTIL LEGISLATOR SHOWS UP AND ASKS WHY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – When the inmates at Columbia Correctional Institution started shouting at him during one of his surprise prison inspections, Rep. David Richardson knew something was amiss. “I’ve done this long enough to know adult males never want to talk to an outsider in a group setting,” said the Miami Beach Democrat. The fear of retaliation and being singled out by gangs wasn’t enough to silence their need to complain about the problems they faced at the prison: toilets that won’t flush, no hot water, a majority of showers that didn’t work, broken heating system, cell windows jammed shut, head-splitting noise from an exhaust fan. “The conditions were horrific — unfit for human habitation,” Richardson told the Herald/Times.

THERE OUGHTA BE A T-SHIRT FOR THE DAVID RICHARDSON TOUR via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – State Representative — and glutton for punishment — Richardson brought his lonely crusade for improved prison infrastructure to the Columbia Correctional Institution on Thanksgiving Eve, giving inmates and guards the rare gift of something to be grateful for … Self-styled “one-man band” Richardson has taken it upon himself to change the public attention paradigm with a series of surprise visits to the decrepit, dangerous Big Houses located in places few Floridians can locate on a map. He’s shown up unannounced at 60 facilities and spoken with more than 225 inmates. It’s a tour without a T-shirt, but the Miami Herald has covered Richardson like Rolling Stone covers The Rolling Stones, making it impossible for the Department of Corrections (DOC) to ignore him, even if he is a Democrat. The punch list at Columbia is a familiar one. Unflushable toilets. Unworkable showers. Cold water in hot water faucets … To her credit, DOC Secretary Julie Jones did not try to deny Richardson’s findings or lie her way out of the Herald’s questions. Basic maintenance has been neglected for so long that Jones couldn’t get half of Florida’s prisons fixed if she had Enterprise Florida’s slush funds to work with … Many Floridians and everyone in the Legislature who isn’t Rep. Richardson have no problem housing prisoners and even troubled teenagers in facilities that are unfit for hamster habitation, let alone humans. But what about the health and safety of corrections officers like Dale Nye, who has served Florida since 1995 and earns less than $34,000? Nye took to the comment section of the Herald to note, more in sorrow than in anger, that “… in 13 years … my Institution has only gotten one new vehicle…. held together with wire, seats worn-out, so that after you ride… six hours, your hips and shoulders ache, exhaust leaks that fill the car with fumes …”

REGULATORS OK PRIVATE INSURERS TO ASSUME CITIZENS INSURANCE POLICIES via Florida Politics – Effective in February, Avatar Property and Casualty Insurance Co. can take nearly 11,000 commercial and personal residential policies. Safepoint Insurance Co. was cleared to accept 15,000 policies, and Southern Oak Insurance Co. can remove 15,000. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation announced the takeouts and offers details on this webpage. The move came as Citizens Board of Governors learned that the trend is toward slower depopulation — or transfer of Citizens policies to insurers in the private market. All told, the office has approved depopulation of 42,724 Citizens policies in January and February. During the first two months of 2016, the agency approved depopulation of 200,000 policies, Citizens president Barry Gilway said during the company’s Board of Governors meeting.

CITIZENS INSURANCE CHIEF SEES ‘ABSURD’ RISE IN LITIGATION EXPENSES via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Rising litigation “is driving 80 percent of our attention and time,” Gilway warned during a meeting of the board of governors of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. He pointed to the trend line. About 12.5 percent of claims went into litigation in 2011. Now, “45 percent of all claims are going into litigation,” Gilway said. “Which, in my opinion, is just absurd. It’s completely out of control situation.” The trend is slowing depopulation — or transfer of Citizens policies to insurers in the private market, Gilway said.

During the first two months of 2016, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved depopulation of 200,000 polices, he said. For the first two months of 2017, the office has approved the switch for 4,2724. Although Citizens’ policy count dropped by 26.3 percent between January 2015 and November 2016, “depopulation is slowing down dramatically,” Gilway said. The bottom line is that Citizens faces net operating losses of $100 million in its inland residential policy lines, with losses concentrated in South Florida. The problem is mostly confined to personal insurance lines bought by homeowners; competition in the private market for business in coastal property and commercial lines is robust, he said.

FLORIDA LEAGUE OF CITIES HOSTS ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE IN ORLANDO — The Florida League of Cities will hold its 56th annual legislative conference at the Embassy Suites Orlando-Lake Buena Vista South. The two-day conference will give attendees a chance to hear from experts, attend League committee meetings and adopt the FLC legislative action agenda. “The engagement of city officials in the League’s legislative process is essential to our success in Tallahassee. This conference provides a unique forum for local leaders to come together and learn about the key issues affecting municipal home rule and to share best practices for advocacy,” said Susan Haynie, the president of the Florida League of Cities and the mayor of Boca Raton. “Each year we gather municipal leaders from across the state to take advantage of this educational opportunity to unite with common goals and return home as better advocates for home rule.” The conference kicks off Thursday and continues through Friday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Governors Club’s Allison Ager, Mike Deeson, The Victory Group’s Ashley Lauren, and my friend Joy Ann Reid.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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