Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – December 11

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: Twenty years ago today, the first-ever Summit of the Americas ended in Miami. On December 11, 1994, three days of meetings culminated with an agreement to promote democracy and free trade. Leaders from 34 countries across the Americas – excluding Cuba – agreed to support democracy across the region and signed a free-trade declaration often referred to as the “Miami Process.” Since that initial gathering, five additional Summits have been held throughout the hemisphere, with another planned for April in Panama.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Capitol Hill lawmakers agreed on a small provision added to the omnibus spending bill, allowing the two party committees to raise money for their presidential nominating conventions. The limit per donor would be $97,200 a year, on top of each party committee’s existing limit of $32,400 per year..

The $97,200-per-year year limit comes to $388,800 for a four-year presidential election cycle. If the new provision had been available in 2012, just 94 donors could have matched the public financing for both conventions. Or put another way – as the pro-regulation groups would – regular contributions and the new convention account would enable a donor and spouse to funnel more than $500,000 to a party each two-year congressional election cycle.


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would handily carry his homestate in a crowded GOP primary and is the only Republican to marginally lead Democrat Hillary Clinton in a theoretical 2016 presidential contest, according to a new Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey.

Bush would pull 34 percent GOP support in a primary — more than double former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 15 percent and more than triple U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s 10 percent, the poll shows. The other 15 potential candidates (yes, it’s that kind of potential Republican primary) all pull single-digit support in Florida.

In a general-election race against Clinton, Bush receives 43 percent of the vote and Clinton 42 percent. That 1 percentage-point lead is well within the poll’s 3.5 percentage-point error margin.

All other major GOP candidates trail Clinton. Of them, Rubio does the best but trails her 46-42 percent.

Overall, by 44-38 percent, Florida voters say Bush should run. But only 28 percent say the same of Rubio, with 48 percent saying he shouldn’t seek the presidency in 2016.

In a head-to-head matchup between Bush and Rubio, the former governor would get 57 percent Republican support to the senator’s 21 percent; 7 percent want neither.

Florida is crucial for Republicans. Because Democrats take California and Florida in presidential contests, GOP candidates need to win Texas and Florida to even up the odds in the Electoral College. Texas isn’t likely to turn blue for decades. If a Democrat takes Florida and its 29 Electoral College votes (in addition to Claifornia’s 55 and New York’s 29), it would give the party about 42 percent of the 270 needed to win the White House — making a GOP win exceedingly unlikely (even if the Republican won vaunted Ohio and its 18 Electoral College Votes).

Orlando’s poll didn’t survey the field without Bush, so it’s tough to see how well Rubio would do without him in the race.

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Gov. Scott will appoint a new chief of the troubled Florida prison system: Julie Jones, the former executive director of the state highway safety agency.

The surprise appointment of Jones, 57, makes her the first woman to head the Department of Corrections in the agency’s history. Her appointment comes at a time when the agency has been reeling from revelations of violent inmate deaths, abuses of inmates by correctional officers and a chronic budget deficit.

Jones will be Scott’s fourth corrections secretary in less than four years. Mike Crews resigned last month, and was preceded by Ken Tucker and Edwin Buss. Crews was replaced on an interim basis by Deputy Secretary Tim Cannon.

Jones retired last April after five years at the helm of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. She has extensive law enforcement experience but has no background in prisons. Her appointment is likely to be seen as a rejection of the male-dominated good-ol’-boy culture that has been part of the prison system’s culture for decades.

In an interview, Jones said she will emphasize programs that will enable inmates to become more productive citizens after they are released (about 30,000 prison inmates are released from the system each year).

“I believe that once these people get into the system, it’s our responsibility to take care of them,” Jones said. She promised to be an advocate for the agency’s more than 20,000 employees but won’t tolerate misconduct: “I’m not going to cover up for anybody,” she said.

TWEET, TWEET: @fasanomike: Could not have selected a better person. “Scott’s pick to run Fl prison system: Julie Jones”

ICYMI: NYT KEEPS UP REPORTING ON AGS, PAM BONDI via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

In case you missed it, the New York Times published another story this weekend on attorneys general and, once again, it touched on Florida’s own Pam Bondi.

Sunday’s story by Times reporter Eric Lipton was the sixth he’s written about attorneys general since October. It spotlights Oklahoma Attorney Scott Pruitt to illustrate how energy industry lobbyists have enlisted the help of mostly Republican attorneys general in their legal battles against President Obama’s administration.

Bondi, who was a focus in two earlier stories, one published on Oct. 29 and a second on Nov. 9, played a supporting role in the latest article, getting quoted down in the story voicing support for taking the side of industry in so many legal battles.

“When the federal government oversteps its legal authority and takes actions that hurt our business and residents, it’s entirely appropriate for us to partner with adversely affected private entities in fighting back,” Lipton quotes Bondi as saying.

That’s a similar explanation that Bondi gave the Times/Herald when it wrote a story in October about her office’s numerous “friend-of-the-court” briefs and other letters or reports pertaining to an array of topics and issues, some of which don’t directly involve the state.

No matter the cause — showing support for the Keystone pipeline, objecting to the federal rejection of a coal-mining permit in West Virginia, challenging a ban on some semiautomatic weapons in Connecticut or New York — Bondi was usually joined by numerous fellow Republican attorneys generals from mostly southern and western states.

Bondi’s office in October described her involvement in these out-of-state battles as way to protect the rights of Floridians, even if they weren’t directly affected by the specific case. In an e-mail, a spokesperson, Jenn Meale, said no outside group influenced Bondi’s decision to get involved in these battles.


As the official list of 2015-16 legislative committee chairs rolls out, the lion’s share of the attention often goes to those slated to lead high profile, influential committees such as Appropriations and Rules.

Yet, the upcoming session will likely be highlighted by a broad range of issues – gaming and the new Seminole Compact, growlers, generic vs. name brand drugs, and, maybe, medical marijuana.

With such a list of challenges facing legislators this spring, one committee is sure to stand out in the eyes of Florida lobbyists — Regulated Industries.

Come this March, it would not be surprising if Regulated Industries – both Senate and House versions — regularly plays to audiences packed with consultants.

In giving the nod to Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley, Senate President Andy Gardiner tapped an accomplished attorney and policy wonk, tasking him with molding the upper chamber’s positions on a number of hot-button issues.

Not a bad move for Bradley, only in his third year as a state legislator.

A relatively fresh face in Tallahassee, Bradley is a well-liked lawmaker from a district containing both liberal Gainesville and determinedly conservative Clay County. A former prosecutor, he is both sharp-witted and thinks well on his feet, not afraid to bring the fire when needed.

By all accounts, Gardiner picked the right person for the job.


As part of an effort to boost its advocacy in Tallahassee, the Broward County Commission chose its lobbying lineup for 2015 – a six-member team that includes three firms new to the line-up.

 The firms selected are a veritable who’s who of Florida lobbying houses: Adams St. Advocates, Ron Book, Anfield Consulting, Trip Scott, Southern Strategy Group, and Ballard Partners.

Only Trip Scott and Book – who hails from the Broward region – were retained from the county’s former contracts, which ended Sept. 30.

On Tuesday, the county met with nine firms vying to represent Broward during the upcoming, a list culled from 16 companies that initially applied to the request for proposals.

Prior to the selection process, the board moved to increase the county’s lobbying budget from $240,000 to $367,000, acknowledging that they had been paying lobbyists less than other municipalities in similar circumstances.

Commissioners also agreed to increase the number of firms to contract from five to six, under the proposal that a larger team can better cover the issues and challenges facing Broward.

Narrowing the field to nine firms, the commissioners then quizzed each one with a series questions on experience and priorities. The Commission then ranked the firms, with the top six making the cut.


Any math teacher will tell you; statistics – when used in the right way – can say just about anything.

Nowhere is that truer than in a new national report on the economic impact of gambling, released Dec. 8 by the American Gaming Association.

In an AGA report dated September 30, the group estimated seven commercial casinos in Florida created more than 3,200 jobs statewide and a payroll of $105.9 million, as well as gambling revenues of $467.6 million.

“This economic activity generated $163.7 million in tax revenue to education and numerous other essential programs in the state,” the AGA report continued.

That was September; the report for December offers a different set of figures — doubled from only two months earlier.

Now, the AGA claims that those same seven commercial casinos in Florida contribute $1.2 billion in economic activity.

Gaming in the state also increased more than twofold; it supports 7,474 jobs, paying more than $325.5 million in wages, $358.9 million in federal, state and local tax revenues, and $163.7 million in gaming taxes.


Florida’s job growth tumbled “significantly” in November, sliding more than 30 percent from the number of private sector jobs created in October, according to a report released Wednesday.

Payroll processing company ADP estimated that Florida added 13,900 non-government jobs in November down from 20,500 a month earlier.

Throughout the year, Florida has trailed the two biggest job-generators: Texas and California. That trend continued in November as it produced roughly half as many private jobs as the top two. Texas added 29,700 jobs while California was up by 24,000 jobs.

As with much of the recovery, lower-paying service jobs dominated, with the service-providing sector accounting for 10,300 of the newly created jobs.

October was a hard act to follow. According to the Labor Department, Florida added a total of 34,400 private and public jobs over the month while its unemployment rate fell to a six-year low of 6 percent.

Florida’s economic recovery has been jagged throughout the year, alternating between stellar and disappointing months.


Three Florida metros are among the top 10 markets likely to see an influx of baby boomer home buyers, the National Association of Realtors predicts.

Tampa Bay didn’t make the top cut, but it isn’t far behind.

Fort Myers, Orlando and Sarasota all rank in the top 10 among attractive markets for aging homebuyers, according to research released Wednesday by the Realtors’ group. Boise, Idaho, and Raleigh, N.C., were standouts. Rounding out the top group, which were not ranked in order, were Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver; Greenville, S.C.; Phoenix; and Tucson, Ariz.

Tampa was included in a next-tier group of five other markets “with strong potential.”

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun starts with the premise that an improving economy and rebounding home prices is giving boomers more latitude to sell their homes and move away.

Not all the boomers are in search of retirement meccas. An increasing number of older workers want to stay engaged in the labor market past their 65th birthday, and they’re looking for cities that have a dynamic local economy, adequate housing supply, lower cost of living and sunnier weather, Yun said.

Put that criteria together and it pushes states like Florida and Arizona toward the top of boomers’ wish lists.

Yun’s research examined current population trends, housing affordability and local economic conditions in 100 metros already known for lower state taxes, growth and solid job markets.

FLORIDA IS NO. 32 IN HEALTH RANKINGS via the Associated Press

A new report places Florida as the 32nd healthiest state in the nation.

The report, released by UnitedHealth Foundation, says that in the past year the percentage of Floridians who smoke decreased slightly, from 17.7 percent to 16.8 percent.

The percentage of adults who binge drink also dropped, from 16.5 percent to 15.5 percent.

However, more than a quarter of Floridians are physically inactive, slightly higher than the national rate. The report also says about 1 in 12 babies in Florida are born underweight.

Hawaii was ranked the healthiest state, and Mississippi was ranked the least healthy one

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Republican state Rep. Travis Hutson, who is hoping to fill the state Senate District 6 seat recently vacated by John Thrasher, picked up endorsements from top law-enforcement figures in the north Florida region.

State Attorney R.J. Larizza, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said Monday they are backing Hutson’s bid.

“I believe Travis would be an excellent addition to the Florida Senate,” Larizza said in a news release from Hutson’s campaign. “He is a dedicated, fiscally-responsible Conservative Republican, and I believe he would work tirelessly in Tallahassee to protect and defend our constitution.”

Hutson, from Elkton, is facing off against state Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart in the Jan. 27 primary. The winner will be heavily favored in the traditionally conservative district in the April 7 general election. Both men vacated safe state House seats to run, and they are expected to have well-financed and well-resourced campaigns.

But Hutson, whose campaign is staffed by a few veterans of Thrasher’s political career, has gotten off to a quick start. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam announced weeks ago he was backing Hutson’s campaign.

“Travis believes in growing the job base, improving the education system, and reducing government spending and waste,” Shoar said. “Northeast Florida needs Travis and his Conservative values fighting for us in the Senate.”

REGGIE FULLWOOD AND THE $325K CHECKMARK via Derek Kinner of Folio Weekly

A tiny checkmark — or rather, the lack of it — has led to chaos in the District 13 state representative race, a district that covers much of Downtown Jacksonville. For the past four years, that seat has been held by two-term incumbent Democrat Reggie Fullwood, who was guaranteed to win again.

Except for that checkmark.

He had no competition in the Democratic primary in August, nor any Republican opponent in November. All he had to do was fill out his qualifying papers correctly. But he and his staff failed to do so — twice, in fact — and the chaos set in.

It’s still likely Fullwood will win, but now not without a fight, and not without costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and two special elections (the first of which will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 16) that should never have had to happen in the first place.

“We’ve estimated $325,000 for both elections,” says Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland. “Because of change in the law of early voting sites, we now have to have seven early voting sites for the primary.”

The sharks started circling immediately after Fullwood’s disqualification, and Jacksonville City Council member Johnny Gaffney was the first to dive in. Gaffney had expressed no interest in running for the seat before the clerical error left it open. Gaffney didn’t talk to Folio Weekly for this story, despite six phone calls to his office and cell phones. But he does have one key supporter — Juan Gray, chairman of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council — who says that the Florida Democratic Party’s decision to back Fullwood over Gaffney, and give Fullwood $10,000, in effect putting its foot on the scale even though he faces a primary opponent, could cause disunity among Democrats.

And then, assuming Fullwood survives next Tuesday’s primary, there’s another obstacle in his way: The Republicans are putting up a sacrificial lamb named Lawrence Jefferson, who has very little chance of winning the liberal district but will force Fullwood to campaign anyway.

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On Context Florida: America seems to be going backwards in so many ways, says Diane Roberts. Yes, women have been secretaries of state, astronauts, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, army generals. But that doesn’t mean that gender inequity is over, any more than electing a black president means that racism is over. Florida’s unemployment rate is at 6 percent. It is hard to imagine a more deliberate focus on job creation than the state witnessed in the past four years. What happens when we broaden the goal of economic development beyond job creation, asks Dale Brill, former Chief Marketing Officer for VISIT FLORIDA. Daniel Tilson is this close to believing Florida Democratic Party (FDP) leaders cannot see the political forest full of discontent and disinterest enveloping them, due to a new reform agenda focused on “operational” tree trimming. Nearly eight years ago Todd Dagenais walked into a room of about 10 young women who just lost their coach and suffered through two humiliating seasons with a conference record of 1-31. As a new coach, he was expected to make them a nationally competitive team. Knowing UCF was a great school, in a great location, and the athletic department had the full support of the university to be nationally competitive in all sports, he knew UCF volleyball had “a chance.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a great Floridian, Dominic Calabro.

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.