Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
First, some good news about a great person – Lobbyist Donovan Brown moving to Suskey Consulting – Insurance industry expert Brown has now become the newest vice president at Florida government affairs firm Suskey Consulting. Brown, who lobbied for GDB Group in Tallahassee, is a former partner at Colodny Fass and Southeast state government relations counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “I am excited to join the growing team at Suskey Consulting,” Brown said. “I look forward to continuing my regulatory and legislative work with such a respected and vibrant group of leaders.” Before joining PCI, Brown served as an associate at Foley & Lardner, where he stood for clients in matters before the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and the Florida Department of Financial Services. Before that, he was an associate at Akerman Senterfitt. Brown was also a special assistant and deputy chief of counterdrug law enforcement under Gov. Jeb Bush.
And before we dive back into the scandalized politics of Tallahassee, a reminder that today is #LoveMyNewspaper Day!
So, please, stop what you are doing and post something on social media about your favorite newspaper, reporters, stories, etc. using the hashtag #LoveMyNewspaper.
Back in 2015, public relations guru Kevin Cate – whose father is Tampa Bay news anchor Keith Cate – was tired of hearing the unending criticism of journalists and journalism. That’s when he sent a message to subscribers of “Above the Fold,” the daily newsletter he puts out that features front pages from across Florida.
“Newspapers are worth defending,” Cate declared, asking readers to say a few kind words about reporters and reporting.
And #LoveMyNewspaper was born.
This is the third #LoveMyNewspaper Day. Last year, the hashtag trended all day nationally with nearly 40 million impressions seen by more than 22 million people on Twitter and Facebook.
And that all started in Florida, where it always trends first.
So, go ahead and #LoveMyNewspaper.
Oh, and just one more thing before we talk politics:
— PCreight (@PCreighton1) December 5, 2017
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— L’AFFAIRE LATVALA —
“Request denied: Rick Scott won’t (yet) appoint special prosecutor in Jack Latvala case” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Gov. Scott‘s top lawyer has – at least for now – rejected a request to appoint a special prosecutor from the attorney representing Rachel Perrin Rogers, a Senate staffer who has accused Sen. Latvala of sexual harassment. The reason: Scott doesn’t yet have “the legal authority” to appoint a prosecutor. “This morning, the Governor’s General Counsel, Daniel Nordby, reached out to (Tiffany R.) Cruz,” said Lauren Schenone, a Scott spokeswoman, on Monday. “Our office clarified that the Governor does not have authority to act until a matter is pending before a state attorney and following an investigation by local law enforcement. Additionally, a conflict of interest must also be identified.” Earlier in the day, Cruz asked Scott’s office to appoint a special prosecutor, saying Latvala may have committed crimes.
“Affidavit: Latvala accuser boasted about sabotaging people’s career” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – Before she filed a sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Latvala, Perrin Rogers allegedly engaged in a pattern of raising claims against fellow staffers at the Senate Majority Office, according to a sworn affidavit released Monday. Lily Tysinger, a 22-year-old former staffer to Simpson, said Perrin Rogers made claims about her that includes her having “numerous affairs with people involved in the political process” and that she was transferred out of Senate Majority Office a couple days after a POLITICO Florida report came out without any reason given as to why that was. Tysinger suspects Perrin Rogers was behind that transfer based on the allegations she raised about other staffers in the office that she claims led to their terminations or them being “re-homed.” Tiffany Cruz, Perrin Rogers’ attorney, said the allegations were a “complete lie” and threatened to sue Florida Politics if “uncorroborated” claims in the affidavit were published.
“Rachel Perrin Rogers refutes Senate staffer’s claims of trying to ‘sabotage’ her career” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Perrin Rogers … accused Tysinger of retaliating against her by submitting fake text messages to combat Latvala’s sexual harassment allegations.
“Wilton Simpson: ‘smear campaign’ against Perrin Rogers must end” via Alexandra Glorioso and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Senate Majority Leader Simpson said what he called a “smear campaign” against his top aide, Perrin Rogers, must end. Simpson’s statement is the first serious indication that the Republican-controlled Legislature is turning against Latvala … Simpson … is both the future Senate president and a member of the chamber’s Rules committee, which will ultimately vote on whether Latvala should be punished for the accusations. … “Rachel has been a trusted and valued member of my team for more than five years. Her tireless work ethic has served the people of my district and the state of Florida well. The incidents alleged in the media are disgusting. Since mid-last week there has been a smear campaign launched against Rachel. It must end immediately,” Simpson told POLITICO Florida.
“Why should I quit, leave town, when I didn’t do it?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Latvala called the circumstances “unfortunate” but said he had no choice but to ask people to sign affidavits attesting to his character and contradicting Rogers’ claims because many of her allegations rest on her word against his. “I’m in my 16th year here, and I’ve got to protect my own reputation,” Latvala said, adding that damage to his nascent campaign for governor “is done” but “I’m not going to admit to something I didn’t do.”
“First GOP calls for Latvala resignation surface in Senate” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “This highly respected and regarded establishment is being burnt to the ground and I feel Senator Latvala is running around with the Napalm and the matches,” state Sen. Travis Hutson said. “This is only going to get worse. And the best thing for everyone — every senator, every staffer, every accuser and/or accused — would be a resignation so that we do not have to deal with this problem anymore,” Hutson said. Hutson said that donors to Latvala’s political committee should ask for their money back. State Sen. Debbie Mayfield stopped short of Hutson’s full-blown call for a resignation, but said “it might be better for him, and his family and the Senate if he considered stepping down. That’s a choice he has to make. It’s not my choice. I’m not pre-judging the facts.”
“State Senator says Latvala is making ‘mockery out of serious allegations” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – As he advocates for specific changes to the Senate’s sexual harassment policy currently under review, Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez said Monday “serious rules” are needed to make sure powerful senators like Latvala stop making a “mockery of serious allegations.” “Without independent investigation or serious rules, persons in power will game the system, intimidate victims and make a mockery of serious allegations, exactly as Senator Latvala is doing,” the Miami Democrat said in a statement. Among his suggestions, Rodriguez wants to see the Senate implement mandatory anti-sexual harassment training for all staffers, and also create an outreach program that would facilitate victims to come forward and an automatic independent review outside of the Senate when allegations come to light.
— “John Romano: Forget the accusers, Latvala is taking himself down” via the Tampa Bay Times
Meanwhile … “Rick Scott appointee steps down after state Senator accuses him of ‘abhorrent’ behavior” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – After Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto publicly accused Ritch Workman, a Scott appointee to the Public Service Commission, of making vulgar and inappropriate comments to her at a charity event last year, he said Monday he is no longer pursuing his nomination. Scott said he supports his decision, adding that “any misconduct cannot be tolerated.” In a statement, Benacquisto said: “I found his conduct to be abhorrent. As such, I will not agenda his appointment to the Public Service Commission for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Rules.”
– “Jacksonville City Council hopeful blames women’s ‘libidos’ for sexual harassment” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Sales tax holiday takes first step in Senate” via the News Service of Florida – With little discussion, a Senate committee Monday approved a bill that would create a sales-tax “holiday” for back-to-school shoppers during 10 days in late July and early August. The vote by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee was a first step that ultimately could lead to a sales-tax holiday being included in a tax-cut package during the 2018 legislative session, which starts Jan. 9. Lawmakers usually approve such tax holidays, though the number of tax-free shopping days has varied widely. Under the Senate bill (SB 686), filed by Sen. Keith Perry shoppers would be able to avoid paying sales taxes from July 27 through Aug. 5 on clothes costing $100 or less; school supplies costing $15 or less; and personal computers and accessories costing $1,000 or less. A staff analysis said state economists have not determined how much tax revenue would be lost with such a holiday.
“House hurricane panel tackles storm reforms” via Dan Sweeney of the Sun-Sentinel – With ideas ranging from helping nursing homes during power outages to abandoning development in high-risk coastal areas entirely, a Florida House panel is considering which of 141 proposals to present during the upcoming legislative session. “I didn’t think we’d get through this,” said Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness chairwoman Jeanette Núñez after Monday’s hearing. “I was like, ‘Oh God, we only have three hours.’” The panel covered dozens of ideas in 10 topic areas, from evacuation to education. These proposals will be winnowed down by Dec. 15, after which the committee, established to suggest reforms following Hurricane Irma, will bring some of them into the legislative session, which begins Jan. 8.
“Rene Plasencia bill seeks to turn teacher evaluations back to school boards” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Plasencia, of Orlando, is rallying support for his House Bill 427, introduced in late October and referred to the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and Education Committee. The bill would allow local school districts to opt out of the statewide teacher evaluation and merit-pay plan approved in 2011, which essentially made assessments of teachers, and their prospects for raises, contingent on their students’ performances on state assessment tests. Instead, the districts would have the option to create their own teacher performance evaluation systems, and could eliminate the need for many of the year-end student tests. “It would return the authority back to the local school board, which I think is very important,” said Orange County School Board Member Linda Kobert. “This single bill also would have, as far as I’m concerned, the most impact as far as reduced testing. The reason we have an end-of-course exam in every single required subject is simply to evaluate teachers.”
“Daphne Campbell appointed chair of Haitian Temporary Relief Task Force” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State Sen. Campbell has been appointed Chair of the Haitian Temporary Relief Task Force. The Miami Democrat, elected to the Senate last year after serving six years in the House, announced the appointment Monday. It was made by state Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Democrat who leads the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation. The task force is an organization formed to “advocate on behalf of tens of thousands of Haitian refugees in Florida who fled their native country but now face deportation in the near future,” according to a Senate Democratic Caucus news release. Campbell seeks for “Haitians and other refugees (to) receive permanent residence,” she said.
Assignment Editors: House Democrats will ceremonially designate Rep. Kionne McGhee as the incoming House Democratic Leader, succeeding Rep. Janet Cruz. That’s at 9 a.m., House chamber, The Capitol.
Assignment editors – The “No Place for a Child” coalition will join state Sen. Bobby Powell, state Reps. Kamia Brown and Miguel Rodriguez and Scott McCoy of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Tallahassee to announce support for proposed legislation that would change how children are prosecuted as adults in Florida. News conference begins 9 a.m. at the Fourth-floor Rotunda, Senate Chamber, 400 S. Monroe St. in Tallahassee.
GOP House members to hold holiday toy drive – Reps. Bob Cortes, David Santiago, Rene Plasencia, and Mike La Rosa will host a toy drive 5-6:30 p.m. today in The Governor’s Inn Lobby, 209 South Adams St., in downtown Tallahassee. “We are asking for new, unwrapped toys worth a maximum of $10 to be dropped off,” they said. The toy drive will benefit children who are the victims of hurricanes, including those in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
“T’is the season: First Capitol holiday display approved” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – An “educational display of the astronomy causing the winter solstice” is the first holiday display to gain approval this year for the Florida Capitol rotunda. A “triptych poster,” sponsored by the First Coast Freethought Society of Jacksonville, is approved for display Dec. 15-22. Nina Ashley, spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services, the state’s real estate manager, said it was the only request for a display received thus far for the 2017 holiday season … Aside from traditional Hanukkah menorahs and Christian Nativity scenes, other past displays have included two variations of a six-foot “Festivus” pole: One was made of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans; another was a rainbow-colored “Gay Pride” version topped with a disco ball.
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Assignment editors – Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will address the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce beginning 7 p.m. at 1200 S W C Owen Ave. in Clewiston.
Gulf County Sheriff endorses Ashley Moody for AG – Sheriff Mike Harrison becomes the latest Sheriff to endorse Republican Moody for Attorney General. “Florida Sheriffs need an Attorney General who has prosecuted criminals, Ashley Moody has the experience in our criminal justice system that makes her uniquely qualified for this important job. As a prosecutor and judge, she earned the respect of the law enforcement community and has a proven track record of combating crime. I’m honored to endorse Ashley Moody and know that she will serve us well as Florida’s ‘top cop,’” Harrison said.
“Irv Slosberg withdraws from SD 31 special election, supports Lori Berman” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “You know, Lori and I were always good friends; she was always on the side of road safety. She was right by my side. I think she’s going to make a great senator,” Slosberg said. Slosberg, of Boca Raton, entered the race just a month ago, joining Lantana Democrats Berman and Arthur Morrison and Republican Tami Donnally of Lake Worth. Slosberg said he’ll be happy keeping his focus on the work of his Dori Saves Lives foundation, set up in memory of his daughter who died in a car crash, and dedicated to improving road safety, especially for young drivers.
“Margaret Good, James Buchanan lead HD 72 fundraising” via the News Service of Florida – Democrat Good and Republican Buchanan have dominated fundraising in the campaign to replace former Rep. Alex Miller. Good, who is competing with Ruta Jouniari in the Democratic primary, raised $32,613 from Oct. 20 through Thursday, bringing her overall total to $120,483, according to newly filed finance reports. Good had $51,171 in cash on hand as of Thursday. Jouniari raised $15,950 from Oct. 20 through Thursday, bringing her overall total to $23,429. Jouniari had $14,168 on hand. Buchanan, who does not have a Republican primary opponent, raised $32,000 during the most-recent period, bringing his overall total to $227,130. He had $169,399 in cash on hand, according to the reports. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall in a Feb. 13 special general election. Foxall raised $6,600 from Oct. 20 through Thursday.
— STATEWIDE —
Assignment editors – CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will make an announcement regarding Florida firefighter cancer and PTSD benefits. News conference begins 2 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station No. 23, 5471 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach.
First in Sunburn – “Florida takes No. 1 spot in ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list” via Florida Politics – The American Tort Reform Association says the Sunshine State was the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country, putting it in the same league as courts in California, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana. Judicial Hellholes gave Florida the top spot in the ring of dishonor for the first time in its 16-year history, and enumerated several problems starting with the Florida Supreme Court. The report said the high court’s “liability-expanding decisions and barely contained contempt for the lawmaking authority of legislators and the governor has repeatedly led to its inclusion in this report. And though the high court’s plaintiff-friendly majority this year shrunk from 5-2 to 4-3, a hushed discussion between two majority justices recently caught by an open microphone suggests that this majority is as partisan as ever and brazenly determined to influence the judicial selection process as three like-minded colleagues face mandatory retirement in early 2019.” The report cites Justice C. Alan Lawson replacing retired Justice James E.C. Perry as a move in the right direction, but the report blasted the court for allowing Perry to help decide cases he had started to hear before his mandatory retirement date, which the report described as “contrary to the Florida Constitution.”
“Removal of Irma-damaged boats continues” via the News Service of Florida – More than 2,000 vessels damaged or grounded by Hurricane Irma have been removed from state waters since the September storm, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Monday. Nearly three-fourths of the 2,069 boats were in the Florida Keys. The Coast Guard, which is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is prioritizing vessels based on potential environmental impacts. Boat owners are encouraged to hire salvage companies. The state has estimated that each vessel costs $25,000 to $40,000 to remove.
“Court rules against insurer on ‘assignment of benefits’” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – An appeals court has ruled against a property insurer’s effort to place restrictions on a controversial practice known as “assignment of benefits.” The 5th District Court of Appeal, in an eight-page ruling Friday, upheld a decision by the state Office of Insurance Regulation to reject restrictions proposed by Security First Insurance Co. The ruling was another blow to the insurance industry, which has blamed assignment of benefits for driving up property-insurance premiums – but has been unable to persuade lawmakers to make changes to the longstanding practice. A three-judge panel of the appeals court pointed to past legal rulings about assignment of benefits and said it was up to the Legislature to decide whether to make changes.
“Airbnb takes to Tallahassee TV to promote vacation rentals” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The new commercial running this week in the Tallahassee market, “Airbnb citizen,” features Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward talking about how vacation rental homes give visitors the “authentic experience” of tourism in Florida. As video shows some of the more quaint of Pensacola neighborhoods, screen text notes the average Airbnb host makes $67,000 a year in rentals, and that Airbnb vacation rental homes hosted 2.5 million visitors this year. “Our visitors have stayed in these neighborhoods and it makes the experience far more unique,” Hayward says.
“Gas prices slowly dropping across Florida” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – AAA released a study which found gas prices averaged $2.44 per gallon in Florida Sunday, down 2 cents from last week but 26 cents higher than the start of December last year. The national average stood at $2.48 per gallon Sunday. At this time last year, the national average was at $2.18 per gallon. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club group, noted that the average price per gallon in Florida has dropped nine cents across the past three weeks. South Florida continues to have the most expensive gas in the Sunshine State. Drivers in West Palm Beach paid, on average, $2.56 per gallon Sunday while motorists in Miami saw prices at $2.55 per gallon and the Naples market saw prices at $2.50 per gallon. Pensacola had the least expensive gas in Florida with an average of $2.36 per gallon followed by Jacksonville and Orlando where prices averaged $2.38 per gallon.
“Lakeland to move 107-year-old Confederate monument” via The Ledger – The Lakeland City Commission voted 4-3 on Monday to remove the statue of a Confederate soldier that was erected in 1910 to honor those who died in the Civil War. The commission directed the city manager to begin the removal process and to analyze potential sites for the statue. The commission rejected a proposal to leave the statue where it is, but build other monuments near it to create a “heritage trail.”
— OPINIONS —
“Joe Henderson: Rick Scott poll numbers should concern Dems” via Florida Politics – My eyebrows arched a bit when reading the Saint Leo University poll that showed Scott with a 10-point lead over incumbent Democrat Nelson in next year’s election for the U.S. Senate. It’s a cautionary tale for Democrats, for multiple reasons. Nelson isn’t the most charismatic candidate either. He was front and center with Republican counterpart Marco Rubio when Hurricane Irma was approaching this year, but a poll in October from the University of North Florida carried a serious warning for Nelson. That survey showed an astonishing 49 percent of Floridians say they don’t know how Nelson is doing as their senator. That led Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, to note: “When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem.” Scott might not really be ahead by 10 points, but by now Democrats should know better than to take any comfort in that.
— MOVEMENTS —
Personnel note: Stephanie Owens to lobby for LWVF – The League of Women Voters of Florida on Monday announced that Owens was selected as its lobbyist for the 2018 Legislative Session. Owens resigned from the League’s board effective immediately; Michele Levy assumes the role of Voter Advocacy Chair. Owens spent over 20 years in public service, as an appointee of both President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, holding “senior official positions in the White House” and at various federal agencies. “During her tenure, she created the strategy and policies for implementation of the Affordable Care Act; citizen participation in the community restoration process after the Deep Horizon oil disaster; and improving federal procurement policy for small and disadvantaged businesses,” the League said. Since then, Owens founded St. Petersburg’s Dolphin Strategies consulting firm.
Personnel note: Niki McKinnell joins Florida Association of Counties – McKinnell will serve as the new marketing manager at FAC, working on business development and marketing for their enterprise partners program.
Happy birthday to The Edwards Group’s Beth Herendeen.