Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics

Peter Schorsch

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.

Jim Boxold to step down as DOT head for lobbying job

In the second of two surprise departures from the Gov. Rick Scott administration, the secretary of the state’s Department of Transportation is expected to step down to pursue a career in the private sector.

Jim Boxold, who was appointed in December 2014 to succeed Ananth Prasad, is leavinf to join the governmental affairs firm Capital City Consulting, multiple sources have confirmed.

An announcement about Boxold’s joining the firm could come as soon as Monday.

Boxold is the second department head to leave the Scott Administration this month; DEP Secretary Jon Steverson turned in his resignation on Friday.

The Governor’s Office late Friday night said Boxold had not submitted a letter of resignation, but sources who have spoken to Boxold and those inside CCC say the former DOT chief of staff – who was elevated to lead the agency – is headed to the Adams Street firm.

Capital City Consulting is considered one of the “Big 4” lobbying firms, earning more than $1 million per quarter in compensation to represent clients before the Legislature.

The firm was established in 2003 by Nick IarossiRon LaFace, and Gerald Wester.

Prior to his time at FDOT, Boxold served a decade as Director of Cabinet Affairs for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

Before that, he was Deputy Director of Cabinet Affairs for Gov. Jeb Bush. He also served as legislative affairs director for U.S. Rep. Porter J. Goss in 1995-2001.

Sunburn for 01.20.17 – Inauguration Day

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO THINK…

… there’s never been a starker contrast between two presidents as there is Barack Obama and Donald Trump, remember that John Adams was so contemptuous of Thomas Jefferson that he left the White House in the middle of the night on March 4, 1801, refusing to attend the inaugural ceremony of the man who had vanquished him (h/t Larry Sabato). Democrat Samuel Tilden, who handily won the reported popular vote in 1876, was urged to lead an army into Washington to stop the “corrupt” handover of power by Congress to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. The long Herbert HooverFDR transition was a disaster that inflicted additional pain (such as loads of failed banks) on a suffering nation.

By these standards, Obama-to-Trump has been relatively smooth. In these hyper-partisan times, one is grateful for any hint of civility. Under difficult circumstances, both Obama and Trump have listened to the better angels of their nature. It may be too much to hope that this initial precedent will apply to the many battles on the horizon, but to the extent it can, we’ll all be better off.

THE PRESIDENCY IS ABOUT TO CHANGE AS TRUMP REMAINS TRUMP

Donald Trump enters the White House on Friday just as he entered the race for president: defiant, unfiltered, unbound by tradition and utterly confident in his chosen course.

In the 10 weeks since his surprise election as the nation’s 45th president, Trump has violated decades of established diplomatic protocol, sent shockwaves through business boardrooms, tested long-standing ethics rules and continued his combative style of replying to any slight with a personal attack — on Twitter and in person.

Past presidents have described walking into the Oval Office for the first time as a humbling experience, one that in an instant makes clear the weight of their new role as caretaker of American democracy. Trump spent much of his transition making clear he sees things differently: Rather than change for the office, he argues, the office will change for him.

 “They say it’s not presidential to call up these massive leaders of business,” Trump told a crowd in Indianapolis in December. That was after he negotiated a deal with an air conditioning company to keep jobs in the state, a move many economists derided as unworkable national economic policy.

“I think it’s very presidential,” he declared. “And if it’s not presidential, that’s OK. That’s OK. Because I actually like doing it.”

Even before he takes the oath of office, Trump has changed the very nature of presidency, breaking conventions and upending expectations for the leader of the free world.

Advisers who’ve spoken with Trump say the billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star is aware of the historic nature of his new job. He’s told friends that he’s drawn to the ambition of Ronald Reagan, a Republican, and John F. Kennedy, a Democrat. He’s thinking of spending his first night in the White House sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, according to some who dined with him recently in Florida.

But Trump also views himself as a kind of “sui generis” president, beholden to no one for his success and modeling himself after no leader who’s come before. Trump has said he’s read no biographies of former presidents. When asked to name his personal heroes in a recent interview, he mentioned his father before replying that he didn’t “like the concept of heroes.”

“I don’t think Trump has a great sense of the history of the White House. When you don’t know your history, it’s hard to fully respect the traditions,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who recently dined with Trump and other guests at his South Florida club. “This is not somebody who brags about how many history biographies he’s read.”

“He’s somebody who brags about it as this is a big event and he’s the maestro,” he said.

That’s a shift that thrills his supporters, who elected Trump to shake up what they see as an unresponsive and corrupt federal government in the “swamp” of Washington.

Since winning the election, Trump has attacked Hollywood celebrities, civil rights icons and political rivals alike. He’s moved markets by going after some companies, while praising others.

He’s questioned the legitimacy of American institutions — appearing to trust the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the intelligence agencies he’ll soon oversee, engaging in personal fights with journalists as he assails the free press and questioning the results of the election, even though it put him in office.

And he’s lambasted the leaders of longstanding allied nations as he questions the post-World War II international order that won the Cold War and maintained peace in Europe for generations.

For Trump supporters, that no-holds-barred style is the very reason he won their votes. But for others in the country, it’s a type of leadership they’ve seen before and fear will spread.

There are signs that Trump’s actions are already changing the traditions of government in Washington, freeing lawmakers and other officials from long-respected practices of federal politics.

More than 50 House Democrats plan to boycott Trump’s inauguration ceremony, an unprecedented break with the bipartisan tradition of celebrating the peaceful transfer of power. While many Democrats were furious with the outcome of the 2000 election in which Republican George W. Bush defeated Al Gore after recounts and a Supreme Court ruling, they generally attended Bush’s inauguration ceremony.

“I will not celebrate a man who preaches a politics of division and hate,” tweeted Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman who’s bidding to head the Democratic National Committee.

Those who know Trump say the billionaire mogul delights in confounding establishment expectations, even as he craves approval from powerbrokers in New York and Washington.

“He was born with a chip on his shoulder, and he is very much the guy from Queens who looked across at Manhattan and envied but also to some degree hated the elites who occupied Manhattan,” said Michael D’Antonio, author of “Never Enough,” a Trump biography. “The way that he wants to disrupt institutions reflects this idea that the institutions haven’t embraced him.”

That’s a style that may work better for a CEO of a family corporation — who has little oversight from corporate boards or shareholders — than a president constrained by a system of checks and balances. Former Cabinet officials say the layers of government bureaucracy, myriad regulations and intricacies of Congress will challenge Trump’s style.

President Barack Obama, who’s offered Trump advice both publicly and privately, said he’s urged the president-elect to hold onto some of the traditions of the office.

“The one thing I’ve said to him directly, and I would advise my Republican friends in Congress and supporters around the country, is just make sure that as we go forward certain norms, certain institutional traditions don’t get eroded, because there’s a reason they’re in place,” said Obama, in a recent interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

But Trump’s supporters say it’s the institutions and Washington — and not the next president — that must change.

“Trump believes that he has a better understanding of how things work in the modern world than all of these so-called critics,” said Newt Gingrich, a Trump adviser and former Republican House speaker, who has spoken with the president-elect about his presidency. “That’s who he is.

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE INAUGURATION:

IN DC FOR INAUGURATION? Here’s everything you need to know — including parade and protest maps, concert schedules and events, courtesy of CNN’s Eli Watkins and Sophie Tatum.

SPOTTED: Ben Carson with Kelly Mallette, the right hand of lobbyist Ron Book.

THE OFFICIAL SCHEDULE

Morning – Trump, Pence and their families are expected to attend services at St. John’s Episcopal Church, just steps from the White House. Afterward, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome Trump and his wife Melania to the White House for morning tea. The two couples will then travel together to the Capitol by motorcade.

9:30 a.m. – Inauguration ceremony begins on the west front of the Capitol with musical performances. Attendees will include members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, diplomats and the public. Former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will attend, as will Trump’s election opponent Hillary Clinton. Former president George H.W. Bush is in frail health and will not be present. Sixteen-year-old soprano Jackie Evancho will sing the national anthem. The Rockettes dance troupe will also be performing, at a time yet to be announced.

11:30 a.m. – Opening remarks. Religious leaders will offer the invocation and readings. Pence will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Noon – Trump will recite the oath of office, administered by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He will use president Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration Bible, as well as the Bible that Trump’s mother gave to him at his Sunday school graduation in 1955. Afterward, Trump will deliver his inaugural address.

12:30 p.m. – Ceremony ends. Afterward, in keeping with tradition, Trump and Pence will attend the Congressional Lunch in the Capitol.

3 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Inaugural parade. The newly minted president and vice-president make their way 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, trailed by some 8,000 parade participants. They will include members of all US military branches, as well as high school and university marching bands, equestrian corps, first responders, veteran groups and even a tractor brigade.

7 p.m. to 11 p.m. – Trump, Pence and their wives will make appearances at three official inaugural balls, two of which will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the other at the National Building Museum. A number of semi-official and unofficial balls also will take place throughout the city.

THE TRUMP INAUGURATION IS SHAPING UP TO BE WASHINGTON’S SMALLEST PARTY IN YEARS via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post – Every four years, the city comes alive with a flurry of unofficial celebrations, ranging from chummy state-society affairs to exclusive corporate shindigs to cash-bar mixers open to anyone … although it’s hard to predict the size of the crowds that will greet [Trump] at his public events this week, it seems increasingly clear that the after-hours revelry will be markedly muted. Not only is Trump hosting only three official balls — far fewer than his predecessors at their first inaugurals — but the spillover festivities appear smaller and fewer. Several of the city’s great halls are going unrented. Far fewer big-name celebrities are headed to town. And while many events are reportedly sold out, others are still looking to fill their rooms.

THE FORECAST WON’T BUDGE — RAIN SEEMS INEVITABLE FOR TRUMP’S INAUGURATION via Angela Fritz of The Washington Post – If you’re heading downtown for the swearing-in ceremony or the parade, the Capital Weather Gang suggests wearing warm clothes, a waterproof outer layer, and a poncho rather than an umbrella – the latter are prohibited by the Secret Service and will generally be more of a nuisance on the crowded National Mall. (Saturday will be 10 degrees warmer and there’s less chance of a drizzle.)

WILL DONALD AND MELANIA DANCE? PLUS, FIVE OTHER BIG INAUGURATION QUESTIONS. via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post – 1. Will the president and first lady dance at their inaugural balls? If they do, what song will they dance to? 2. Will the inauguration incorporate poetry? 3. How will the inaugural festivities incorporate Marla Maples and Ivana Trump? What about Tiffany Trump and Barron Trump? 4. What tone will the clergy giving invocations set for the day? 5. How will Trump interact with the former presidents and their wives — and Hillary Clinton, his general-election opponent — during the weekend? 6. What is Trump going to say in his address, and will it differ from the tone he set during the election?

— “I love Toby Keith. His decision to play Trump’s inauguration won’t change that.” via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post

AL LAWSON SAYS ATTENDING TRUMP INAUGURATION IS HIS DUTY via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Lawson said members of Congress have customarily attended the ceremony regardless of whether they support the man taking the oath of office. “It’s not so much for anyone personally, it’s for the presidency of the United States of America,” Lawson said. “And I think that’s far bigger than anybody; bigger than Trump.” Lawson, the freshman Democrat whose district includes parts of Jacksonville, is not alone in his thinking. Most members of Congress are attending Trump’s inauguration, including other Florida Democrats like Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Val Demings and Rep. and former governor Charlie Crist.

GREAT READ – IN DONATED SHOES AND SUIT, A TRUMP SUPPORTER COMES TO WASHINGTON via Justin Jouvenal of The Washington Post – Shane Bouvet pointed to the towering grain silos near his parents’ home in this “little speck in America” and explained how he used to climb them to peer beyond the town’s tight confines. Bouvet, 24, knew then he wanted a life outside, but the prospects for the former night watchman and single father living paycheck to paycheck seemed dim before he improbably rose from delivering signs for Trump’s campaign to becoming its volunteer social media coordinator in Illinois. His work earned him an invitation to an inaugural ball near Washington … Bouvet piled into a car with friends … and began the drive to Washington to stay at a Days Inn in Arlington: “This is pretty much the biggest thing I’ve done in my life,” Bouvet said. “I don’t get out much.”

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GEORGE W. BUSH’S LETTER TO BARACK OBAMA IN 2009: THE COUNTRY IS ‘PULLING FOR YOU’ via Madeline Conway of POLITICO – “Very few have had the honor of knowing the responsibility you now feel,” Bush wrote to Obama on his inauguration day in a handwritten note on White House letterhead … “Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face.” “There will be trying moments,” he continued. “The critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead.”

OBAMA’S ELECTORAL LEGACY: AFTER 8 YEARS, WE GET A DONALD TRUMP via Darryl Paulson for Florida Politics – Whatever Obama may have achieved in public policy, it is that policy which is in great part responsible for setting “the post-World War II record for losses by the White House party” … However important the Obama policies may have been, it is fair to argue that those policies contained the seeds of Democratic losses. Politics is a strange beast. Six months ago, almost everyone believed the Republican Party was on its last legs, and the Trump nomination would doom them forever. Today the Republicans control all three branches of the federal government, and it appears that the Democrats are on life support. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

OBAMA COMMUTES 330 DRUG SENTENCES ON LAST DAY AS PRESIDENT via Josh Lederman of The Associated Press – With his final offer of clemency, Obama brought his total number of commutations granted to 1,715, more than any other president in U.S. history, the White House said. During his presidency, Obama ordered free 568 inmates who had been sentenced to life in prison. “He wanted to do it. He wanted the opportunity to look at as many as he could to provide relief,” Neil Eggleston, Obama’s White House counsel, said in an interview in his West Wing office. “He saw the injustice of the sentences that were imposed in many situations, and he has a strong view that people deserve a second chance.” For Obama, it was the last time he planned to exercise his presidential powers in any significant way. At noon Friday, Obama will stand with President-elect Donald Trump as his successor is sworn in and Obama’s chapter in history comes to an end.

‘HE HAS THIS DEEP FEAR THAT HE IS NOT A LEGITIMATE PRESIDENT’ via Michael Kruse of POLITICO – A group of Trump biographers offer predictions for how he will run the country … Tim O’Brien: “The whole thing has been a vanity show from the second he ran to the Republican Convention. I think we can expect to see the same on Inauguration Day. He’s been unable to find a clean division between his own emotional needs and his own insecurities and simply being a healthy, strategically committed leader who wants to parse through good policy options.” Michael D’Antonio: “[One] thing I think that we have overlooked as we see Trump trying to delegitimize others is what I suspect is a feeling he has inside that nothing he’s ever achieved himself has ever been legitimate. And even his election was with almost 3 million fewer votes than his opponent. So, he has this deep fear that he is himself not a legitimate president, and I think that’s why he goes to such great lengths to delegitimize even the intelligence community.” Gwenda Blair: “When he’s awake at night, I don’t think it’s because he’s awed or concerned about the responsibilities on his shoulders. It’s because there’s somebody he wants to get even with and how are you going to do it.”

TRUMP’S ‘BEACHHEAD’ TEAMS PRIMED TO GRAB AGENCIES’ REINS AT NOON FRIDAY via Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook via POLITICO – At 12:01 p.m. Friday … Trump’s aides will deploy a team of temporary political appointees into federal agencies to begin laying the groundwork for the president-elect’s agenda while his nominees await Senate confirmation … While the transition team has been building the so-called beachhead teams for months, they are taking on outsize importance because few of Trump’s nominees will be confirmed by the time he’s sworn in.

TRUMP ON SUPREME COURT PICK: ‘I THINK IN MY MIND I KNOW WHO IT IS’ via Ariane de Vogue of CNN – “I think in my mind I know who it is,” he said at a leadership luncheon at his hotel in downtown Washington … “I think you’re going to be very, very excited.” Trump said he would be submitting a name from a list of 20 that he put out during the campaign. “I put out the list of 20, all highly responsible and highly talented, very talented judges … Replacing somebody that was somebody I had great respect for as an intellect, Justice (AntoninScalia,” Trump said.

@POTUS GETS A FRESH START WITH DONALD TRUMP INAUGURATION via Florida Politics — POLITICO Morning Tech reported … a plan is in place to transition all of President Barack Obama’s tweets from the @POTUS account to @POTUS 44, an “archived Obama-era version of the account. The account will retain all of the current followers, while also attaching those same followers to the account that gets handed over to President-elect Donald Trump. The White House issued a memo … outlining how it would transition the president’s social media presence. According to the memo, @POTUS will be made available to Trump and maintain its more than 11 million followers, “but start with no tweets on timeline.” The White House said the social media accounts of @WhiteHouse@FLOTUS@PressSec and @VP. On Instagram and Facebook, the memo explained, the incoming White House gains access to the “White House username, URL, and retain the followers, but will start with no content on the timeline.”

FIRST DAY GOAL? MAKE WHITE HOUSE FEEL LIKE HOME FOR TRUMP via Darlene Superville of The Associated Press – Trump and his wife, Melania, can thank the nearly 100 butlers, maids, plumbers, electricians and other staffers who maintain the private living areas of the White House. The crew will have just the hours between Trump’s swearing-in and the end of the inaugural parade to remove all traces of President Barack Obama and his family and make the Trumps feel at home. “I’ve called it, for years, organized chaos,” says Gary Walters, a former White House chief usher who oversaw the move in-move out process for four presidents. The “chaos” breaks out moments after the outgoing president and the president-elect depart the White House for the oath-taking ceremony at the Capitol. Moving trucks for each family are positioned nearby and are directed through tight security to the White House when they get the all-clear. Residence staff members are broken up into groups and given specific assignments. Some will pack the Obama family’s remaining items, and another group will carry them out to the truck. Other staffers will bring the Trumps’ things into the White House while still others unpack and put them in their designated places.

IVANKA TRUMP SAYS SHE WILL NOT BE FILLING IN AS FIRST LADY IN TRUMP ADMINISTRATION via Lauren Effron and John Santucci of ABC News – Speculation that Ivanka Trump will fill in for incoming first lady Melania Trump started swirling after Trump transition sources said Melania Trump was not expected to move to Washington, D.C., until the spring, after her and Donald Trump’s 10-year-old son, Barron, finishes the school year. But Donald Trump’s elder daughter said those speculations were “an inappropriate observation.” … “There is one first lady, and she’ll do remarkable things.”

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DAYS UNTIL: Rick Scott Orlando Jobs Summit – 14: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 21; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 23; Valentine’s Day – 25; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 46; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Kits – 53; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 105; Election Day 2017 – 290.

BILL NELSON NAMED TOP DEMOCRAT ON NEW SENATE CYBERSECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – U.S. Sen. John McCain  the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed … the ranking Democrat on it, announced Nelson’s new assignment … U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds … will chair the new subcommittee. Nelson stressed the importance of his new task, with his office pointing toward “Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election” and insisting “the new subcommittee will hold the administration accountable if they fail to adequately respond to a future attack.” Florida’s senior also played up his new assignment. “You can’t just sit on your hands and do nothing,” Nelson said. “If we’re going to deter our enemies from attacking us, we have to make it painfully obvious that the consequences are going to be so severe that they won’t want to do it in the first place.”

RICK SCOTT: RESULTS, NOT RATINGS, WILL MATTER FOR TRUMP via Susan Page of USA Today – “Ever since he won, there’s been a lot of politics,” Scott told Capital Download … “People ought to get past that. Whether you voted for Donald Trump or not, whoever the president is, I would like that president to be successful. So I think we’ve got to unify behind the president.” Scott said what will matter in the end isn’t Trump’s current ratings — which are dismal by historic standards — but whether he delivers on what he promised during the campaign. “I think it matters if he does what he says he’s going to do,” he said. “I think he’s got to be very focused on getting results.”

SCOTT SUGGESTS ANOTHER OUTSIDER WITH BUSINESS BACKGROUND COULD PLAY WELL AS HIS REPLACEMENT via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Asked if another outsider candidate with a business background would be a good replacement as governor, Scott chose his words carefully, but made a case for someone in his mold. “I would like whoever the next governor is to really continue to focus on making sure we have the best economy. I’d like somebody who is going to focus on job creation,” he said.

LISA CARLTON, SEN. GREG STEUBE WEIGH RUN FOR AG COMMISSIONER via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Carlton, an attorney and fourth-generation rancher and citrus grower who co-owns and helps run a 12,000-acre Sarasota ranch with her family, is distantly related to [SteveCrisafulli and was not interested in challenging him for the job. But she started exploring a campaign when he bowed out. Steube‘s interest in the commissioner job may come as more of a surprise to outside observers. He’s a lawyer who does not come from a family with ties to the agriculture industry and was not known for agriculture issues during his six years in the House. Steube’s interest in the commissioner job may come as more of a surprise to outside observers. He’s a lawyer who does not come from a family with ties to the agriculture industry and was not known for agriculture issues during his six years in the House.

WANT A CHANCE TO SHAPE FLORIDA’S FUTURE? APPLICATIONS ACCEPTED via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – [Today]  is the last day to apply to be a member of what might be one of the most influential groups assembled in Florida in two decades — the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission. The unique panel has the power to put proposals directly on the 2018 midterm ballot to reform and update the state’s constitution, and shape Florida’s future. The list of applicants is long, and many have been carefully recruited by Gov. Scott, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and Florida’s top two legislative leaders. Those four men will make the appointments. Scott will appoint 15 members, including its chair. House Speaker Richard Corcoran …  Senate President Joe Negron … each have nine appointees. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga will appoint three members. Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, is automatically a member. As of Thursday, there were 258 applicants for the 37-member commission, and the list of applicants is chock full of current and former elected officials, and dozens of high-profile attorneys.

STATE APPEALS FEDERAL RULING ON SEMINOLE TRIBE BLACKJACK via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The 7-page “notice of appeal” to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed by Jason Maine, general counsel to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling. The filing did not preview any arguments the state intends to make to get the decision reversed. Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in November had ruled that regulators working under Gov. Scott allowed select Florida dog and horse tracks to offer card games that were too like ones that were supposed to be exclusive to Tribe-owned casinos for a five-year period. The judge decided the Tribe could keep its blackjack tables till 2030. The state wanted Hinkle to instead order the tribe to remove the games because a blackjack provision in an agreement between the state and tribe expired in 2015.

SENATOR BEHIND GAMBLING EXPANSION WORKED FOR RESORT OWNERS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – State Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and attorney, has acknowledged that he did legal work for Turnberry Associates on a “commercial transaction” as recently as three years ago. Turnberry Associates is a real-estate development company that owns the famous Fontainebleau Hotel. In the past several years, the hotel has showered top politicians in the state and the Republican Party with more than $2 million in campaign contributions, including money that went to a political committee controlled by Galvano. Galvano last week released a major gambling bill that covers everything from legalizing fantasy sports to allowing the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer craps and roulette at its casinos. The legislation, which will have its first hearing next week, also would allow the addition of slot machines in Miami-Dade County. Galvano said he has no plans to work again for Turnberry and he insisted his past work for them was not influencing how he crafted the bill.

COURT OVERTURNS THREE DEATH SENTENCES, INCLUDING COP KILLER’S via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Lancelot Uriley Armstrong was convicted of killing John Greeney, a Broward County sheriff’s deputy and Air Force veteran, during a 1990 armed robbery at a Church’s Fried Chicken in Fort Lauderdale. The jury voted 9-3 to sentence him to death and gave another man involved in the armed robbery a life sentence. Now, Armstrong, as well as Donald Otis Williams, convicted of kidnapping and murdering an 81-year-old woman in 2010, and William M. Kopsho, sentenced for killing his wife in 2000 after learning she was having an affair, will have new sentencing hearings. It’s possible they could still be sentenced to death, but they could also see their sentences commuted to life in prison.

STATE WON’T HAVE TO PAY PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S LEGAL TAB via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The health care organization had sought to punish the Agency for Health Care Administration by making it pay the group’s attorney fees after filing “administrative complaints … alleging violations of (its) license to perform abortions.” The state eventually “voluntarily dismissed the complaints,” according to the opinion. But an administrative law judge still ordered an evidentiary hearing on the fees question. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said that judge overstepped his bounds, “depart(ing) from the essential requirements of the law.” Citing case law, Judges Brad ThomasT. Kent Wetherell II and M. Kemmerly Thomas said he didn’t have authority to order a hearing “because the case was voluntarily dismissed” and thus Planned Parenthood can’t be considered a “prevailing party.”

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AUDIT SLAMS SECURITY, OTHER LAPSES AT STATE TECH AGENCY via Florida Politics – The report by Florida Auditor General Sherrill F. Norman’s office … lays out a laundry list of security and other problems at the relatively new agency. Among the many audit findings are that “access privileges for some AST users … did not restrict (them) to only those functions appropriate and necessary for assigned job duties or functions.” Gee, no security problem there. Also, some “accounts remained active when no longer needed and some … inappropriately allowed interactive logon, increasing the risk that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of AST data and IT resources may be compromised.” I’m no expert, but that sounds downright dangerous.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS REWRITING HISTORY, FRAUDULENTLY MANIPULATING DATA TO SELL LAND PLAN via J.P. Sasser for Florida Politics – It’s incredible how foggy some people’s memories are when it comes to past efforts to restore the Everglades, buy farmland and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. Time and again, environmental extremists are quick to blame the sugar industry for every ill in the region, past, present and future, without any regard to science or the truth. And speaking of the truth and science, recently, they were caught by the South Florida Water Management District manipulating data to show a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is preferable to one to the north. The real science shows it is not … Floridians should be skeptical of this plan for a variety of reasons. Why is more land needed when plenty of land has already been taken? Recent revelations about the Everglades Foundation’s fraudulent manipulation of the modeling used to calculate their reservoir is another cause for concern. The Everglades Foundation’s fraud was called into question by a South Florida Water Management District scientist in a recent journal article where they were peddling more lies.

ALIMONY REFORM BILL FILED FOR 2017 via Florida Politics – Rep. Colleen Burton will try again to overhaul the state’s alimony law, filing a bill on Wednesday. The Lakeland Republican still aims to toughen the standards by which alimony is granted and changed, after last year’s measure was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. The latest bill (HB 283), however, does not contain child custody provisions that garnered Scott’s disfavor in 2016. He disapproved of that legislation because it had the potential to put the “wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” his veto letter said. Family-law related bills have had trouble getting Scott’s signature even as lawmakers have tried for years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.

BILL WOULD FORCE CASE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS ON SUPREME COURT via Florida Politics – A bill filed in the Florida House would force the state Supreme Court to produce a yearly report on how many cases it’s finishing with opinions. It seems to go against the court’s official Latin motto, “Sat Cito Si Recte,” translated as “Soon enough if done correctly,” or even “Justice takes time.” … “The phrase indicates the importance of taking the time necessary to achieve true justice,” the court’s website says. Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters declined comment on the bill. The legislation (HB 301), filed by new Republican state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola, would require the court to tally in detail “each case on the court’s docket … for which a decision or disposition has not been rendered within 180 days.” It then requires a “detailed explanation of the court’s failure to render a decision or disposition” in pending cases older than six months.

HOPING TO CURB POLLUTION, RANDY FINE BILL WOULD REQUIRE INSPECTION OF SEPTIC TANKS via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics – The Indian River Lagoon was revealed last year to have been polluted by human waste leaking from faulty septic tanks. The number of septic tanks in the area is unknown, but estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands combined in the five counties around the lagoon. Fine says he ran on four issues — solving the Indian River Lagoon problem, improving education, reforming the welfare state, and making Florida the best place in America to start, build and grow a business. This bill, called HB 285, would at least get started on the first one. “There is no question that leaky septic tanks are contributing to water quality challenges across our state, including in our beloved Indian River Lagoon,” he said. “This measure would begin to tackle this issue by ensuring that septic tanks are inspected as part of the suite of inspections that regularly take place during a home sale so that buyers are fully informed about the properties they are considering buying.”

SENATE BILL SEEKS TO REFINE MISSION OF FLORIDA COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – Filed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill … the bill adds another plank to the Florida Senate’s ambitious higher education agenda for the coming Legislative session. The bill would underscore the role of community colleges: providing a lower-level education and awarding associate degrees and certificates that either transfer to universities or prepare students for the workforce. Expanding bachelor’s degree programs would be discouraged via a cap on upper-level student enrollment. Current programs would not change, and current bachelor students wouldn’t be affected. The bill would expand “2+2 partnerships,” the method through which state college students filter into state universities after completing certain requirements. Every state college would have to quickly implement at least one pathway agreement, which ideally get students to graduation day on a compressed timeline while saving money.

— “Kim Daniels files ‘religious liberties’ bill for public schools” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

COURT QUESTIONS INSURANCE OFFICE’S CLAIM TO STATE FARM SALES INFORMATION via Michael Moline of FLORIDA POLITICS – A state appeal court panel appeared skeptical Thursday of the Office of Insurance Regulation’s arguments that trade-secrets protections don’t exempt State Farm Florida from having to turn over business information for public scrutiny. The judges wondered whether the plain language of the trade-secret exemption in Florida’s public records law doesn’t protect the information at issue — data about policies sold, not renewed or cancelled every month in every county. Elenita Gomez, a litigator in the insurance office, insisted that State Farm turned over the information regularly since 1999. It balked in 2014, when it began reselling property insurance in Florida following a hiatus. “What has changed to suddenly make a routine submission a trade secret, when it has never been a trade secret before?” … State Farm’s position would harm the state by denying regulators, the public and elected leaders access to complete data about the insurance market, Gomez said. … “Suppose you had an ice cream company and you came out with a new flavor every year, and you always made it public, you put it on the Internet, you said, ‘Look, we want everyone to have our recipe and have the opportunity to make this,” Judge Allen Windsor asked. “And one year you decide, ‘We have some new flavors and we’re going to protect these.’ You wouldn’t say that, by virtue of giving up the original recipes, that a new recipe wouldn’t be a valid trade secret,’ would you?”

FORMER FHCA PRESIDENT NAMED QA DIRECTOR via Florida Politics – Tampa’s Deborah Franklin, formerly president of the Florida Health Care Association, now will be its Senior Director of Quality Affairs, the organization announced Thursday. In her new role, Franklin’s focus will be to “pioneer initiatives and education programs that further FHCA’s pursuit of high-quality, person-centered care,” a press release said. “We are thrilled to have someone of Deborah’s skill and experience behind our ongoing efforts to ensure our profession’s highest standards,” FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed said. FHCA advocates for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and others who care for the elderly and people with disabilities, especially regarding getting paid by Medicaid.

NEW & RENEWED LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Rafael Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: City of Doral

Rana Brown, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Sunrise; Village of Palmetto Bay

Matt Bryan, Smith Bryan & Myers: Motorola Solutions, Inc.

David Daniel, Smith Bryan & Myers: Motorola Solutions, Inc.; Ringling College of Art & Design

Angela Drzewiecki, Peebles & Smith: City of Archer; City of Gainesville; City of Kissimmee

Thomas Griffin, Smith Bryan & Myers: Florida Association of Counties; International Council of Shopping Centers; Motorola Solutions; Professional Insurance Agents of Florida; Ringling College of Art & Design; UAS Association of Florida; University of Florida Foundation

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates; Florida Rural Economic Development Association

Lisa Hurley, Smith Bryan & Myers: International Council of Shopping Centers; Motorola Solutions; Oracle America; Osceola Legislative Effort; Professional Insurance Agents of Florida; University of Florida Foundation.

Ashley KalifehRon LaFace, Capital City Consulting: School Board of Collier County

Seth McKeel, Southern Strategy Group: Peace River Center

Corinne Mixon, Mixon & Associates: Data Recognition Corp.

Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: Motorola Solutions; Professional Insurance Agents of Florida, Inc.; UAS Association of Florida, Inc.

Manuel Prieguez, Prieguez Solutions: ALF Holdings, Inc.; Dosal Tobacco Corporation; Fair Havens Center; Southwest Florida Enterprises

Ken Pruitt, The P5 Group: Palm Beach Aggregates, LLC

Mark Timothy Pruitt, The P5 Group: Alzheimer’s Community Care

Andrea Reilly Smith Bryan & Myers: Motorola Solutions, Inc.; Stellar Partners

Scott Ross, Capital City Consulting: Advancement Via Individual Determination

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of Key West; Weyerheuser Compan and its Affilates

Mac Stipanovich, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: CGI Technologies & Solutions; Southern Gardens Citrus Groves Corp.; Southern Gardens Citrus Nursery Corp.; Southern Gardens Citrus Processing Corp.

JEFFREY ROSEN URGES LAW STUDENTS TO CHANNEL THEIR INNER LOUIS BRANDEIS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – In a post-truth world, beset by fake news, in which people segregate into information bubbles impenetrable to unfriendly ideas, constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen finds inspiration in Louis Brandeis, the late justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Addressing students Thursday at the Florida State University College of Law, Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, called Brandeis “the greatest prophet of free speech and privacy” of the 20th Century. “Brandeis has faith that people, self-governing citizens, will take the time to educate themselves and develop their faculties of reason, and deliberate together and converge on some sort of common understanding of the facts and the truth,” he said. Rosen was in Tallahassee to present the keynote address to the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner, but dropped by to chat with the students first. … Brandeis is “very keen on the idea of using our leisure time to educate ourselves about facts,” and prepare ourselves for the duties of citizenship, Rosen said. “Is this too idealistic in this post-truth society?” Rosen wondered — one marked by Twitter mobs and social media distractions? “Speaking for myself, after a long day it may be more fun to watch cat videos than read industrial reports,” he said. “But Brandeis thinks it’s important. And it is important. Because we can’t be fully engaged citizens unless we do this.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend, the great Jen Lux. Also celebrating today are Jim HorneChris O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times and Rick Oppenheim.

Jacksonville Bold for 1.20.17 — Inauguration Day

The world has changed; Northeast Florida is no exception.

Barely 10 months after last year’s GOP presidential primary, where virtually every important Republican in Northeast Florida tested the limits of their political capital in doomed support for Marco Rubio over Donald Trump, it is as if #NeverTrump never existed in Florida’s First Coast.

Truth be told, by early August, they were all consolidated under the Trump banner, when the soon-to-be President held a rally in Jacksonville, drawing upward of 10,000 people.

But the reality is this: after eight years of Barack Obama, and in an election cycle where it was all-but-assured Trump had no chance against the Hillary Clinton machine — even to the point votes were being counted — Trump’s inauguration is striking people as sweet vindication.

And, as one would expect, Jacksonville-area politicos faced a decision this week: should they go to the inauguration today?

For some, the answer was simple.

Former Duval County Republican Party chair Cindy Graves, heading to Washington D.C., shows a picture of her suitcase on Facebook with a “GONE” sticker — the “O” being the Obama logo.

“Never had so much fun packing a suitcase in my life,” Graves commented.

For Susie Wiles, who ran the campaign down the stretch in Florida, the decision was also easy.

Wiles “headed up to DC again on Wednesday for events Wednesday night the ball on Friday night. ll schedule but all fun … Many Florida folks will be at various events, and I look forward to celebrating with everyone.”

However, not every prominent Jacksonville Republican will be in attendance.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will not be there, asserted a spokesperson this week.

Curry has more than enough to keep him busy on the home front, and — aside from emceeing Trump’s August rally in Jacksonville — the mayor hasn’t exactly gone to the (great big beautiful) wall for The Donald.

Meanwhile, plans for Congressman John Rutherford, who suffered a medical scare last week, are still up in the air (as of the moment).

And at least one Democrat, with part of his district in the Jacksonville area, will be in attendance.

Rep. Al Lawson sidestepped inquiries from FloridaPolitics.com, and instead let the Tallahassee Democrat know he intends to appear at the Trump inauguration.

“I never planned to boycott the president of the United States,” said Lawson. “The campaigns are over. Yes, there are differences of opinion, but that is what democracy is about.”

One could take Lawson’s statement at face value. Nevertheless, there was pressure from his district to join Rep. John Lewis, as well as dozens of other congressional Democrats, and boycott the event.

That pressure didn’t make it into the Tallahassee paper’s write-up.

“The only way to break is for us to stop right now. You don’t want to further divide America,” said Lawson. “Communication is the key. I’m going to encourage President Trump to reach out and talk to Congressman Lewis. John is a reasonable man.”

Will the Trump/Lewis conversation happen? If so, we’re interested in it — bigly.

Given that Lawson has a close relationship with the Susie Wiles, he may be able to broker an outreach.

“Jacksonville women march against Donald Trump” via Amanda Williamson and Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union – Activists from a cross section of Northeast Florida groups dedicated to promoting equality and diversity want the incoming presidential administration to know they won’t be backing down. The groups plan to hold a rally in downtown Jacksonville the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration to show solidarity with the much larger Women’s March on Washington in the nation’s capital. The event allows those who can’t make it all the way to Washington, D.C., to support the cause. “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country,” said Marianna Smith, an event organizer and a former head of the American Trial Lawyers Association.

***Southern Strategy Group is Florida’s powerhouse lobbying firm with a dedicated Jacksonville office, as well as locations in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Tallahassee. Our nearly 25 lobbyists work daily to get our clients and their issues in front of key local and state elected officials. Whether in City Hall, the State Capitol or somewhere in between, we’ll work with you to create and execute a strategy that moves your agenda from the starting point through the finish line. Every industry. Every interest. Powerful advocacy begins here. Call us today at 904-425-8765 or visit www.sostrategy.com to learn more.***

“HRO expansion looms over job creation presser’ via Florida Politics – Mayor Curry called a news conference to announce “Project Green” … code for an agreement with Formativ Health, which offers management services for doctors’ offices. Formativ expects to bring 500 jobs to Jacksonville in 18 months … At the presser: Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Chair Darnell Smith, a big backer of the expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to include the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Also in attendance: Councilman Aaron Bowman, a key part of the local Chamber and a co-sponsor of the latest attempt to expand Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance. Thus, a functional paradox again resurfaced, with the mayor (according to some critics) lagging behind the business community when it comes to HRO expansion.

Jacksonville business, civic leaders back HRO ordinance” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union – A group of Jacksonville’s top business and civic leaders sent a letter to City Council members urging them to pass a law that would protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from discrimination. Passage of the anti-discrimination legislation, which is being considered by the council, is a top priority for the organization and the city’s business community … “It is time for Jacksonville to join the majority of Florida and U.S. cities in affirmatively protecting its citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Ed Burr, the group’s chairman.

“State says ‘maybe’ to Jacksonville phasing in $44M pension hit” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union – The board of the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund decided in a workshop to move forward with the request to the state Division of Retirement. The $44-million increase in pension costs would be heavy load for the city, which has struggled for years to keep up with escalating pension expenses. If the pension fund cannot convince the state to allow a three-year phase-in, the expense would all kick in during the 2017-18 fiscal year. Douglas Beckendorf, the state actuary in the Division of Retirement, which oversees local pension plans, wrote Jan. 4 to the pension fund that a three-year phase-in “may be permissible” if the pension fund can show that “changes in the assumptions are reasonable.” … “The division will permit changes to the plan assumptions as long as the changes can be supported,” Beckendorf wrote.

“Ex-offender employment bill filed in Jacksonville City Council” via Florida Politics  – Ordinance 2016-35, filed by Councilman Garrett Dennis, is the councilman’s second ambitious piece of legislation currently live. Two weeks ago, Dennis filed a bill to fund a currently unfunded position in the Equal Opportunity/Equal Access program, to ensure that the city’s independent authorities, such as JEA and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, were committed to workforce diversity. The city currently budgets a total of $570,000 a year for ex-offender skills training … Dennis’ new bill would ensure that companies doing $200,000 or more of business with the city commit to hiring ex-offenders who graduated from the city’s third-party service provider re-entry programs. If employers do not engage with the providers of such training as intended by procurement code, payment will not be processed.

“Jacksonville Finance committee clears bills for council approval” via Florida Politics – A bill adding “code enforcement liens” to the list of claims, bills and judgments that may be settled by the Finance Director, Office of General Counsel or Mayor (Resolution 2016-766) was the first of these measures to go through. Ordinance 2016-795, authorizing moving money from closed capital project accounts to ShotSpotter and other city priorities, was another key bill to meet with committee approval. Ordinance 2016-797, authorizing the disposition of 101 pieces of surplus property in Council Districts 7 through 10 and 14, also met with committee approval. Finance also approved an ordinance (2016-800) authorizing a memorandum of understanding with JAXUSA, an arm of the local Chamber of Commerce, to implement an export plan and develop a foreign direct investment strategy.

Overdoses and homeless: The Jacksonville City Council Public Health and Safety Committee addressed two chronic problems in Jacksonville Wednesday: overdose deaths and the homeless population.

On overdose deaths, the numbers are spiking.

An email from Duval County’s Medical Examiner’s office laid it out: from the beginning of January until mid-November, Jacksonville experienced 345 drug overdose deaths; a number roughly triple the city’s homicide rate.

Regarding casualties, whites and males are the most vulnerable, dying in numbers outsized compared to their proportion of the population.

Councilman Bill Gulliford dubbed the issue an “epidemic.”

“I think bringing attention to this should be the number one priority of the Public Safety Committee in 2017. Attention is just the first step. Maybe bringing attention to the numbers alone will help scare some young people to avoid drugs,” Gulliford noted.

Whether young people tuned in and turned on to the dulcet tones of PHS Wednesday morning is debatable. However, the committee did discuss the epidemic.

An understanding of the problem seemed to outstep a viable solution.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri noted, vis-à-vis OD deaths, that “the state should have some kind of numbers for us” and local hospitals should also have them.

And the committee chair had a cautionary tale about a woman of his acquaintance.

“She kept going searching for pills. She wound up getting arrested … losing her kids, losing her marriage,” Councilman Sam Newby said of a “30-year-old housewife who lost everything because she got hooked on prescription pills.”

America struggles with an opioid and heroin crisis, and Jacksonville is no different.

Another major local issue — homelessness — likewise seemed to daunt the committee, which sketched out some potential solutions, but couldn’t even agree on how many homeless people are in Jacksonville.

“We probably need to get much more innovative,” Gulliford said, noting that other cities in the country are putting up “mini houses.”

While “there’s a really good size male homeless population,” Gulliford’s concern is “women and children,” especially children in school.

The homeless population, according to a city staffer, had a count of 900 — but she then suggested that seemed low.

Councilman Hazouri noted that other estimates show 2,000 homeless people in Jacksonville.

Regarding the homeless, Hazouri said, “every city has them, but many of them do something about it.”

“They need to be someplace and not be so prolific down here,” Hazouri added. “It’s not good for us, and we need to have a better solution.”

The chronically homeless, said a city staffer, are difficult to deal with because of addiction issues.

The Neighborhoods Department, meanwhile, is looking to create a new “strategic plan” for its component agencies, to break “distinct silos between each division,” said new director Stephanie Burch.

Homelessness, Burch said, is “on our radar,” and the hope is to use federal dollars to “create solutions.”

Councilman Aaron Bowman, representing Jacksonville’s Southside, noted that “homeless camps” abound in his District 3.

“JSO cleans it out, but it doesn’t solve the problem,” Bowman said, likening police response to panhandler camps to a “game of hopscotch.”

And more from Chairman Newby: “As I drive home from work, I see the homeless on sidewalks and everywhere.”

Newby contended that job training and a “one stop shop” to evaluate issues with the individuals, such as addiction, is necessary.

Burch asserted that a “holistic approach” to address the issue, with collaboration between the city, nonprofits, and law enforcement, might be a way forward.

“We’ve got to solve this problem. Not in two years, we need to solve it now,” Newby said.

“Search for Jacksonville inspector general continues” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics  – City Hall veteran Steve Rohan has been the interim IG for several months, as the city has searched in vain for a permanent replacement for Thomas Cline, who left early in 2016 amid considerable criticism from the city council. Among the requirements: working closely with the office of the state attorney on criminal investigations. The committee seeks someone with 10 years of experience in an auditing or a business administration capacity, a person who can provide satisfactory regular and detailed reports to the city council and the IG selection and retention committee. Cline’s reports were less than satisfactory during his tenure. The current council president and council VP both excoriated the quality of his output in a fractious committee hearing in fall 2015. Salary range: $120,000 to $160,000.

Jax Daily Record gets out-of-market buyer: The locally owned era for the Jacksonville Daily Record is no more, asserts longtime Record reporter Karen Mathis.

Jim Bailey sells his 104-year-old Financial News and Daily Record to Daily Record & Observer LLC, headed by Matt Walsh, CEO and owner of Sarasota-based Observer Media Group Inc.,” Mathis posted to Facebook Wednesday.

This is the second seismic change in recent weeks for the Daily Record: ace city hall reporter David Chapman is handling communications for new State Attorney Melissa Nelson now, leaving a gap in that coverage that affects not just the paper, but city hall denizens who rely on its coverage.

In an article on the Jax Daily Record website, Walsh repudiated any interest in carrying on the Bailey family legacy, noting that he first expressed an interest in the paper a few years back.

Bailey, in the months ahead, will introduce Walsh to Jacksonville stakeholders.

While the Daily Record piece indicated a smooth transition, questions may emerge about what the future holds for employees, who will move from a one-paper operation — with delimited roles and expectations — to being part of a larger group with outside ownership; a least a few folks found that be mercurial.

Walsh, as happens with Glassdoor reviews, was panned by several former employees.

“The CEO, Matt Walsh, seemed to have temper tantrums every now and then and make silly and thoughtless business decisions,” wrote one former staffer. “He is the kind of free-market conservative that simultaneously thinks it’s OK to treat employees like crap to save a buck, but doesn’t like it when the free market signals that his own business practices may need to change.”

Another employee said: “Low salaries, worsening benefits, and workplace structure that is based on “who you know” and if you fit in with the popular kids rather than merit or any real management are the best ways to describe this dying company … Salaries are low, and workload is high. Unpaid overtime is considered the ‘Observer Way.’ Benefits and employee incentives are dwindling. You will be constantly told that the newspaper business is going strong, but you don’t have to be employed here long to realize that’s just not true. Departments are being cut, employees are being fired, annual profit-sharing has ceased … that’s not the behavior of a healthy company.”

“WJXT parent company buys a second Jax station” via News4Jax – The owner of WJXT Channel 4, Graham Media Group Inc., has acquired two television stations, including WCWJ Channel 17 in Jacksonville. Graham, a Graham Holdings Co. subsidiary, also acquired WSLS, the NBC affiliate television station in Roanoke, Virginia. WJXT’s general manager, Bob Ellis, will manage both Jacksonville stations. The deal is valued at $60 million in cash and the assumption of some liabilities, including pension obligations. The acquisition was announced last year, but the purchase was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the last few days.

Beach restoration, like everything else, is a process: FloridaPolitics.com caught up with Rep. Paul Renner after Wednesday’s meeting of the St. Johns County Legislative Delegation.

Renner, whose District 24 encompasses parts of St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Putnam counties, definitely has his share of opportunities to hear from county delegations.

Touted as a candidate for House Speaker down the road, Renner wasn’t in a position to talk about that. However, he did talk with us about what he hears in delegation meetings, and about his expectations for the upcoming session.

Renner noted that Wednesday’s meeting of the St. Johns delegation “differed” from what he’d heard in Volusia and Flagler.

“We heard in Volusia and Flagler on education issues, Second Amendment issues. The one thing that has been consistent is beach restoration,” Renner said. “Less so in Volusia, but certainly in Flagler and St. Johns County. My assessment has been they’ve been hardest hit.”

“Finding the best mechanism to restore sand on the beach, to restore the dune system, decide whether any form of sea walls need to be constructed to protect private homes and other areas, what those sea walls may do that may be negative that we want to avoid and not have a seawall … all issues that require a great deal of coordination — local, state and federal,” Renner said.

“Those conversations are ongoing. We have a role in that, though not a primary role. Sen. [Travis] Hutson, Rep. [Cyndi] Stevenson, and I have all been actively involved in multiple conversations with our county officials, city officials and our state secretaries — both DEP and DOT, as well as our counterparts in the two chambers,  to see where we can free up some money,” Renner added.

“My current understanding is that there may be some dollars available … some emergency funding and current dollars that we can pull aside and perhaps give some more immediate help.”

However, just because Hurricane Matthew is a memory doesn’t mean further damage can’t be suffered.

“The challenge,” Renner said,  “is going to be the Nor’easters we experience in this part of the state. How do we bring those dollars and get sand on the beach quickly? Because right now, we’re really facing a situation where I don’t know that’s going to happen before we get through the winter.”

“We just have to hope that we don’t face any strong storms between now and the time that restoration effort gets underway,” he said.

Much noise has been made about potential dysfunction between the Senate and the House on appropriations issues. On this matter, however, Renner doesn’t see it as a factor.

Despite “all the differences on many issues,” he is encouraged by harmony on this one.

“I know Sen. [Jack] Latvala has been here to tour. He’s been very concerned about what we’re doing for the beaches, and I appreciate that very much. I know there’s concern on the House side as well, to try and work together to find a solution.”

“It will be in multiple buckets. There will be a federal bucket that provides the largest share of funding, and then the state will provide a match of dollars.”

However, there is a caveat.

“That assumes that the counties will be able to make that match. Typically, it’s been a 50/50 match with state dollars so many counties, such as in the case of Flagler, have been challenged to come up with dollars that will match what the state can provide,” Renner said. “The state’s only going to match what is given by the county. If the state’s offering $10 M, but … the county only has a million or two to provide, that’s where we’re facing some challenges.”

In short, for sparsely populated beach counties, such as Flagler, the road to beach recovery is going to be more uncertain than for St. Johns and Volusia.

“Audrey Gibson files judicial accountability bill” via Florida Politics – Gibson and Rep. Kionne McGhee … filed “judicial accountability” bills in both chambers. Each proposal calls for sentencing data to be compiled annually, according to a news release. Once compiled, data will be “presented to trial and sentencing judges, the Legislature, Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and posted for the public on Florida Legislature’s research arm, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability website,” according to a news release.

Clay School Board sets legislative priorities” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union – The following made the final cut: Revise Florida statutes and related state Board of Education rules regarding third grade promotion and retention to: Provide clearly defined alternative pathways for student promotion and retention … Ensure that the final decision on student promotion and retention is made at the local level … that student promotion or retention is not dependent upon, or denied by, a single assessment result. Restore and support the authority of school district to levy, by simple majority vote, up to 2.0 mills for capital outlay purposes and maintain the current authority of school districts to determine the use of local capital outlay millage revenue. Provide sufficient per student funding to place Florida in the upper quartile nationally.

“St. Johns Delegation hears wish list” via Florida Politics – The ambitious 73 page plan covers “transportation funding, water quality, beach renourishment, open space and land conservation grants, and unfunded state and federal mandates.” Transportation asks for the fast-growing Northeast Florida county are significant, including $95 million for the proposed State Road 313 (SR 313) Extension/Bypass from State Road 207 (SR 207) to State Road 16 (SR 16) (and $30 million more for right of way acquisition and design. As well. St. Johns County seeks another $90 million for the proposed County Road 2209 (CR 2209) from County Road 210 to SR 16. These have been priority projects for a while.

Curry, Formativ Health announce agreement to bring up to 500 new jobs to Jacksonville — Mayor Curry and Formativ Health announced the company plans to lease 65,000 square feet of office space and hire up to 500 employees for a new Patient Access Services Center. “No one can deny the momentum that is building in Jacksonville, especially in the health and life science sector,” said Curry in a statement. “As a company that supports the medical community by making their operations more efficient and productive, Formativ Health will enhance Jacksonville’s presence in this all-important sector of our economy.” The space being leased by the company will encompass four floors in the office complex located at 4875 Belfort Road. Build out was to begin immediately and is expected to be completed by mid-2018. “The Jacksonville region has a strong health care market and Formativ Health’s decision to locate a service center here further solidifies our standing as a leader in the health and life sciences industry,” said Darnell Smith, JAX Chamber Chair and Florida Blue’s North Florida market president. “The hundreds of jobs the company has committed to create will not only put more of our citizens to work, but will also enhance the physician experience and patient care in Northeast Florida.”

“Amazon a gamechanger for Jax economy” via Mark Basch of Jax Daily Record – … as the online retailer builds two fulfillment centers bringing up to 2,700 jobs to the area. Amazon also is possibly the leading game-changer in the entire logistics industry, Stifel, Nicolaus analyst John Larkin said in a research report after the company announced its plan for the second Jacksonville facility. “This extraordinary company has retailers, carriers and 3PL’s (third-party logistics providers) scratching their collective heads,” Larkin said. “The company’s entire infrastructure network is geared for speed and in the case where strategic logistics partners are not up to the challenge, the company begins to provide transportation and logistics services itself,” he said. Its expansion goes beyond the flood of distribution and fulfillment centers it is building in Jacksonville and other U.S. cities.

CSX ends 2016 on high note, stats 2017 on strong footing” via Jensen Werley of the Jacksonville Business Journal — CSX Corp. … ended a long year of struggle on a high note, with net earnings for the fourth quarter of 2016 of $458 million, or 49 cents per share, versus $466 million, or 48 cents per share, for the same period of 2015. After a year of making efficiency cuts to combat the steep decline coal happening since 2014, CSX rounded out 2016 with full-year efficiency savings of $430 million. This was also the second consecutive year the Jacksonville company had a sub-70 operating ratio, the measure of efficiency for railroads. CSX posted an full-year operating ratio of 69.4 percent, down from 69.7 percent in 2015. But even more impressive is its quarterly operating ratio. For the fourth quarter of 2015, CSX had an operating ratio of 71.6 percent. For this quarter, it had shaved that down all the way to 67 percent, very close to its ultimate goal of mid-60s. The company’s quarterly revenue was just over $3 billion, up 9 percent from the previous fourth quarter when it was $2.78 billion.

New York’s largest Health care provider makes a Home In Jacksonville” via Ryan Benk of WJCT – Northwell — is bringing 500 new jobs to Jacksonville’s Southside … partnering with Pamplona Capital Management to create Formativ Health. Formativ offers hospitals, and billing and appointment management for private practices, in addition to advising doctors on business and technology decisions. Formativ CEO Dennis Dowling said he’s looking for workers to staff the company’s new home base on Belfort Road. “We’re looking to hire and have employed and ready to work 150 by April and by the end of the year, or this time next year, up to 500,” he said.

“Jacksonville to roll out UF Health network pilot program for insurance” via Florida Politics  – Ordinance 2017-20 would authorize the city’s employee services department to offer the option to workers and retirees to enroll in the UF Health plan starting March 31. The contract would be administered by a third party, “Integra Administrative Services,” via a no-bid contract. The bill summary refers to this deal as a “network option under the City’s self-insurance plan that consists primarily of UF Health providers.” For UF Health, a rollout of a program like this could be a game changer. The city spends $88 million on health claims a year, with only $6 million going to UF Health.

Becker’s Hospital Review names Flagler Hospital among the nation’s Top 100 for women’s health programs” — Becker’s editorial team selected hospitals based on national rankings and awards, including U.S. News & World Report national and regional rankings for gynecology, CareChex rankings for women’s health care, women’s health Healthgrades awards, Women’s Choice Award’s Best Breast Centers list and Baby-Friendly designation. “We are honored to be recognized by Becker’s for our performance related to women’s health specifically. In collaboration with our physician partners, we have put a great deal of resources into our breast health program, including a dedicated breast cancer navigator, adoption of interprofessional breast cancer conferences, and the latest in 3D mammogram technology,” said Joe Gordy, president and CEO, in a statement. “Our maternity program is also a source of pride for us, as we offer everything from evidence-based low-intervention birthing techniques to state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care, all in a family-centered environment. We had the privilege to deliver nearly 1,600 babies at Flagler Hospital last year.”

“LignoTech Florida breaks ground in Fernandina Beach” via Suanne Thamm of the Fernandina Observer – During a brief ceremony before about 100 invited guests, speakers expressed gratitude to both the Fernandina Beach and Nassau County communities for their support in helping to bring to fruition a project “decades in the making,” according to Bill Manzer, Rayonier Advanced Material’s SVP for Manufacturing Operations. Manzer and Nassau County Commission Chair Danny Leeper, in addition to touting the new jobs both in plant construction and operation that LignoTech will bring to the community, emphasized that the plant will have a $28M annual impact on the local community.

Nocatee continues rapid growth despite sales dip” via Chris Parenteau of News4Jax — Home sales slipped about 12 percent in 2016, but still Nocatee came in only behind The Villages in Ocala and Irvine Ranch in Orange County, California, in terms of sales. Many homes in the Nocatee area are still under construction. Experts believe the drop in home sales stemmed from builders wanting to be sure homes were delivered on time, not from a lack of interest. … According to numbers from RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, in 2013, 838 homes were sold in Nocatee. That number increased to 851 in 2014 before jumping to 1,105 in 2015. In 2016, sales fell back to 973. “The market response has been even stronger then perhaps what was anticipated,” said Gregg Logan, managing director for RCLCO. “I think it’s been a bit of a challenge to keep up with demand in a place like Nocatee.”

“Transgender Jacksonville woman aims to run Boston Marathon” via Folio Weekly – Few know that standing in the midst of it all is Taylor, a newcomer to the oldest marathon in Jacksonville, and the first transgender woman to openly compete in the event. Her aim: to be the first transgender woman to qualify for the Boston Marathon … Naturally, Taylor is completely at home defying the odds and, unwilling to back down from the difficult elements, she stands poised and ready for the start of the marathon. For the next three hours, 42 minutes and 15 seconds, Taylor battles the weather and muscle fatigue all the way to the finish. Her efforts put her first in her division and 16th overall out of the event’s 142 women. Unfortunately, she did not qualify for the Boston Marathon, missing her qualifying time by just two minutes. According to Taylor, “I was on pace until around mile 18; that’s when the heat and humidity hit.”

Victory II casino cruise ship relocated from Jacksonville” via News4Jax – The Victory II casino cruise ship is temporarily being reassigned due to severe winter sea conditions in Jacksonville. Those who plan to take the cruise, which will be heading out of Port Canaveral, will still receive all the standard benefits, and all the same table games, food and live entertainment. Cruise ship officials said it will honor all offers and point balances.

With Tom Coughlin, Jags find peace” via Gary Shelton — The quarterback is still going the wrong way in his career.

The front office might have a tug-of-war to see who is in charge.

The team is filled with underachievers.

And yet, there is a new peace on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tom Coughlin is in charge, and suddenly, the Jaguars seem organized. Suddenly, there appears to be a plan.

“There’s no magic to it,” Coughlin told Sports Illustrated. “We gotta change the culture. That’s our job. Mediocrity has set in, and that’s got to change. The only way it changes is with hard work.”

Oh, you can scoff at Coughlin’s age (70), a number that seemed to make the New York Giants blink. But Coughlin has had his successes — two Super Bowls and getting the Jags to the conference finals in their second season). No one can be sure how smoothly Coughlin (the new team vice president) will meld with Doug Marrone, the new coach, but when a franchise is as thoroughly lost as the Jags, it’s worth a try.

A year ago, the Jags were the trendy pick to make the playoffs after a talent infusion. Instead, Jacksonville had its sixth consecutive season of winning no more than five games. In all, it has been nine seasons since the Jags had a winner. They haven’t made back-to-back playoffs since, well, Coughlin was in charge.

True, Coughlin won only 19 games in his last three years with the Giants. But what Coughlin does is instill credibility. He is in charge of expectations. He sets the bar on what this team will accept.

The Jags, frankly, were better than their record. They lost eight games by a touchdown or less. A bit better play at quarterback — Bortles was tied for fourth with 16 interceptions — and the season could have been a little more promising.

“I have a vested interest in this team, and I want to see this team succeed, and I want to see this great community come together in support of it and be proud of this team,” Coughlin said in his opening news conference.

It seems the Jags could make a dent. Houston won the division with a 9-7 record. Tennessee was 9-7, too, but has struggled in recent years. Indianapolis was 8-8 with internal strife.

During his years with the Giants, Coughlin had a reputation as a bit of a taskmaster. Hats were to be worn forward only. Feet were on the floor. Players were early for meetings.

“I don’t like the word ‘satisfied,’” he once said. “That is not a good word for me. It doesn’t work, and it never has. I see things that I like, and I see things that I don’t like, and I see things that have to happen. It’s work in progress.”

With a little more organization, a little more of Coughlin’s intensity, a little bit of a culture change, do the Jags have a chance.

Ask Coughlin.

“What else is there?” he asked. “What the hell else would you be doing this for? We’re trying to win today. Who’s going to get the better lunch? Winning is what this thing is about.”

Jacksonville Zoo hosts ‘Toast to Conservation’ in April — The event, scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 6, is meant to generate awareness and funding for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Guests will kick off their journey with a stroll through the African Loop to visit with special guests and endangered striped friends. From there guests will take a short walk through the gardens to our award-winning Range of the Jaguar where you will be greeted by Zoo ambassadors and a cocktail reception followed by a gourmet sit down dinner under the stars. Following dinner, our guest speakers will inspire you with conservation messages both globally and locally, and have you uplifted in support of these important programs. The evening ends with a paddles up auction for conservation and live music for your listening enjoyment.

 

data center

Audit slams security, other lapses at state tech agency

I hate to overstate the findings of any report, but my first thought while reading the latest audit of the Agency for State Technology was:

“Jeez, is this joint as potentially ‘leaky’ as I think it is?”

The report by Florida Auditor General Sherrill F. Norman’s office, which I got a copy of on Thursday, lays out a laundry list of security and other problems at the relatively new agency.

And the best defense that state Chief Information Officer Jason Allison, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, can muster is to deflect blame and point fingers.

Among the many audit findings are that “access privileges for some AST users … did not restrict (them) to only those functions appropriate and necessary for assigned job duties or functions.”

Gee, no security problem there.

Also, some “accounts remained active when no longer needed and some … inappropriately allowed interactive logon, increasing the risk that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of AST data and IT resources may be compromised.”

I’m no expert, but that sounds downright dangerous.  

The AST also failed to “review user access privileges for the mainframe, open systems environments, and the network domains,” kept an inaccurate “inventory of IT resources at the State Data Center,” and “State Data Center backup tape records were not up-to-date and some backup tapes could not be located and identified.”

The agency, created by the Legislature in 2014, was aimed at avoiding all the problems of its predecessor, the Agency for Enterprise Information Technology, effectively abolished in 2012.

Mission not accomplished.

Allison, in a weak-beer response included in the audit report, says he just inherited problems from the Northwood and Southwood Shared Resource Centers, which his agency took over.

“It is important to note that AST has combined two separate data centers into a new state agency with a single, cohesive team,” he said.

Yes, a team that apparently doesn’t know when to tell people to change their freaking passwords.

David Wilkins consulting at struggling VISIT FLORIDA

David Wilkins, who led the state’s perennially troubled child welfare agency, is now helping new CEO Ken Lawson right the ship at VISIT FLORIDA.

An internal email sent Wednesday and shared with FloridaPolitics.com says Wilkins, secretary of the Department of Children and Families under Gov. Rick Scott in 2011-13, is “assisting VISIT FLORIDA in the review of some of our contracts, processes and procedures.”

The email was sent to staff by Meredith DaSilva, the state tourism agency’s director of executive operations. Wilkins couldn’t be immediately reached Thursday.

Scott also used Wilkins earlier this year to review the budget of Enterprise Florida, the public-private economic development organization, to suggest cuts and savings.

Wilkins resigned from DCF “amid an escalating scandal over the deaths of four small children who had a history of involvement with child-abuse investigators,” the Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller reported in 2013.

Lawson, most recently secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, was brought over after Scott had called on former VISIT FLORIDA CEO Will Seccombe to quit, continuing a shake-up at the organization that saw two other top executives shown the door.

That was from the fallout over how it handled a secret marketing contract worth up to $1 million with Miami rapper superstar Pitbull that was vehemently criticized by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Scott then called for an overhaul of how VISIT FLORIDA does business.

Sunburn for 1.19.17 – D.C. SPOTTEDs galore, Rick Scott’s assist; Drop the Suit wins; Doug Izzo exits DEO

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

FLORIDA POLITICOS HEAD TO D.C.

Watching wall-to-wall inauguration coverage this week? Be on the lookout for Floridians.

The Sunshine State will be well represented at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday. So who’s going? Well, the better question might just be who isn’t?

Gov. Rick Scott will be there. An ardent supporter of the New York Republican, Scott was the chairman of the super PAC that backed Trump’s presidential bid. He traveled to D.C. on Tuesday, and hosted the Florida Sunshine Ball with his wife, First Lady Ann Scott on Wednesday evening. That is, of course, after meeting with congressional leaders and the Trump transition team.

Susie Wiles, the Jacksonville political guru who helped lead Trump’s Florida campaign, traveled to D.C. on Wednesday. She’ll be on hand for all of the festivities; as will lobbyist Brian Ballard, the chairman of Trump’s Florida finance committee.

And it should come as no surprise that state Rep. Joe Gruters and his wife, Sydney, will be there. Gruters was one of the first big name Floridians to back Trump, and never wavered in his support throughout the campaign. The couple is heading there Thursday, and will be at attend the swearing in. Gruters made sure to pack his dancing shoes so he can boogie down at the Liberty Ball.

Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli — joined by fundraisers Trey McCarley and Kris Money —will be there. Crisafulli was another top Trump supporter, who played a key role in getting him to the Space Coast for rallies throughout the campaign. He won’t be the only Florida Speaker in attendance. House Speaker Richard Corcoran will be there, even though he was a slow to warm to Trump. And look for Senate President Joe Negron, who as Republican elector helped Trump officially clinch the presidency, in the crowd.

You’ll likely see Capital City Consulting pros Nick Iarossi and Scott Ross, along with their wives Debbie and Ashley, dancing the night away at one of the parties this week.

Meanwhile, Jim Smith and Monte Stevens with Southern Strategy Group will be enjoying the festivities in between work. They’re in town with Ambrosia Treatment Centers in hopes of raising awareness about the need to make top-notch care available to as many people who need it as possible.

And you can bet Hayden Dempsey, Fred Karlinsky, Meredith O’Rourke, David and Melissa Ramba, Michael Fischer, Andy Gonzalez, Evan Power, Bill Helmich, Todd Lewis, Robert Hawken, Richard DNapoli, and Carey Baker will all land on a “spotted” list this week.

Even Rep. Charlie Crist, the state’s former Republican governor, will be on hand. The St. Petersburg Democrat said last week that he was looking forward to attending the event. And he won’t be the only Florida Democrat in attendance: Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Bill Nelson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz are all planning to be there.

With all that firepower in Washington, D.C., there’s just one question we have: Exactly who is running the state this week?

SPOTTED at Vice President-elect Mike Pence‘s dinner: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senate President Joe Negron, Brian Ballard.

SPOTTED at Wednesday’s Sunshine Ball hosted by Gov. Scott: U.S. Reps Matt Gaetz, Francis Rooney, Tom Rooney, Florida lawmakers Joe Abruzzo (!) Jose Felix Diaz, Byron Donalds, Blaise Ingoglia, David Santiago, Kelli Stargel, Jackie Toledo, Carlos Trujilloformer Speaker Crisafulli.

MORE SPOTTEDs from the Sunshine Ball: Bettina Inclan-Agen, Debbie and Sebastian Aleksander, Adam Babington, Slater Bayliss, Matt Bogdanoff, Steve Cona, Jon Costello, Angela and Hayden Dempsey, Brittany Dover, Carol Dover, J.C. Flores, Chris Finkbeiner, Erin Gaetz, Adam and Jillian Hasner, Chip LaMarca, Jesse Panuccio, Casey Reed, Jay Revell, Ashley and Scott Ross, former Sen. Maria Sachs, Chester Spellman, Ryan Smith, Christian Zieger, George and Donna Zoley.

PINELLAS FRIENDS SPOTTED IN D.C.: Jay Beyrouti, Erica and Nick DiCeglie.

TWEET, TWEET:

HERE’S TODAY’S INAUGURATION SCHEDULE

10:35 a.m. – Performances begin at Lincoln Memorial. “Voices of the People,” the first act of a day-long public concert, will feature groups such as the DC Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, the Republican Hindu Coalition, high school marching bands, choirs and baton twirlers.

3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Trump and Vice President-elect Pence participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of the nation’s veterans.

4 p.m. to 6 p.m. – Trump will deliver remarks during the second act of the concert at Lincoln Memorial, dubbed the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration.” The event, broadcast live nationally, will be headlined by country stars Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood and feature a fireworks finale.

Trump is expected to spend Thursday night at Blair House, the presidential guest residence across the street from the White House.

WHAT’S SELLING AT THE INAUGURATION: SOCKS, MUGS AND TRUMP-SCENTED CANDLES via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post – There are Trump-shaped cookie cutters, “Drain the swamp” sweatshirts and candles meant to smell like the president-elect — a combination of “all of the classiest smells,” according to the product’s description. Keep searching among the Trump-inspired flasks, paperweights and peppermints and you’ll find coffee mugs that say “Build that wall” and a penny stamped with “Trump” selling for $2.75. Online shops, street vendors and high-end boutiques around town are preparing for Friday’s inauguration with equal parts sincerity and snark as they try to cash in on fans and foes of the next president … on District streets, vendors said they just haven’t seen as much demand this year for Trump-related mugs, T-shirts, shot glasses and key chains as they as they did ahead of previous inaugurations. In a town where 91 percent of residents voted for Hillary Clinton, they say it has been difficult to sell Trump-related merchandise.

HOW DONALD TRUMP CAME UP WITH ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’ via Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post – It happened on Nov. 7, 2012, the day after Mitt Romney lost what had been presumed to be a winnable race against President Obama. Republicans were spiraling into an identity crisis, one that had some wondering whether a GOP president would ever sit in the Oval Office again. But on the 26th floor of a golden Manhattan tower that bears his name, Trump was coming to the conclusion that his own moment was at hand. And in typical fashion, the first thing he thought about was how to brand it. One after another, phrases popped into his head. “We Will Make America Great.” That one did not have the right ring. Then, “Make America Great.” But that sounded like a slight to the country. And then, it hit him: “Make America Great Again.” … “I said, ‘That is so good.’ I wrote it down.”

TRUMP DUBS MAR-A-LAGO THE NEW ‘WINTER WHITE HOUSE’ via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – … in a Twitter message that includes a picture of him at the estate penning the first speech he’ll give as president of the United States in 48 hours. “Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago,” Trump wrote. “Looking forward to Friday.” … Trump couldn’t have picked a more historic spot in Florida for a Winter White House than Mar-a-Lago, a stunning Mediterranean-style estate was completed in 1927 by Post Cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who willed the property to the federal government in 1973 for use as a presidential retreat. Unwilling to pay for the upkeep, the federal government returned the property to the Post Foundation less than a decade later and Trump ultimately purchased it in 1985.

— “Florida man charged with making online threat against Donald Trump” via The Associated Press

THIS NEW SPECIES OF MOTH HAS ‘YELLOWISH-WHITE SCALES’ ON ITS HEAD. IT IS NAMED FOR TRUMP. via Sarah Larimer of The Washington Post – In an article published in the journal ZooKeys … “The new species is named in honor of Donald J. Trump, to be installed as the 45th President of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017 …The specific epithet is selected because of the resemblance of the scales on the frons (head) of the moth to Mr. Trump’s hairstyle.” We’re talking about Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, a new species of moth named for the president-elect. The moth is a small guy, with a wingspan of less than one centimeter … It has orange-yellow and brown wings, and sports bright yellow scales on its head.

TRUMP WAX FIGURE DEBUTS BEFORE INAUGURATION via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Madame Tussauds locations in Orlando, Washington, D.C., New York, and London unveiled wax figures of Trump ahead of Friday’s inauguration. A team of 20 artists worked around the clock for six months to create the wax figures. It took five weeks just to fashion Trump’s famous hairstyle with each individual hair inserted by hand. “Mr. Trump was the most-searched person globally on Google in 2016 so the pressure was on to perfect his iconic features in time for inauguration,” said Therese Alvich, general manager of Madame Tussauds Washington, D.C. … Dressed in a patriotic dark blue suit, red tie and Made in America flag lapel pin, Trump will replace Obama in a White House Oval Office set.

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DAYS UNTIL: Rick Scott Orlando Jobs Summit – 15: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 22; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 24; Valentine’s Day – 26; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 47; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Kits – 54; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 106; Election Day 2017 – 291.

OBAMA: WET FOOT, DRY FOOT ‘WAS A CARRYOVER OF AN OLD WAY OF THINKING’ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – At his final White House news conference … Obama made his first remarks about ending the special immigration policy for Cubans last week: We underwent a monumental shift in our policy toward Cuba. My view was, after 50 years of the policy not working, it made sense for us to try to reopen diplomatic relations to engage the Cuban government, to be honest with them about the strong disagreements we have around political repression and treatment of dissenters and freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But to make progress for the Cuban people, our best shot was to suddenly have the Cuban people interacting with Americans, and seeing the incredible  success of the Cuban-American community, and engaging in commerce and business and trade, and that it was through that process of opening up these bilateral relations that you would see over time serious and significant improvement.

RICK SCOTT SAYS HE’S HELPING TRUMP CRAFT REPLACEMENT HEALTH CARE PLAN via James Rosen of the Miami Herald – Scott said he’s talking with Trump every week or two while working closely with Rep. Tom Price, the president-elect’s choice to run the government agency that oversees Medicaid, Medicare and the landmark 2010 health-insurance law. Mirroring previous comments by Trump himself, Scott indicated that the two men are not looking to repeal the entire law, unlike some fellow Republican members of Congress. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time already with Congressman Price, who I’ve known for a long time, to try to come up with a plan to repeal what doesn’t work and to replace it with something that’s going to drive down costs and improve access,” Scott told reporters in Washington.

SCOTT ON PAM BONDI: ‘I HOPE SHE STAYS IN FLORIDA’ via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – If Attorney General Bondi is preparing to take a job in the Trump administration, Scott gave not an inch in acknowledging the task of appointing a replacement. “She’s been a good partner in our governor and cabinet meetings,” Scott said. “I hope she doesn’t leave. I hope she stays in Florida.” But if she does leave, do you have plans in place? “I’ll worry about that when it happens,” he said. “I hope she doesn’t leave.”

JOHN RUTHERFORD REMAINS IN THE HOSPITAL via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Rutherford, who collapsed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives, did not suffer heart issues as was feared, he nonetheless is still hospitalized recovering from a severe allergic reaction. “Congressman Rutherford is much improved and thanks everyone for their continued well wishes and prayers of support. His doctors are pleased with his recovery, but continue to keep him in the hospital to eliminate all inflammation caused by the allergic reaction he experienced. Doctors are expected to release him sometime over the next several days,” Chief of Staff Kelly Simpson said.

DANIEL WEBSTER: CONGRESS WILL NOT PULL RUG OUT ON HEALTH CARE COVERAGE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In his newsletter to constituents of Florida’s 11th Congressional District … Webster pressed his assurances that the Affordable Care Act could be replaced. He also made clear the laundry list of concerns that he and many other Republicans have been trying to raise for seven years, with a survey for his constituents, seeking responses. “The House is working on a plan to provide Americans with the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a price they can afford. We do not intend to pull the rug of coverage and care out from underneath anyone,” Webster insisted.

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MEGYN KELLY-PRODUCED COMEDY ‘EMBEDS’ SHOW MAYHEM ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN FIRST TRAILER via Shirley Li of Entertainment Weekly — Reality may be stranger than fiction when it comes to the current political landscape, but Megyn Kelly — who announced her departure from Fox News for NBC — is taking it one step further as an executive producer for Embeds, a political comedy following young journalists on the presidential campaign trail. In the …  trailer for the six-episode, half-hour series … characters fight over sound bites, grow together and apart, and make a mess while trying to cover their candidate’s race toward the White House. Executive produced by Kelly, Michael De Luca (Fifty Shades Darker), and Scott Conroy, a former embed himself with co-creator Peter Hamby, the series is inspired by Conroy and Hamby’s experiences as journalists for CBS News and CNN on the road with Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin’s presidential campaigns. The series from Complex Network’s Seriously.TV will premiered Wednesday on go90.com. Click on the image below to watch the trailer.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be in Florida City to visit the incident response center conducting surveillance and response related to the recent case of New World screwworm in Homestead. He’ll hold a news conference at 10 a.m. at the Home 2 Suites, 77 NE 3rd Street to discuss screwworm in Florida.

EXCLUSIVE – DENISE GRIMSLEY EYEING AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER RUN IN 2018 via Florida Politics – The Sebring Republican is considering a 2018 run for Agriculture Commissioner. A registered nurse and hospital administrator, Grimsley said in an interview via text message that agriculture has always played a big role in her life. “It’s a big decision and one I’ve been discussed with both my family and my employer,” she said. “Agriculture has always been a big part of my life and having someone hold the office who brings the unique qualification of hands on farming and ranching is important to me.”

SUPREME COURT THROWS OUT SCHOOL VOUCHERS CASE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The decision comes as a major setback to vouchers opponents, including the Florida Education Association (FEA), the statewide teachers’ union, but was applauded by school choice advocates. The court denied a request to review the case, but did not comment on its merits. “No motion for rehearing will be entertained by the Court,” its 2-paragraph order said. “Who is allowed to challenge the constitutionality of the tax credit vouchers?” FEA President Joanne McCall said in a statement. “This ruling, and the decisions by the lower court, don’t answer that question.” McCall is the lead plaintiff in the case.

BONDI MOVES AGAINST TOBACCO COMPANIES FOR MISSED PAYMENTS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bondi filed an enforcement motion in Palm Beach County circuit court against ITG Brands and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR). The attorney general said in a statement that R.J. Reynolds “recently sold three of its most iconic cigarette brands – Winston, Kool and Salem – along with a legacy Lorillard Tobacco Company brand, Maverick, to ITG for $7 billion.” But neither company included the sale into consideration when making their payments to the state under the settlement, she said. Bondi says they’re now “liable for millions of dollars of missed payments to Florida,” and her motion seeks a court order “requiring payment to Florida for the past and future sales of these cigarettes.”

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Sachs Media Group, Florida’s dominant public affairs communications firm. Sachs Media thrives on high-stakes challenges in the relentless pursuit of excellent outcomes. To help you win in the corridors of power, let us score for you in the court of public opinion. Visit www.sachsmedia.com to learn more.***

FLORIDA GOP LAWMAKERS HOSTING ANNUAL ‘MARDI GRAS’ FUNDRAISER WEEKEND BEFORE START OF SESSION via Florida Politics – Ever wanted to ask Senate President Joe Negron what he’d do to earn some Mardi Gras beads? Well, you’ll have the chance to do just that if you take part in a “Mardi Gras Celebration” at Universal Studios in Orlando where Negron, Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate Presidents-to-be Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson and House Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls and other legislative leaders will come together for a fundraiser the weekend before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session … on March 4-5, the Republican lawmakers will take part in a full schedule of activities, including VIP tours. There will be a lunch and dinner, followed by a VIP viewing of a Mardi Gras Celebration Parade & Concert. Funds raised at the event will benefit House Majority 2018, one of the campaign arms of the Republican Party of Florida.

COME FOR THE MOVIE, STAY FOR THE BLOOPER REEL – House Speaker Richard Corcoran might have a future in the pictures. Days after the Land O’Lakes Republican released a 90-second video featuring an endless stream of House members talking about how they’re “one House,” Corcoran released a second video featuring the outtakes (which everyone knows is the best part of any feature film). The 2-minute video features shots of members flubbing their lines, poking a little fun at the crew, wacky green screen action, and even Rep. Jose Felix Diaz spitting some rhymes. “I am thankful to all who participated in our  ”One House” project.  Because, as the video says, “all of them, are all of us,” elected officials also make mistakes,” said Corcoran in his email to colleagues sharing the video. I hope you enjoy this video, share this video, participate in the next video, and most importantly, always remain honored, again – even when we disagree – to serve together.”

— “Jack Latvala says he’ll support legislation banning fracking again in 2017 Session” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “Kathleen Peters asks state for millions to help solve sewage problems in St. Pete, St. Pete Beach” via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics

— “Bill banning ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT teens returns to the Florida House” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

ST. JOHNS DELEGATION HEARS COUNTY WISHLIST via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – On Wednesday, the St. Johns County Commission presented its ambitious legislative action plan to the county’s legislative delegation … Transportation asks are significant, including $95 million for the proposed State Road 313 (SR 313) Extension/Bypass from State Road 207 (SR 207) to State Road 16 (SR 16) … $90 million for the proposed County Road 2209 (CR 2209) from County Road 210 to SR 16 … the county commission wants a total of $31 million for septic tank removal in West Augustine, stormwater remediation in Davis Shores, and the elimination of sanitary sewer overflows in St. Augustine … The county also wants access improvements to the beaches, especially toward the South Ponte Vedra Beach area, along State Road A1A.

NRA WANTS TO STOP UNIFORMED SHERIFFS FROM FIGHTING ITS AGENDA via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – What truly rankles [National Rifle Association lobbyist MarionHammer is the spectacle of sheriffs traveling to Tallahassee at taxpayer expense, armed and in uniform, to battle elements of the NRA’s agenda such as open carry or campus carry legislation. Hammer said a sheriff who wants to lobby for stricter gun laws should be required to take a day off from work, switch to street clothes and travel to Tallahassee at personal expense … She said she has found a House sponsor for a bill to address the issue, but no such proposal has surfaced yet, and the idea will face resistance because the timing seems all wrong … An obvious target of Hammer’s wrath is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who again this session will be the Florida Sheriffs Association’s point man on legislative issues and who has never backed away from a fight with Hammer.

COUNCIL SEES BREAKDOWN OF TRUST WITH OFFICE OF INSURANCE REGULATION via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Proposed reforms to Florida’s continuing care retirement community regulations ran into heavy flak during an advisory council meeting Wednesday, with the body’s president lamenting a breakdown of trust in the Office of Insurance Regulation. Joel Anderson, chairman of the Governor’s Continuing Care Advisory Council, complained that office staff unexpectedly unloaded a 61-page rewrite of the statute governing the facilities, also known as CCRCs. … “I promise you that these proposed changes to the law would cause an immediate impact on good-performing CCRCs with proven track records, and also lead to severe consequences for the future of Florida’s CCRCs,” he said. As an executive at the Village on the Isle retirement community in Venice, he impresses on his colleagues the importance of “trust, rapport, and credibility with each other,” he said. “These core beliefs apply to us as well, and I am concerned that they do not exist in today’s working relationship with the office and the council and for the Florida CCRCs.” … Following hours of testimony and debate, the council voted to encourage the office to continue to investigate increased oversight of ownership changes in financially troubled communities. But the members turned thumbs-down on proposals to tighten minimum liquidity reserves and other proposed regulations. They wanted emergency repairs where necessary this year, and time to draft broader reforms for the 2018 legislative session. … Rich Robleto, deputy commissioner for life and health, replied that staff members were trying to solve a serious threat to senior citizens who place their trust in an insurance product. “That trust relies in part on the understanding that the office oversees the CCRC industry, and they expect that the office can intervene when the CCRC’s ability to meet its promises is in jeopardy,” Robleto said.

FDLE OPENS INQUIRY INTO FORMER HILLSBOROUGH PTC CHIEF’S HANDLING OF PUBLIC RECORDS via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – The new inquiry is expected to focus on whether public records were illegally deleted from Kyle Cockream‘s agency cellphone. A forensic investigator reported recently that the phone Cockream used for almost a year had recently been reset, a process that wipes it clean. FDLE officials said they had received information about the case from the PTC. “We’re looking at the new information,” said spokeswoman Jessica Carey. Cockream’s phone was handed to a forensic investigator in November to extract public records, including text messages, requested in June by a Sarasota law firm. The firm sued the PTC in September for not fully complying with the request. At a hearing last week, a judge gave Cockream five days to provide the investigator access to an online account that backs up phone records to see if he can retrieve missing data.

FIRST ON FLAPOL – PERSONNEL NOTE: DEAN IZZO DEPARTS DEO FOR CAPITAL CITY CONSULTING via Florida Politics –  Izzo, who also has been chief financial officer and chief information officer for DEO, begins Jan. 30. He had been with the agency since its creation in 2011. “Dean will be a true asset to our current and future clients seeking partnership with the state and we are excited for him to join our growing team,” said Nick Iarossi, a partner at the firm.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Jayer Williamson.

A barrage of bad headlines greets the first weeks of Rick Kriseman’s re-election campaign

In the two weeks since Rick Kriseman announced he would seek re-election, the St. Petersburg mayor has been hit with a barrage of bad headlines on a range of issues.

Some of these setbacks are of Kriseman’s direct making, but most are not. Still, taken together, these stories seem to answer a question posed recently by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board: Is the city on a roll because of or in spite of Kriseman?

On Wednesday, Kriseman picked a fight with one of his key constituencies, the city’s LGBT community. Charlie Frago reports:

“Hours after the St. Pete Pride Parade announced a new downtown waterfront route … Kriseman said he would withhold city financial support for the event, angering some gay activists. … Kriseman’s action was a shock and a disappointment, (executive director Eric Skains said. But he said the parade, founded in 2003 and now Florida’s largest, won’t bend to mayoral pressure.”

Kriseman’s rationale for pressuring the Pride parade to remain in the Grand Central and Kenwood neighborhoods is that, according to city spokesman Ben Kirby, “the mayor told us he just really wanted sun to shine everywhere. He wants exciting events all over the city and not just downtown.

Spoken like a true Westsider!

Of all the fights I could never have predicted that Kriseman would picked, its one with the LGBT crowd. This is his base like the Downtown Partnership is a leg of support for former mayor Rick Baker.

As Frago correctly assesses, “Kriseman’s decision threatens to divide the city’s large gay community, which has strongly supported a mayor that returned its embrace and has made the Pride parade a high point of his mayoral calendar. Last year, the mayor greeted parade spectators while wearing a rainbow-colored supermanesque cape.”

“The event existed for a number of years under Rick Baker and Bill Foster, supporters in name only. It looks like we reverting back to that. To me, that’s a shame,” Skains said.

Unfortunately, for Kriseman, the dust-up over the Pride parade is not the only micro-crisis facing Kriseman. It almost seems like you can’t open the Tampa Bay Times without reading about a fight Kriseman has picked, a setback, or some disappointment.

— There was his quick clarification/reversal on the city’s ridesharing. As Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal explains, Kriseman had supported a policy that would have imposed a business tax on companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in the city legally. He then asked for the issue to be tabled.

— Ridership for the Cross Bay Ferry, one of Kriseman’s top priorities are “still far off,” per Irwin.

— During and after his state of the city speech, Kriseman mixed it up with former mayor Bill Foster on the damage caused by the 200 million gallons of sewage dumped or spilled into local waterways. “It doesn’t seem accurate to say there was no evidence that no damage was done to the bay or that the public wasn’t at risk. The city’s own testing shows that there was,” said Suzanne Young per Frago, a University of South Florida doctoral candidate who tested the waters of Tampa Bay after last summer’s discharges and said she found troubling evidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Those preliminary results couldn’t be confirmed, but Young said ample evidence exists that sewage discharges are dangerous.

— Just as Kriseman insists there has been no damage to the Bay, stories about a rash of dead fish and pelicans have drawn the attention of U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and local environmentalists. While many are eager to point the finger at recent wastewater dumps in the bay, but the city insists that’s highly unlikely. What could be connected is a nearby fish kill, that’s linked to temperature changes. Yes, the city’s taking the matter seriously, but try to convince the average resident the dead pelicans and the sewage overflows are not connected.

— But the most damaging development in the city, is the closing of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Midtown. Kriseman is probably right when he argues there was probably not much he could do to keep the retail giant in the poverty-stricken neighborhood, but Rick Baker acolytes like myself wonder if the store’s closing would have happened on his watch.

Again, much of this is not Kriseman’s making. He has as much control over the pelicans as he does Walmart.

But like the New York City mayor who was hurt every time a pigeon died in Central Park, St. Pete’s mayor can’t be happy with his recent press.

 

Personnel note: Dean Izzo departs DEO for Capital City Consulting

Dean Izzo, the Department of Economic Opportunity‘s chief of staff, is leaving the state’s jobs agency for a post at Capital City Consulting, the firm announced Wednesday.

Izzo

Izzo, who also has been chief financial officer and chief information officer for DEO, begins Jan. 30. He had been with the agency since its creation in 2011.

“Dean will be a true asset to our current and future clients seeking partnership with the state and we are excited for him to join our growing team,” said Nick Iarossi, a partner at the firm.

Added Izzo in a statement: “Capital City Consulting is second to none for government relations in Florida. I look forward to using my dynamic experience, relationships and knowledge of the executive branch to work on behalf of our clients.”

He previously was director of real estate for the Florida Department of Management Services, “where he oversaw approximately 55 million square feet of commercial property, managed the state’s construction management and leasing program, and provided strategic and technical management of Florida’s real estate holdings and assets,” the release said.

Izzo also has been vice president of operations in the retail banking division at JP Morgan Chase Bank, a consultant and project manager at IBM, and chief information officer at the now-defunct Florida Department of Community Affairs, according to the release.

He received his undergraduate degree in real estate and finance from Georgia State University, and has Florida Certified Contract Negotiator Certification as well as Project Management Professional Certification from the Project Management Institute.

Izzo will continue to live in Tallahassee with his wife and children.

Florida GOP lawmakers hosting annual ‘Mardi Gras’ fundraiser weekend before start of Session

Ever wanted to ask Senate President Joe Negron what he’d do to earn some Mardi Gras beads?

Well, you’ll have the chance to do just that if you take part in a “Mardi Gras Celebration” at Universal Studios in Orlando where Negron, Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate Presidents-to-be Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson and House Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls and other legislative leaders will come together for a fundraiser the weekend before the start of the 2017 legislative session.

According to an invitation obtained by FloridaPolitics.com, on March 4-5, the Republican lawmakers will take part in a full schedule of activities, including VIP tours. There will be a lunch and dinner, followed by a VIP viewing of a Mardi Gras Celebration Parade & Concert.

Funds raised at the event will benefit House Majority 2018, one of the campaign arms of the Republican Party of Florida.

Presumably it would be during the parade when an adventurous donor could trade some beads for a check — if only doing so were not against the gift ban.

Let’s hope Negron, Corcoran and Co. do not partake too much in the Mardi Gras festivities. The legislative session will kick-off just two days later.

In Sunshine State News’ book, Charlie Crist is damned if does, damned if he doesn’t

It’s no secret that Sunshine State News, the de facto house organ for the Rick Scott campaign in 2010 and 2014, is no fan of Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist. So complaining about SSN’s coverage of Crist is probably akin to writing a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe criticizing its sports columnists for hating on the New York Yankees.

Still, I am a fan of SSN. SaintPetersBlog and Sunshine State News are new media brethren. As much as we spar — and reporter Allison Nielsen and I have had more than our fair share of dust-ups lately — I consider Nancy Smith and Co. part of the Rebel Alliance in the struggle against the Empire that is the Times/Herald capital bureau.

But when it comes to its coverage of Crist, SSN is as biased against him as I once was for him (and if you ask the Crist people, they’ll tell you I was never that biased for him.)

In Sunshine State News’ book, Crist is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

Case in point is a recent column by Smith in which the veteran journalist dogs Charlie for revving up his re-election campaign. Smith writes about a “constituent” of Crist’s who was upset to have received a fundraising solicitation from Crist.

“This is some serious bull! It hasn’t even been 10 days and you are already asking for money and talking about re-election.”

Yes, Crist is talking about re-election. Why? Because it was Sunshine State News the week before which reported that David Jolly, the Republican incumbent Crist unseated in November, is likely to seek a rematch against Crist.

“If we run in 2018, we will beat him,” Jolly told reporter Allison Nielsen.

Be honest and ask yourself: If you were Crist and you read what Jolly told Nielsen, would you doubt for a moment that a rematch was in the cards? Of course you wouldn’t and that’s why you’d be cranking up the re-election campaign as early as Crist has.

Of course, SSN seems to believe that Crist is as likely to run for Florida governor in 2018 as he is re-election. In a dubiously sourced column from earlier this month, Smith wrote that a ” ‘deep throat’ contact” told her “Charlie is reaching out to ‘monied associates’ and ‘advisors with access ‘s he considers running for Florida governor in 2018.”

While I don’t doubt someone who thinks they are wired into Crist’s inner circle told Smith that, I highly doubt Crist is talking to anyone without Crist in their last name about a statewide bid. Crist is relishing his time back in elected office and the media spotlight; he’s very circumspect about being back in the wilderness again after six years away. NO ONE I’ve spoken to who is familiar with Crist’s thinking can confirm that Crist is “reaching out to ‘monied associates.’ “

Smith’s column is full of other nonsense, including a claim from her source that Crist “has been offering inauguration tickets to these same donors who supported Trump.” In reality, Crist has been offering the free tickets to any and all of his constituents. I have personally connected his office with a grassroots volunteer for the Donald Trump campaign who received tickets. And a friend of mine on Facebook, Young Republican leader Megan Roach, just posted about how she received tickets to the inauguration from Crist’s office.

To most conservatives and Republicans, Charlie Crist will never be allowed out of the political purgatory to which his party-switching led him. And, frankly, he probably deserves that. So, like I said before, I don’t expect a conservative outlet like Sunshine State News to cheer on Crist’s second (or is ithis third or fourth?) act.

But SSN’s coverage of Crist is a blind spot for the organization. It’s given Democratic bomb-thrower Leslie Wimes a platform to sound off again and again about Crist. It foolishly misread what was happening in the race for Congressional District 13 (Nielsen also tweeted that her coverage of the race exceeded our organization’s; by my count FloridaPolitics.com wrote approximately 88 stories and columns about the CD 13 campaign whereas SSN served up about 35 if you include Wimes’ screeds.) And it continues to make a bogeyman of Crist when he’s simply a backbench freshman member of Congress.

One would hope Sunshine State News would have better topics to write about as frequently as it does Crist.

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