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Takeaways from Tallahassee for 1.21.17 – Taking your constitutional

Don’t fret: You can still apply for a seat on the Constitution Revision Commission, at least to Senate President Joe Negron.

That said, there’s more than 70 people ahead of you, and Negron has only nine picks. 

Still, there’s no “hard and fast deadline” to send in an application to the Senate, spokeswoman Katie Betta said Friday, though decisions have to be made soon.

The first meeting of the commission, constitutionally mandated to form every 20 years, must occur within the 30 days prior to the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session. It starts March 7.

Its members will “examine the constitution, hold public hearings and … file its proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it,” the constitution says.

Negron, a Stuart Republican, already has expressed interest in certain applicants, Betta added, but hasn’t decided on any. She didn’t say whom. 

As governor, Rick Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. The Governor’s Office has posted its list of 96 applicants online.

Negron, as Senate President, and Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran each get nine choices. Corcoran’s application deadline was midnight at the end of Friday, according to spokesman Fred Piccolo.

[Update: The House communications office announced Saturday morning that, “because of continued interest, the Speaker has extended the application deadline to Jan. 27.” His application is here.]

Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as Attorney General, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga gets three picks. As of Friday, he had received nearly 80 applications but had made no decisions yet, spokesman Craig Waters said.

Many are applying to more than one state officer, as a kind of ‘spreading their bets.’ The various lists read like a who’s who of current and former lawmakers, prominent attorneys, former state officials and others. 

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98. (Technically, a “Constitution Revision Commission” met in 1966, but that was created by the Legislature, and drew up the 1968 constitution that governs the state today.)

This also will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

Both Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran have said they want the commission to revisit redistricting, for instance, specifically, a rewrite of voter-endorsed amendments from 2012 that ban gerrymandering — the manipulation of political boundaries to favor one party.

Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Coincidentally, legislation has been introduced this year to up that passing percentage. State Rep. Rick Roth, a Loxahatchee Republican, filed a measure Friday to increase it to 66 ⅔ percent. Roth wasn’t available for comment Friday.

In any case, history shows a mixed bag of the commission’s proposals becoming part of the state’s governing document.

The 1977-78 panel “had eight proposals on the ballot for voter consideration,” according to the Partnership for Revising Florida’s Constitution. “None of the proposals passed, but some were implemented later.”

20 years later, that commission selected “nine revisions … to be placed on the 1998 ballot. Florida voters passed eight of those amendments in 1998, when only a simple majority, more than 50 percent, was required for passage,” the partnership’s website says.

Those changes included shrinking the Florida Cabinet from six members to the current three: the Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and Agriculture Commissioner. The cabinet offices of treasurer and comptroller also were merged into a then-new CFO.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Michael Moline, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

Now, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Suit tossed — In a 4-1 decision this week, the Florida Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit challenging the state’s largest private voucher program. The state has several voucher programs in place, but the Florida Education Association challenged one that extends primarily to low-income families who use them to send their kids to religious or private schools. The law creating the program was first approved in 2001 under then-Gov. Jeb Bush, but the program was expanded this past year to include some middle-income families. Two lower courts ruled the FEA had no legal standing. The court’s decision was hailed as a victory by school choice advocates.

Tobacco cash — Attorney General Bondi announced she will go after two tobacco companies for holding back money she says is owed to the state under an historic tobacco settlement. Bondi filed an enforcement motion in Palm Beach County circuit court this week against ITG Brands and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. 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.”

Captured — Police captured the man they say fatally shot his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton after a week-long manhunt. The Orlando Police Department said it arrested 41-year-old Markeith Loyd on Tuesday. According to the Orlando Police, he was arrested at an abandoned house. The home was surrounded by SWAT officers, and authorities said he initially tried to escape the house, but ultimately surrendered in the front yard. During a court hearing this week, he directed an expletive-laced outburst at the judge and declared accusations against him were made up.

Thinking about the next campaign — Sure, there are still about 650 days until the 2018 election. But it’s never too early to start thinking about the next race, right? And this week several lawmakers said they were considering statewide bids in two years. Sen. Denise Grimsley said she’s mulling a 2018 run for Agriculture Commissioner; as did Sen. Greg Steube and former Sen. Lisa Carlton. And Sen. David Simmons said he was mulling a run for Attorney General or Congress.

Hail to the ChiefDozens of Florida lawmakers traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to celebrate the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott hosted the Florida Sunshine Ball on Wednesday, and spent the week celebrating the New York Republican. Other Floridians in attendance included Rep. Joe Gruters, an early supporter of Trump; Susie Wiles, who helped lead Trump’s campaign in Florida; Brian Ballard, who served as his Florida finance chairman; former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli; current House Speaker Richard Corcoran; Senate President Joe Negron, and Reps. Jose Felix Diaz and Carlos Trujillo. “With Florida being Trump’s second home, Washington, D.C., feels like it’s been invaded by the Great State of Florida,” said Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota County GOP state committeeman, who was also in attendance.

Congratulations, Florida Municipal Electric Association!

The trade association, which represents the interests Florida’s family of 34 public power communities, is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

“We’re proud of our history of service to our member cities and their residents, and we look forward to another 75 years of working together to bring community-based, public power into homes and businesses across the state,” said Amy Zubaly, the group’s Interim executive director.

These “community-owned” electric utilities serve more than 3 million of Florida’s residential and business utility consumers. Collectively, they are the third largest source of power in the state. The association actually was formed in 1942 as a response to World War II fuel shortages.

Member cities include bigger areas like Jacksonville, Orlando, Lakeland, Tallahassee and Gainesville, and smaller towns, such as Havana, Clewiston and Bushnell.

Law enforcement officers would need to pass a psychological evaluation under a new legislative proposal.

Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, filed a bill this week (HB 37) to require law enforcement officers to pass a psychological evaluation given by a licensed medical professional when they are hired. Under the proposal, law enforcements officers would also have to pass a physiological evaluation every four years.

The bill also requires criminal justice training school to receive and maintain the Public Safety Training Academy Accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

“It is my belief that by requiring additional certification and training for our law enforcement professionals, we only increase the credibility of the courageous work they do on behalf of the communities they serve,” said Jones. “The brave women and men who put on the uniform every day in order to protect and serve their fellow Floridians deserve nothing less than access to the best training and mental health care services that can be provided. This legislation will ensure that we are affording them with all the tools they need to succeed.”

Students at one Tallahassee elementary school got a treat this week: Storytime with Florida Department of Education staff.

Staff with the department’s Division of Blind Services read the braille version of books to 60 pre-K students at the J. Michael Conley Elementary School. The visit in honor of National Braille Literacy Month.

Students also learned about the varying levels of blindness, and received copies of their names written in braille and braille alphabet.

Florida law enforcement officials wants Floridians to “arrive alive.”

The Florida Highway Patrol launched its “Arrive Alive” campaign this week. The data-driven statewide initiative aims to reduce fatalities and serious bodily injury crashes on Florida’s roadways.

“The FHP is carrying on a proud legacy of promoting safety and security with our Arrive Alive campaign,” said Col. Gene Spaulding, the agency’s director. “The FHP is committed to working with our local police departments, sheriffs’ offices and FDOT to ensure that motorists in Florida feel safe while traveling on our roadways.”

The initiative will incorporate law enforcement, media outreach and road safety assessments in high crash and high crime areas.

“Traffic crashes, most of which are avoidable, are responsible for many of the debilitating injuries that our youth receive each year,” said Sheriff Jerry Demings, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “On behalf of the Florida Sheriffs Association, I endorse and fully support the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Arrive Alive campaign.”

Give them a gold star.

The Agency for Health Care Administration announced this week that 11 nursing facilities across the state received the Gold Seal Award from the Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care. Six of those facilities, according to the agency, received the designation for the first time; five others had their status renewed.

“Gold Seal facilities represent the very best nursing homes that Florida has to offer,” said Gov. Scott in a statement. “Our state is dedicated to providing our seniors with the best possible care, and these facilities help give families the peace of mind that their loved ones are in good hands. I would like to thank these nursing homes and their staff members for their commitment to providing exceptional care for elderly Floridians.”

The six new Gold Start Award facilities are Baldomero Lopez Memorial State Veterans Nursing Home in Land O’Lakes; Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans Nursing Home in St. Augustine; Haven of Our Lady of Peace in Pompano Beach; John Knox Village of Pompano Beach; Okeechobee Health Care Facility in Okeechobee; and Port Orange Nursing and Rehab Center in Port Orange.

Alpine Health and Rehabilitation Center in St. Petersburg; Delaney Park Health and Rehabilitation Center in Orlando; Joseph L. Morse Geriatric Center in West Palm Beach; The Pavilion for Health Care in Penney Farms; and Royal Oaks Nursing and Rehab Center in Titusville all received renewals.

Take the eastern chipmunk off the imperiled species list.

Fifteen species — including the eastern chipmunk, the brown pelican, snow egret, and white ibis — will no longer be listed as an imperiled species under new rules in place as part of the Imperiled Species Management Plan. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the species were taking off the list “because conservation successes improved their status.”

The new rules also moved 23 species — including the roseate spoonbill, Florida burrowing owl, and the Florida bog frog — to the threatened species list. Threatened species, according to the agency, have populations that are “declining, have a very limited ranger or are very small.”

The management plan outlines the steps to conserve 57 species with the broader vision of restoring habitats essential to the long-term survival of multiple fish and wildlife species.

“Florida is charting an ambitious new path for wildlife conservation success on a statewide scale,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski in a statement. “Seeing a roseate spoonbill wading in shallow waters, a black skimmer resting on the beach or a Big Cypress fox squirrel sitting in a pine tree is an essential part of the Florida experience. This innovative plan is designed to keep imperiled species like these around for many generations to come.”

Medical marijuana is now the law of the land. And that has local governments asking what’s next.

The Florida Association of Counties is hoping to tackle that question during a Medical Marijuana Summit at the Embassy Suits Lake Buena Vista on Feb. 4.

The day-long event is meant to bring local government officials from across the state together to discuss issues surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana and implementing Amendment 2.

According to a preliminary agenda, speakers include Christian Bax, the director of the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use; Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve; Ashley Kilroy, the executive director for excise and licenses for the city and county of Denver; and Miami Beach police Chief David Oates.

Sen. Frank Artiles and Rep. Bryan Avila want to beef up property owners’ rights.

The two men filed legislation this week that would “continue to strengthen property owners’ rights and continue to promote efficiency and integrity in the Value Adjustment Board Process.”

The proposal would increase the value of a property tax exemption for widows, widowers, blind or totally disabled people to $5,000 from $500. It would also allow property appraisers to waive penalties on interest on homestead exemption and senior exemption liens only when good cause is shown in circumstances where there wasn’t an intent to illegally avoid payment.

Avila said after passing legislation last year to improve the Value Adjustment Board, he wanted to “continue (his) work to make sure we have the most efficient process in place.”

Pull out your crystal ball, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater wants to talk about the future.

In the latest issue of Florida’s Bottom Line, experts from across the state weigh in on what the future might hold for the Sunshine State.

“Looking back on 2016, we see that Florida’s economy is on the right track: private sector job growth increased and outpaced the nation; the housing market continues to grow; and our unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest levels in eight years. This economic momentum sets the stage for Florida to continue its hard work throughout 2017,” said Atwater in the issue. “As we embark on this New Year, it is important to acknowledge that Florida’s economic future will continue to be shaped by the hard work and perseverance of Floridians. It is your dedication that not only allows us to build upon our accomplishments, but reach new heights of economic success and prosperity.”

The issue features analysis from Sean Snaith with the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness; Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce; The Mercatus Center; and Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Ride-sharing for everyone!

That’s the message Rep. Chris Sprowls sent this week in a letter to his constituents. In the letter, Sprowls highlighted legislation he recently filed that applies to ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft. The bill — sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Brandes — combine parts of previous measures that have been introduced but not passed over the last few years.

“This legislation ensures that no matter where you live in Florida, you have access to a rideshare should you choose it,” wrote Sprowls. Ridesharing has opened up a brand new transportation marketplace that has created jobs, provided a convenient and reliable ride home, and dramatically cut down on the number of drunk driving incidents in areas where they operate.”

Among other things, the bills prohibit local governments from trying to regulate transportation network companies, requires background checks, and allows companies to search drivers’ driving history records.

“Together, we want to make sure that you have the freedom to choose your transportation options as well as have a flexible and innovative source of extra income should you need it,” said Sprowls. “Simply put, this bill is good for both drivers and riders.”

Robot cars are coming.

“It’s happening, and it’s happening very quickly. Your grandkids and great-grandkids are going to grow up in a very different world because of this technology,” professor of urban and regional planning Tim Chapin said during an FSU-sponsored “policy pub” discussion at a Tallahassee restaurant.

“It’s my view that we need to make sure we get in front of the technology and what we want our communities to look like — and have the technology serve the communities rather than the communities we build to serve the technology as it comes to the fore,” he said.

Chapin foresees a world in which people won’t own cars — they’ll subscribe to services that deliver driverless autos to cart them around.

Someone asked: With so many fewer cars on the road, how would people in Florida evacuate ahead of a hurricane?

Chapin said his researchers raised that very question with state officials, asking them to consider that scenario.

“We talked to our friends at emergency management about this, and their answer is, ‘Huh. Yes, we should.’”

Stay thrifty, Florida.

CFO Atwater sponsored a resolution signed by Gov. Scott and the Cabinet to recognize “Florida Thrift Week.” The Sunshine State’s version of the penny-pinching week coincided with National Thrift Week, which goes through Jan. 23.

“Recognizing that smart saving and spending strategies will help Floridians reach their long-term economic goals is just the first step,” said Atwater in his weekly newsletter.” Implementing these strategies is the only way we’ll gain the financial security needed to enhance financial literacy and promote economic development among our communities.”

Atwater encouraged Floridians to celebrate by doing things like shopping in second hand stores and planning better to prevent spontaneous purchases.

Sen. Debbie Mayfield has her eyes on high-speed rail.

Mayfield filed legislation this week to create the Florida High-Speed Passenger Safety Act (SB 386). The bill, according to Mayfield’s office, would give the Florida Department of Transportation the authority to regulate railroad companies in Florida, except for the authority preempted by federal laws. It also establishes minimum safety standards for high-speed passenger rail and stipulates the railroad company operating the train is responsible for improvements and upgrades.

“I find it quite astounding that Florida does not have any measures in place to address high-speed rail when there is a statewide project underway that will crisscross through my community, many others between Miami and Orlando, and potentially up Florida’s entire east coast,” said Mayfield. “I can tell you that to date I have not heard one thing from AAF about what they are going to do to ensure safety features are in place to protect the public around these fast-moving trains. This legislation is really designed to protect all Floridians from accidents and injuries at these dangerous railroad crossings across the state.”

The House companion is sponsored by Reps. MaryLynn Magar, Eric Grall, and Gayle Harrell.

Are you ready to run? Rep. Loranne Ausley sure is.

The Tallahassee Democrat laced up her shoes this week when she met with students at Fort Braden Schools. Ausley was on hand to encourage students to participate in her “Ready to Run” contest, which encourages kids to stay active and healthy by running.

The contest is meant to spur excitement for running by sponsoring elementary and middle school students who want to participate in the Tallahassee Youth Marathon. To participate in the contest, students must log miles and have their parent or guardian submit the form to Ausley’s office by Monday, Jan. 23. The student from each school with the most miles logged will be sponsored.

“We are hoping to encourage Leon county students to have healthy habits, so go out and log those miles!” she said. “Even if you don’t enter our contest, you still have plenty of time to log your miles before the race.”

Mike Fasano has a $300,000 question for Pasco lawmakers: Can they spare some cash for a study?

Fasano, the Pasco County Tax Collector and a former state legislator, asked lawmakers for $300,000 for a study to look at taking motor vehicle services away from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and giving them to the state’s tax collectors.

The inspiration for the transition has been several power outages at DHSMV offices in recent years. That, he said has put the onus on his office, the only one in the state that provides services on Saturday.

“It would save the state, I believe, tens of millions of dollars. We’re not looking to make any additional money, we’re looking to break even,” he told the Pasco County Legislative Delegation this week. “We’re looking to provide the best customer service.”

Currently, tax collectors can keep a small portion of every license, tag and title transaction.

“Thank you for all you’re doing there, staying open on Saturdays, you’re leading the way,” said Rep. Danny Burgess.

Office of Insurance Regulation staff ran into a buzz saw during a meeting of the Governor’s Continuing Care Advisory Council.

The panel advises the office on regulating continuing care centers and communities, but members felt big-footed when the staff responded to a series of bankruptcies by dropping a 61-page bill tightening regulations.

Council chairman Joel Anderson referenced the values of “trust, rapport, and credibility with each other,” and added: “I am concerned that they do not exist in today’s working relationship with the office and the council.”

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.

In light of the insolvencies, “further legal protections are needed for us to be able to fulfill that trust that’s put on us. We think it’s dangerous when people think the government can do something for them that it cannot.”

No dessert for OIR?

A 1st District Court of Appeal panel dug into a dessert metaphor during oral arguments in State Farm Florida Insurance Co.’s challenge to the Office of Insurance Regulation’s system for sharing insurers’ sales data with state leaders, the public, and the industry.

“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 at one point.

“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?”

Karen Walker, an attorney representing State Farm, picked up on the metaphor.

“The flavor of ice cream was changed. The flavor prior to the first quarter of 2014 was that State Farm was not writing new property insurance policies in the state of Florida. In 2014, that changed. They began writing new policies and, as part of that, implementing a marketing strategy — a marketing strategy that has value to State Farm.”

The 1st DCA decided a dispute over evidence in workers’ compensation cases in favor of employers and their insurance carriers.

The case turned on the applicability of the Daubert evidentiary standard. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in September about whether it should embrace the standard, which the Legislature adopted in 2013, but has yet to rule.

A lawyer for an injured truck driver argued that judges of compensation clains can’t apply the new standard until the Supreme Court says they can.

Judge Kent Wetherell II wrote that the Legislature is within its authority to write rules for administrative courts like those workers’ compensation tribunals.

And even if the justices decline to enforce the new evidentiary standard in trial courts, “that decision will have no impact whatsoever on the applicability of the Daubert test in workers’ compensation proceedings,” Wetherell wrote.

Look to Louis.

Constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen had a question for students at the Florida State University College of Law.

“In this age of social media, who has the most power over free speech? Who has more power than any king, president, or Supreme Court justice?” the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center asked.

Mark Zuckerberg,” a student answered.

“Absolutely,” Rosen said. Companies like Facebook and Google employ teams of lawyers to decide whether to suppress content at the demand of overseas leaders and other scolds, even when the content is legal under the First Amendment.

Rosen said he finds inspiration in a post-truth world in the example of Louis Brandeis, the late justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“He’s 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 of Brandeis.

“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.”

Protect the Slurpee!

7-Eleven franchise owners this asked the Pasco County Legislative Delegation this week for legislation to protect them from having their businesses ripped out from underneath them by their corporate owners.

“We work tirelessly. We are continuing to grow the local economy, paying local and state and payroll taxes,” said Arnie Tange, a 7-Eleven franchise owner. “However, because of the lack of protection laws for small businesses, we can lose our small businesses if our franchiser – who’s based in another state – decided not to renew or extend my agreement to operate under their brand name.”

Florida does have laws protecting business owners, another franchise owner. But he said those are mostly carved out for large business entities, and not for those who own hotels, restaurants and retail stores.

“Please support this legislation,” he asked of the delegation. “We need your help to protect our rights and encourage small business ownership.”

Mark your calendars: Home Care Day at the Capitol is just around the corner.

The Home Care Association of Florida will host its annual legislative day at the Florida Capitol on March 22. The annual event gives home care officials, clients and patients a chance to advocate for their interests.

Attendees will include home care agency owners, operators, and clinicians. The Home Care Association of Florida represents the state’s more than 1,900 home care agencies.

It’s time to talk politics (or, more accurately, keep talking politics.)

The Florida Public Relations Association Capital Chapter will hold a panel discussion with national Republican and Democratic campaign operatives on Thursday, Jan. 26. The panel, called “Political Communications – The New Norm,” is meant to give attendees a perspective into communications and messaging strategies used by national campaigns.

Panelists are Democrats Kevin Cate and Steve Schale, and Republicans David Johnson and Rick Wilson. Christina Johnson will be the moderator.

The panel discussion kicks off at 8 a.m. Thursday, with a networking breakfast scheduled to take place immediately before.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam wants to invite Florida’s wounded warriors on a hunting trip.

Putnam encouraged wounded veterans to register for upcoming recreational events offered through the Operation Outdoor Freedom program. Launched in 2011, the program has allowed more than 2,500 wounded veterans the chance to get out an enjoy outdoor events free of charge.

“Operation Outdoor Freedom is a special way of connecting the natural resources our state is blessed with to the men and women who’ve courageously and selflessly put their lives on the line,” said Putnam in a statement. “It’s the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.”

The events are regularly held on state forests and private lands, and are funded through private donations. Upcoming activities include turkey, hog and deer hunts ranging from North Florida to South Florida. Other events this year include alligator and deer hunts, quail hunts, fishing, kayaking and canoeing.

Here’s this week’s edition Capitol Directions:











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.


… 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.


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.


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.


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

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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.


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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

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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.

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.

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.


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.



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.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

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 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 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.


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 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.

Sunburn for 1.18.17 – Florida goes to the Inauguration; Matt Gaetz wins skydiving case; DOH releases pot rules; Jon Costello’s new colleagues

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

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


If you think it’s slow this week, you aren’t alone.

The Florida House and Senate committee rooms are dark, with lawmakers taking a bye week from committee weeks. Cabinet aides are meeting today, but the agenda for the upcoming Cabinet meeting is, well, light. And there may be far less fanfare surrounding this month’s jobs announcement, scheduled for Friday morning.

Chalk it up to a short week or the calm before the 2017 legislative storm. Well, that and the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States on Friday.

Dozens of Florida Republicans are packing their winter coats and ball gowns, and heading to Washington, D.C. for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. There they’ll enjoy the festivities, schmooze with their colleagues from across the nation, and celebrate the start of the Trump era.

Looking for a Sunshine State bigwig? Odds are you’ll find them tonight at the Florida Sunshine Ball, hosted by Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

It won’t be all tuxedoes and dance shoes for Scott, though. The Naples Republican (and rumored 2018 U.S. Senate hopeful) is expected to meet with congressional leaders and incoming members of the Trump administration earlier in the day.

Other to-dos this week include the First Coast Inaugural Celebration Ball hosted by the Republican Party of Duval County.

But Tallahassee won’t be moving at a turtle’s pace for too long. Starting Monday, we’re back to jam-packed schedule of bill filings, committee meetings and budget hearings. So enjoy the calm before the legislative storm clouds roll in.

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POLL: DONALD TRUMP WILL TAKE OFFICE AS LEAST POPULAR PRESIDENT IN AT LEAST FOUR DECADES via Dan Balz and Scott Clement of The Washington Post – … but a majority of Americans nevertheless express optimism that he will be able to fulfill campaign pledges to boost the economy and deal with threats of terrorism, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll … On the eve of his inauguration, 44 percent of Americans say they believe Trump is qualified to serve as president, compared with 52 percent who say he is not. The good news for Trump is that the 52 percent figure is the lowest since he became a candidate. Over 8 in 10 Republicans say he is qualified, and about the same percentage of Democrats say he is not. Independents are almost evenly divided on the question. Trump will enter the Oval Office … with his image upside down. Just 40 percent say they have a favorable impression of him, and 54 percent view him unfavorably — with 41 percent saying they have a strongly unfavorable impression of him. That’s starkly different from current views of President Obama, whose favorable rating is at 61 percent.

SURPRISINGLY, TRUMP INAUGURATION SHAPES UP TO BE A RELATIVELY LOW-KEY AFFAIR via John Wagner and Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post – In a word, the 45th president’s inaugural activities will be “workmanlike” … a pop-up staff of about 350 people scrambling to put together the proceedings from the second floor of a nondescript government building just south of the Mall. The notion of a relatively low-key inaugural bereft of many ­A-list entertainers may come as a surprise, given the president-elect’s flair for showmanship and his credentials as a reality TV star … Trump settled on a less flashy approach, however, including keeping the ticket prices for the inaugural balls at $50 apiece so that working-class Americans who helped fuel Trump’s victory can take part.

— “No stars? No problem! Meet Trump’s determined inaugural spokesman” via Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast

— “Scalper taking loss on tickets to Trump inauguration as secondary market interest on the mogul’s swear-in wanes” via Adam Edelman of the New York Daily News

— “Even a Bruce Springsteen cover band is canceling its inauguration gig” via Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post

THE ALT-RIGHT COMES TO WASHINGTON via Ben Schreckinger of POLITICO Magazine – A new generation of nationalists see a chance to ride Trump‘s coattails into the capital. But first they need to do some serious re-branding … Milo Yiannopoulos … [has been] asked to host “DeploraBall,” an unofficial celebration planned for the presidential inauguration weekend … His vision for the event: As guests entered the National Press Club, shirtless Mexican laborers would be building a physical wall around them. Instead of doves, Yiannopoulos would release 500 live frogs in honor of Pepe, the cartoon mascot of pro-Trump internet trolls. The room would be lined with oil portraits in gilt frames, each depicting a celebrity who had vowed to leave the country in the event of Trump’s election. At the end of the night, the portraits would be thrown into a bonfire and burned. Yiannopoulos would send a bill for the party to the Mexican Embassy. The party is unlikely to proceed in exactly that way, or really anything like it. But the ball is real — a month ahead of the inauguration, the organizers had already booked the room and sold all 1,000 tickets—and it marks a kind of gala debut of a new clique in Washington.

RICK SCOTT, PARTY HOST, SAYS TRUMP PRESIDENCY ‘A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR FLORIDA’ via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Scott is marking Trump’s inauguration by hosting a “Florida Sunshine Ball” in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night and an inaugural parade-watching party at a restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue Friday. Florida first lady Ann Scott is hosting a Thursday tea on Capitol Hill. “I’m going to celebrate a new opportunity for Florida,” Scott says.

TRUMP INAUGURATION A SPECIAL MOMENT FOR BRIAN BALLARD — This isn’t Brian Ballard’s first inauguration, but it might end up being one of the most memorable. Ballard, the president of Ballard Partners, is one of several Floridians expected to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration this week. And while his schedule is flush with lunches and galas, Ballard said he’s most looking forward to the moment Trump takes the oath of office. “The swearing-in, for me, is going to be the cool part. It’s almost hard to comprehend and put into words. It’s going to be a hugely impactful moment,” said Ballard. “Seeing him take the oath and the government becoming Trump government, which is hard to fathom even for me. It’s going to be so exciting and emotional.” For Ballard, that moment will also mark the culmination of months of work behind the scenes to help send Trump to the White House.

A top Republican fundraiser, Ballard served as finance chairman for Trump’s campaign in Florida. Days after Trump won the presidency, he was selected to serve as one of finance vice chairs on the Presidential Inaugural Committee. “This is unique because of the president-elect and our relationship,” said Ballard. “You think of people who get sworn in as president as (someone) who is bigger than life, not someone you know very, very well. Knowing someone and seeing him take the oath of office, I’ll never experience (that again).”

— “Alcee Hastings boycotts Trump’s inauguration” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald

— “Charlie Crist looking forward to attending Trump inauguration” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— Cubs manager Joe Maddon says people should respect the presidency” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Miami congresswoman to Trump: ‘please do not tweet anymore’” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

TWEET, TWEET: @TreyRadel: Reality: many in Congress don’t attend inauguration of opposite party. But usually they don’t put out press releases calling it a “boycott.”

SUSIE WILES, ARCHITECT OF TRUMP’S FLORIDA WIN, HEADS TO D.C. FOR INAUGURATION via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Through March 2016, Wiles was the sole high-profile Jacksonville Republican on the Trump train … Wiles tells that she is “headed up to DC again Wednesday for events Wednesday night [through] the ball Friday night. Packed full schedule but all fun. It seems as if it will be nice weather! Many Florida folks will be at various events and I look forward to celebrating with everyone.”

VAL DEMINGS AND STEPHANIE MURPHY TO HOST WOMEN’S MARCH ON WASHINGTON BREAKFAST via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – Demings and Murphy are two of the featured hosts for a Women’s March on Washington pre-breakfast before the event that could gather up to 200,000 people, the day after Trump is sworn into office. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel round up the four-person hosting committee that will welcome fellow Floridians to the Library of Congress James Madison Building. There are also sister marches and events taking place all over the country.

PARTY LINES: WHY SOME TALLAHASSEEANS CHOSE TRUMP via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – The precinct at the Fort Braden Community Center went big for Trump. “It’s kind of country people like, you know, working people,” said Gene Pfund, 69, who’s owned a tree service on Highway 20 for about 15 years. “No movie stars. Not a lot of minorities. I think that was Hillary’s problem — all her attention was (on) minorities and with celebrities. And people didn’t care about that.” Woodville is a town of full of auto shops and other small, independent businesses, a seafood restaurant, a huge Baptist church, a lumber yard and one school that serves grades kindergarten through eighth. Almost 60 percent of this mostly white, working class community of fewer than 3,000 voted for Donald Trump, even though 50 percent of the registered voters are registered Democrats. Not so much because he’s the best man for the job, residents said. But because he represents something different, something outside the normal channels of political power … the recurring theme among the Trump supporters willing to talk was they viewed the election not so much as a contest between a Democrat and a Republican, but more as a chance to reject the established political culture.

PALM BEACH FASHION DESIGNER’S DRESS TO DEBUT AT FLORIDA SUNSHINE BALL via Michelle Quesada of WPTV – In a competition hosted by Lilyana LoVela, producer of the Palm Beach International Fashion Week and Palm Beach Swim Week fashion shows, local designer Karen Williams Nottage‘s dress was picked to be worn by the wife of a local congressional district chairman at the Florida Sunshine Ball … The local designer has her own line, Legacy K Inc. Stylistic Divas, and says her inspiration for the gown came from a Disney-themed TV show series. “It’s Italian lace, and it’s black and white and it’s to die for. It has a very nice peek-a-boo front and a very low-cut sheer back,” said Nottage. “That whole silhouette came to light and I just started drawing and I said this is what I wanted to create.”

— “Hair stylist to Marla Maples: No free services in exchange for Inauguration Day ‘exposure’” via Emily Heil of The Washington Post

MARCO RUBIO CHALLENGED TRUMP’S NOMINEE. BUT WILL HE DEFY TRUMP? via Matt Flegenheimerjan of The New York Times – He glared at Rex Tillerson, the nominee for secretary of state, from behind his committee nameplate, his boyish face just a pinch more weathered than it used to be … With that exchange and two others later in Tillerson’s rocky nine-hour confirmation hearing last week … Rubio has earned the brightest spotlight. When Trump chose Tillerson, Rubio expressed immediate reservations, citing the nominee’s close ties to Russia while at Exxon Mobil. Aides said he read every speech Tillerson had given over the past decade in preparation for the hearing. In a week when some Democrats’ hopes of embarrassing Trump’s prospective cabinet mostly failed to materialize, several conceded it was Rubio who drew the most blood. The damage was not lost on Republicans. Long before the hearing, Tillerson supporters had moved to persuade Rubio, including through a conversation with former Vice President Dick Cheney.

— “Rubio calls Obama’s decision on Chelsea Manning ‘shameful’ ” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

FLORIDA SCIENTISTS PEN LETTER TO WILBUR ROSS — CALLING HIM TO DEFEND FLORIDA’S COASTLINE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – A group of Florida scientists have an urgent message for Ross: Support science and defend Florida’s coastline, as it could save your own home. Ross, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Commerce, has owned a $22 million, 15,500-square-foot Palm Beach mansion on the Intracoastal Waterway since 2008. “In your new role as the Secretary of Commerce, you have a unique ability to influence multiple sectors of our economy,” goes the letter, signed by 13 officials, including 11 professors from Florida universities. “You will direct scientific research both within government, and at universities through NOAA. You can also work with businesses, engineers, and industries to develop solutions to address climate and energy challenges.” The letter is signed by some of the same 25 scientists who penned a similar letter to Trump October, shortly before his upset victory in November, urging him to act on climate change. They did not receive a response. Nor did they hear anything back from the president-elect after following up with a letter signed by approximately 10 university professors, as well as a physical oceanographer from NOAA in late December.

RICHARD CORCORAN, HOUSE LEADERS ADD NAMES TO LIST OF BETSY DEVOS SUPPORTERS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Corcoran was joined by state Reps. Jose Oliva and Jose Felix Diaz in expressing support for DeVos and other state-level leaders nationwide in the letter. “As one of the most critical issues impacting the future of our nation, we must have a Secretary of Education committed to the needs of all of our nation’s children,” the letter reads. “Betsy DeVos has made it her life’s mission to find, support and push for education solutions in her home state of Michigan and across the country. She is an advocate and ally for all children, and we write to you today to express our support for her nomination to this important position as her confirmation hearing approaches.” The leaders said DeVos’ commitment to promoting school choice is one of the primary reasons they supported her nomination.

— “Betsy DeVos will deliver on school reform” via Jeb Bush for USA Today

— “Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Betsy DeVos will take U.S. schools down a path of failure ‘Florida knows all too well’” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

OBAMA WILL BE MOVED OUT IN JUST 5 HOURS – When Trump walks into the White House for the first time as president on Jan. 20, his suits will be hanging in his closet, his personal photos will be displayed on perfectly placed tables, and his toothbrush will be near his favorite brand of toothpaste in his bathroom, USA Today reports. And nothing can be touched until the Obamas pull out of the White House driveway for the inauguration ceremony that same day.


THE OBAMA ERA: A LOOK BACK via The New York Times — Throughout two terms, President Obama and his administration brought sweeping changes to the nation. His legacy has affected every American, as well as the lives of those around the world. In a series of six articles, reporters with the New York Times reflect on those accomplishments. From brokering climate change agreements to restructuring the nation’s health care system, from writing marriage equality into law to questioning police response tactics in the face of racial tensions, to managing the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan — eight years later, the America he leaves us is a different place.

DUH – JEB BUSH UNLIKELY TO RUN FOR OFFICE AGAIN via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Bush, who is spending two weeks at a Texas A&M University teaching a course on the role of governors, said he’s focused on building up his business again and working with the foundation he created to push for changes in education policy. “I unraveled everything I was doing to prepare for this – you don’t do that lightly,” said Bush. “I just think this was my chance. The conditions of this election weren’t tailor made for me and I lost. But I’m not in therapy. I’m not in the fetal position. Life goes on.” Bush … is also dismissive of a return to the governor’s mansion. Under Florida’s Constitution Bush could run again for that office. “It’s the best job in the world, but look, I’m not inclined to do it,” Bush said. “I can’t be unemployed forever.”

BOB GRAHAM: DAUGHTER GWEN GRAHAM HASN’T TOLD HIM HER PLANS YET via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Bob Graham said he’s waiting to hear what his daughter … Gwen Graham will decide about running for governor. The younger Graham has been talking about it for months … But she also said she would not make that decision until after she left office as a member of the U.S. Congress. She’s also dealing with the health of her husband Steve Hurm, who is being treated for prostate cancer. Her last day in Congress was last week. “She’s only been out of office for a few days. And she’s thinking about what to do. She’ll let her friends, and I hope parents, know when she makes the decision,” the former senator … “She hasn’t closed the book yet.”

MATT GAETZ WINS APPEAL FOR NORTHWEST FLORIDA SKYDIVING BUSINESS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Gaetz, an attorney who now represents northwest Florida’s 1st Congressional District, won an appeal that should allow a Walton County couple to continue operating a skydiving business on their 290-acre farm near Paxton. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued its unanimous decision Tuesday for James and Melanie Nipper. He “had a distinguished career as a U.S. Army Paratrooper and member of the elite Golden Knights parachute team from 1981-1997;” she “was an Army pilot,” the opinion said. They have since retired from the military. … Judges Timothy D. Osterhaus, Brad Thomas and Stephanie W. Ray said the county “did not show a clear legal right” to ban the Nippers from running a skydiving operation.


AMERICAN ACTION NETWORK TOUTS GOP HEALTH PLAN IN MIAMI AREA — The American Action Network, the sister organization of the Congressional Leadership Fund, recently launched a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign in Florida’s 26th Congressional District are part of a nationwide push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The 30-second spot features the findings of a nationwide poll conducted by the organization, which found two-thirds of respondents said they supported “replacing Obamacare with a plan featuring the broad principles of a House Republican plan.” The organization is expected to be at the forefront of the debate on repealing and replacing Obamacare, according to a spokeswoman for the American Action Network. “Americans deserve to know that Speaker (Paul) Ryan and House Republicans are offering a better way forward with a plan to replace Obamacare,” said AAN spokeswoman Ruth Guerra. “It’s clear that Americans support the House Republican plan and a fair transition period to get there. The American people want to see Congress deliver a patient-centered health care system with lower costs.” Click the image below to watch the ad.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. in the 3rd floor Rotunda in the Cannon House Office Building, 27 Independence Ave. SE in Washington, D.C. Scott is scheduled to meet with members of President-elect Trump’s administration and congressional leaders.

SCOTT TO HOST JOBS SUMMIT IN ORLANDO via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Scott is scheduled to host a jobs summit Feb. 2 and Feb. 3 at the Caribe Royale in Orlando … The event … appears to be like an education summit the Naples Republican hosted in 2016 … the event will bring together “Florida’s top business leaders, economic developers, educators and community leaders” to discuss ways to “shape the future of Florida’s economy to create good, high-paying jobs for all Florida families.” The summit comes just one month before the start of the annual 60-day Legislative Session, where economic development and job growth is expected to take center stage.

BRIAN BURGESS: ADAM HOLLINGSWORTH APPOINTMENT COULD BE BLIP ON RICK SCOTT’S LEGACY via Peter Schorsch – As his second term in office winds down, Scott should be considering his legacy as Florida governor, particularly if he wants to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018. It’s that same legacy that makes Scott’s recent decision “bizarre,” at least in the eyes of The Capitolist’s Brian Burgess … [referring] to Adam Hollingsworth, Scott’s former Chief of Staff, who the governor named this week to the University of North Florida board of trustees … the appointment “predictably created a wave of justifiable outrage,” one which could needlessly jeopardize both the reputation of Florida’s University System and Scott’s legacy. Hollingsworth’s earlier admission of academic fraud – lying about a public relations degree from the University of Alabama in 1990 – makes him, in the view of many (including United Faculty of Florida UNF Chapter President John White), ineligible for a position in academia. Hopefully, this will remain just a minor blip on Scott’s legacy, which Burgess is ardently defending.

PUBLIC SUPPORT MIGHT HAVE TEMPERED PAM BONDI’S OPPOSITION TO MARIJUANA via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News – In 2014, Bondi went all-out trying to keep John Morgan‘s medical marijuana initiative off Florida’s ballot. It didn’t work, Floridians voted on the initiative anyway … By 2016 Bondi had thought it through. She could have done it again — hard-charged after the amendment, working to kill it before the ballots were printed. But this time, with public support of the initiative polling north of 70 percent, “Bondi announced that while she was personally opposed to legalizing medical marijuana, she would not be doing anything to oppose it, either in her official role as attorney general or as a citizen.” And apart from some obligatory statements opposing the initiative, she didn’t. When the amendment passed with 71.3 percent of the vote, we never heard a peep out of AG Bondi … national polling puts support for legalizing marijuana at 60 percent. That’s straight-up marijuana. Support for medical marijuana is off the charts.

DOH BEGINS AMENDMENT 2 RULE-MAKING via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Florida Department of Health released the preliminary text of proposed rule development. The release comes ahead of five public hearings schedule for early next month, giving Floridians a chance to weigh in on the agency’s rules and regulations governing the state’s medical marijuana program. Under the proposed rule, only patients with one of 10 specific medical conditions, like HIV/AIDs or cancer, are eligible for medical marijuana. The rule does allow for use, as long as the Florida Board of Medicine identifies which debilitating conditions it can be used for. That’s contrary to the ballot language, which allowed physicians to order medical marijuana for a patient for if they believe “the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.” It also states all medical marijuana treatment centers, which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law. … “The legislature has demonstrated a willingness and desire to implement this amendment in a reasonable manner that respects the plain language of the constitution, and reflects the mandate of the electorate,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for the United for Care campaign. “Why DOH would choose to engage in a policymaking exercise which ignores both the law and the role of the legislature in implementing the law is a mystery. Perhaps the actions of DOH shouldn’t surprise, given their history of incompetence in the administration of Florida’s medical marijuana laws.”

RECENT MASS SHOOTINGS SPARK FRESH DEBATE OVER FLORIDA GUN LAWS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – What gun rights supporters want: Both the Fort Lauderdale shooting and the Pulse nightclub massacre … are examples of why restrictions on permitted gun-owners don’t help prevent tragedy — and why Florida’s gun laws should be opened up to afford more freedom for people to defend themselves. What gun safety advocates want: Ban assault rifles … Require background checks for all gun purchases … Tighten a law mandating that loaded guns be kept in locked storage when they are near children 16 and younger. Block people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns … How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: The Republicans’ dominance of state politics … has helped the NRA tighten its grip on a Legislature where the organization’s A-plus rating is coveted by candidates … What gun law changes are on the table this year: Allow for the open carrying of handguns … lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns in passenger terminals and non-“sterile” areas of airports … lift a current ban and allow concealed weapons permit-holders to carry guns on public college and university campuses. tighten language in an existing law that requires guns to be locked in a gun safe or have a trigger lock when around children age 16 or younger … prohibit concealed-weapons permit holders from carrying in performing arts centers or theaters … ban in Florida many specific assault-style firearms …  shift the burden of proof in a criminal case where a defendant claims immunity under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law by requiring the prosecutor, not the defendant, to prove at a pre-trial hearing why the defendant shouldn’t be granted immunity from prosecution.

MURDER CASE AT MICCOSUKEE CASINO A TEST FOR TRIBAL POLICE, STATE PROSECUTORS via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald – The case of Fernando Duarte, a former U.S. Army Ranger shot to death on Christmas night in the parking lot of the tribe’s West Miami-Dade casino, is the first homicide on the agency’s books. His death, and the arrest of two non-Indian men suspected of his murder, shapes up as a test case for a tribal police force that has historically had strained relations with state prosecutors. The case could revive thorny and unresolved questions over jurisdiction of the sovereign lands of a Native American people — just who should be investigating violent crimes and enforcing the law? Miami-Dade’s state attorney is satisfied, for now. Miccosukee detectives recently met with prosecutors, turning over witness statements and surveillance video collected that night. Those are routine, but essential pieces of evidence that have proven difficult to obtain from tribal police in some past cases … “Historically, we have not had a typical law-enforcement working partnership,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “I hope this is a turn in the right direction.”

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FIRST DCA REJECTS CHALLENGE TO EVIDENCE STANDARD IN WORKERS’ COMP CASE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – An intermediate state appeals court refused to let a workers’ compensation claimant introduce a second medical opinion, in a case testing an evidence code provision the Legislature adopted in 2013. Baricko v. Barnett Transportation Inc. turned on the applicability of the Daubert evidentiary standard. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in September about whether it should embrace the standard, but has yet to rule. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected an attack on Daubert filed on behalf of David Baricko, a truck driver seeking to introduce evidence that sitting for long periods caused his embolism. Michael Winer … argued that a judge of compensation claims had impermissibly applied Daubert in advance of its approval by the state high court. The appellate panel did not explain its thinking, but Judge Kent Wetherell II said in a concurring opinion that the appeal was “frivolous.” The first DCA had ruled in 2014 that Daubert applies in workers’ compensation cases, he wrote.

WHO KNOWS BEST, PARENTS OR TEACHERS’ UNION? via Peter Schorsch – Florida Teachers’ Union President Joanne McCall said … “We believe that those closest to the students should be making the decisions about what is best for the students they serve.” It’s a shame that McCall doesn’t always follow the belief she articulates. She and her union have sued to shut down the state’s tax credit scholarship program and evict nearly 100,000 poor, mostly minority children from schools that fit them better than their assigned district schools. To McCall’s point, I would ask her this: Who is closer to a student than his or her parent? Why don’t you believe these poor parents should be making the decision about what school is best for their children? Finally, why do you persist in this misguided lawsuit whose aim is to keep kids away from the best educational opportunities available to them?

WHAT CORY TILLEY IS READING – SELLING LIQUOR INSIDE CAVERNOUS SUPER RETAIL STORES?! ARE YOU DRUNK? via Ron Littlepage of the Florida Times-Union –As they have in the past, major retailers like Wal-Mart are pouring money into efforts to take down the wall. That’s a requirement … that liquor stores have one entrance and a wall separating them from other stores … There are good reasons for the wall. Wal-Mart already has problems with shoplifting, fighting and other issues that cost taxpayer dollars by diverting police officers from their regular duties — because Wal-Mart doesn’t spend enough on in-store security. Now mix in shelves of liquor with the groceries, household goods, clothes, kids’ toys, hardware, etc. And, of course, the shelves that hold the guns and ammunition that are available in the average Wal-Mart. What could possibly go wrong?

HOUSE WON’T CONSIDER USING BP MONEY FOR TOURIST INCENTIVES via Jim Turner for – Rep. Jay Trumbull … expects his Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast will instead look at designating the money for infrastructure and education projects that help entire communities. “We are not going to be focused on direct economic incentives. That’s not what we think is the best use of the dollars,” Trumbull said … “But we do believe that there are many opportunities to spend the money in ways that don’t have to be direct incentives.”

— “Bill would subject police, corrections officers to psychological screening” via Florida Politics

SPOTTED: State Rep. Amber Mariano on The Today Show talking about her support of President-elect Donald Trump and her House District 36 election.

HAPPENING TODAY – LEGISLATIVE DELEGATIONS HOLD MEETINGS – The Levy, Union, Bradford, St. Johns, and Pasco legislative delegations will meet ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session. The Levy County legislative delegation will meet at 10 a.m. at the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building, 660 East Hathaway Avenue in Bronson. The Pasco County legislative meets at 1 p.m. at Sunlake High School, 3023 Sunlake Blvd. in Land O’Lakes. The Union County legislative delegation will meet at 2 p.m. in the County Commission Chamber at the Courthouse, 55 W. Main Street in Lake Butler. The Bradford County legislative delegation meets at 4 p.m. in the County Commission Chambers at the Bradford County Courthouse, 945 N. Temple Ave. in Starke; the St. Johns County legislative delegation meets at 4 p.m. at the St. Johns County Commission Chamber Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian View in St. Augustine.

NORTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGERS OK FIRST-EVER LONG-TERM USAGE, SUPPLY PLAN via Susan Washington of Florida Politics – The first-ever long-range plan for water use in a vast, North Florida region — home to around 1.5 million people in 14 counties stretching over more than 8,000 square miles — was approved … in a joint meeting of the governing boards of two water management districts … Suwannee River Water Management District, whose governing board — along with that of the SJRWMD — approved the water plan for a region of Florida that includes more than 140 springs. The two-hour-long meeting was the second occasion that the two boards had convened together … districts had determined that groundwater alone cannot supply an expected 21 percent increase in water use in the region over a planning period that extends to 2035 “without causing unacceptable impacts to water resources.” The possibility of drought would increase water demand further for the region, which extends, in the north, from the Georgia border with the Florida counties of Hamilton, Columbia, Baker and Nassau south as far as Gilchrist, Alachua, Putnam and Flagler counties and including, as well, Florida’s Atlantic coast north of Daytona Beach.

PASS THE POPCORN: SON OF ‘SFWMD VS. EVERGLADES FOUNDATION 2’ NOW PLAYING via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – Now the stars of the show — the environmental organization looking to reconfigure a part of Everglades restoration and the state authority committed to keeping restoration on track — have given us another snarky sequel. If you’ve been following the south-versus-north reservoirs saga, you know what I’m talking about. This is the latest: [Everglades Foundation] issued what it called “Statement Regarding the SFWMD’s Response to The Everglades Foundation Letter.” Basically, it challenges SFWMD to “sit down and openly discuss the serious challenges facing this state and how we can solve them together.” As you might imagine, EF’s statement didn’t sit well with the District … SFWMD issued a short, if not sweet, retort. Its headline: “Statement on Everglades Foundation Response” … In other words, we’re open, you’re not. Nothing’s stopping you from participating.

— “Chuck O’Neal to try again at black bear protection bill with Linda Stewart” via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics

STEPHEN JAMES JOINS FLORIDA DEP AS WATER POLICY HEAD — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced that James has been named the director of the Office of Water Policy. James, according to the DEP, will be responsible for overseeing and implementing the statewide water policy with water management districts and other agencies. “Stephen will be an excellent addition to the department as the director of Water Policy,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson in a statement. “His background in environmental and water policy, combined with his experience working with local governments, the legislature and the public and private sectors, will be of great benefit as we continue to partner with the water management districts, municipalities and other stakeholders on the state’s important water matters.” Prior to joining the DEP, James served as the senior associate director of public policy and legislative staff attorney for the Florida Association of Counties, where he focused on environmental and agricultural issues. James previously practiced environmental and land-use laws for several law firms in Miami and Seattle. James received his bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and his law degree from the University of Miami.

KEN REECY NAMED INTERIM HEAD OF FLORIDA HOUSING via Florida Politics – Reecy has been named Interim Executive Director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) …  currently serves as the agency’s Multifamily Program Director. “Ken has extensive experience and is committed to helping Florida families secure safe, affordable housing in communities all across our state,” Cissy Proctor said in a statement. “He has a strong understanding of the unique programs used to meet different needs for affordable housing in Florida and is a respected leader at the agency” … “A national search for a permanent Executive Director is underway.”

— “Nursing home care in Florida has come a long way in the last 30 years” via Steve Bahmer for Florida Politics

LARRY ROBINSON A GOOD CHOICE FOR FAMU, TALLAHASSEE via Bob Sparks of Florida Politics – Florida A&M is again in need of another president … Based upon recent history, the university does not need a national search. Someone who can do the job is already in it. On three occasions FAMU has turned to Robinson to bridge the gap between a departed president and that person’s successor. He has the support of the presidents of the capital city’s other educational institutions. At a recent Martin Luther King Jr. tribute, Florida State University President John Thrasher threw his support behind Robinson. Robinson was a humble, soft-spoken, advocate for his university. It did not take long to ascertain this was not only a brilliant man, but one who possessed the ability to connect with people. Robinson is on a one-year contract as interim president. However, like sports coaches, contracts are torn up and extended when one does a good job. Why not do the same for someone who has done so much for the university? Why not bring it up at the next board of trustees meeting?

CONNECT FLORIDA DAY AT THE CAPITOL REGISTRATION IS OPEN via  In less than a month, over 150 of Florida’s top emerging leaders will gather in Tallahassee for the Fifth Annual Connect Day at the Capitol. This event will sell out, so register now. Connect Day at the Capitol, which will take place Thursday, Feb. 9 – Friday, Feb. 10, is a unique opportunity for Florida’s under-40 professionals to learn more about Connect Florida and interact with high-profile speakers on issues affecting Florida across different industries, sectors and communities. Participants do not need to be an official Connect Florida member to attend. To view the agenda and register, visit

RUTLEDGE ECENIA ADDS MIXON & ASSOCIATES LOBBYISTS – Mixon & Associates lobbyists Corinne Mixon and Jessica Janasiewicz are joining the Rutledge Ecenia law firm’s lobbying team. Also coming to the firm on a contract basis is Mixon & Associates’ Juhan and Pat Mixon, and Jim Hamilton, the firms said in a joint announcement. Full story here.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to two of Sunburn’s favorites, Erin Daly Ballas and Caitlin Murray. More belated wishes to Brian Goldmeier and AARP’s Jeff Johnson. Celebrating today are Brody Enwright and No Casinos’ Sara Johnson.

The question confronting Richard Corcoran: Will he stick by his principles or will he p*ssy out?

To the eleven or twelve people (thanks Ed Moore!) who watched this past week’s edition of The Usual Suspects, the public affairs program which airs in north Florida, I apologize for repeating myself, but…

We will know which direction the 2017 Legislative Session is headed by the first day. That’s because that’s the deadline House Speaker Richard Corcoran has set for the filing of individual member projects. In a dramatic shift from years past, the House has moved to a system that requires members to file an individual bill for each budget request. Under this scenario, members must also file all of their requests by the bill filing deadline at the beginning of session.

In Richard Corcoran‘s Florida House, there will be no putting spending projects in the budget during the appropriations process.

So what happens if and when the Senate does not abide by the House’s rules?

Because we’ll all be able to go on LobbyTools or the state’s website and see whether the bills have been filed.

If they’re not filed — and there’s really no indication that the Senate is in a hurry to give in to Corcoran’s way of doing business — the question to Corcoran will be: Are you sticking by your principles? Or are you going to p*ssy out?

Meaning, the Senate will have either filed its member projects before the deadline (at which point the Senate should just bend over and ask for another smack from Corcoran’s paddle).

Or Senators will not have filed their bills and Corcoran is prepared to shut down the government rather than let them in at a later point.

Or Corcoran blinks and allows bill not filed by the deadline to make their way into the budget.

But let’s assume the Senate does not play by Corcoran’s rules. That is, after all, where things appear to be headed.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala sent a message last week to the House leadership: Don’t expect to force the Senate to abide by your strict new budget rules.

“We have our own rules in the Senate. We are going to abide by our own rules,” Latvala told reporters following a committee meeting.

So, let’s assume the Senate does abide by its own rules; what happens after that?

Typically, its during its closing days that we know that the Jenga puzzle that is Session is about to collapse. Think Dean Cannon vs. Mike Haridopolos or Steve Crisafulli gaveling the House to an early close. And, sure, there are train wrecks which, in retrospect, seemed inevitable, i.e. Johnnie Byrd.

But the House and Senate are headed for a collision on opening day.

Can you imagine 59 more days of The Process headed downhill?


Senate will hear tobacco appellate bond cap repealer; a sop to trial lawyers?

The Senate is primed to hear a bill that would repeal the cap on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds.

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, and Rep. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, have filed measures for their respective chambers for the 2017 Legislative Session.

Giving this bill a committee hearing is the latest indication that this Legislature has a soft spot for trial lawyers.

The Senate bill (SB 100) is teed up first in the Regulated Industries committee, records show. SB 100 effectively removes all of Section 569.23 from Florida Statutes.

What exactly does that section of state law do? Well, among other things it drastically capped the bond amount tobacco companies have to pay to appeal court ruling. When the law was OK’d in 2009, industry officials said it was for the good of the state. If companies were bankrupted by endless Florida lawsuits, officials argued at the time, they couldn’t make the payments to the state as part of a 1999 tobacco settlement.

The Florida Justice Association threw a fit when it was OK’d, and repealing the law, even if it is eight years later, would most definitely be considered a win.

Tobacco companies say a repeal would be unfair because, without a cap, bonds would fall under the “150 percent of judgment” rule.

With some verdicts in the billions of dollars, bonds could be unreasonably large under that standard, they say.

The Regulated Industries meets Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. in 412 Knott.

Takeaways from Tallahassee for 1.15.17 – Trade secrets

Former state Rep. and Financial Regulation Commissioner Tom Grady has touched off a lawsuit between the state’s insurance and financial regulators and a San Francisco-based software concern.  

Zenefits, which describes itself as “a technology company … that integrates the administration of human resources and employee benefits,” filed suit in Leon County Circuit Civil court Jan. 6, court records show.

It’s seeking protection from disclosing records Grady requested last month from the Department of Financial Services, saying they’re trade secrets because they contain “customer lists, proprietary contacts, business plans and internal audits.”

Trade secrets are exempt under Florida’s public records law.

Grady’s public records request, on his Naples law firm’s letterhead, came after the department last year told Zenefits it was under investigation “to determine whether (it) had violated one or more provision of the Florida Insurance Code.” Zenefits handed over the documents as part of the inquiry.

The company had been plagued by licensing compliance troubles under its former leadership in several states, including Tennessee, Washington, Virginia and California.

“Among other things, Zenefits employs licensed insurance producers who sell and administer insurance plans for customers who elect to use Zenefits as their insurance broker,” its suit says.

Zenefits, which “makes money by collecting brokerage fees after selling health insurance, has admitted that in many cases its insurance salespeople lacked the local licenses that are required by state laws,” BuzzFeed News’ William Alden has reported.

Grady asked for “all documents and communications related to the investigation,” according to a copy of his request filed with the court. (His letter also says the company has since entered into a consent order with the state, which wasn’t immediately available.)

Many of the documents, however, additionally contain “the Social Security numbers of Florida residents whose employers are customers of Zenefits, as well as the SSN’s of Zenefit employees,” the suit says.

They also contain other “sensitive” information, such as “bank account numbers,” “home addresses,” “identities of dependents,” and “email addresses.”

The department told Zenefits it was going to comply with Grady’s request unless it got a court order “barring public disclosure.” But Zenefits had already told the state the info it gave up was confidential and asked that it not be released.

Grady, who could not be reached Friday, has said he’s “entitled” to the records and “insisted” on their release, according to the suit.

His request did not say which client he’s seeking the information for; his website says he specializes in “financial industry disputes or transactions in excess of $5 million.”

Grady, who was mentioned as the next state Insurance Commissioner after Kevin McCarty announced his resignation last year, is a friend of Gov. Rick Scott. The governor appointed him to the State Board of Education.

Grady was a GOP member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2008-10 before a stint as commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, the state’s top banking regulator. He also was interim president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort.

Zenefits is being represented by attorneys in the Foley & Lardner law firm’s Tallahassee office.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Michael Moline, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

Now, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Lawson in, Seccombe out —The Visit Florida board of directors this week announced it had selected Ken Lawson, the former secretary of the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, as its next president and CEO. The former federal prosecutor replaces Will Seccombe who resigned as CEO amid the fallout from a secret deal with rapper Pitbull. “Ken understands the responsibility we have to be transparent with every tax dollar. He has tirelessly fought to make it easier for Florida businesses to create jobs, has helped cut millions of dollars in fees and has streamlined the agency to ensure the state reduced burdensome regulations,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement this week. Seccombe will receive $73,000 as severance.

Taking a gamble — Sen. Bill Galvano filed the first big gambling bill of the 2017 Legislative Session, and it included a little something for everyone. “My goal has been to address all aspects of gaming in a comprehensive manner that balances the interests of an industry that has contributed to Florida’s economy for nearly a hundred years, our ongoing revenue-sharing agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the authority of local voters, while maximizing revenues to the state,” said Galvano in a statement. The 112-page bill included provisions to allow lottery ticket sales at gas pumps, fantasy sports, more slot machines, and a provision to OK the long-delayed Seminole Compact. The legislation also included provisions to expand blackjack from the state’s Seminole casinos to South Florida’s pari-mutuels, including at Pompano Park.

Pot talk — The Florida House Quality Subcommittee began discussions about implementing Amendment 2, using the meeting this week to hold a panel discussion about the industry. Facing a time crunch, Christian Bax, the director of the Office of Compassionate Use, told lawmakers the Department of Health is expected to begin rule-making in the coming days. The department will host meetings in each of the state’s five regions to get feedback. Lawmakers will do their part to implement the constitutional amendment, with House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues expected to carry the legislation in the House. While Rodrigues said he is in the early stages of crafting legislation, the Estero Republican said the bill “will not contain a tax on medical marijuana.”

Budget blues — It might be time to tighten your belts. Rep. Carlos Trujillo, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told committee members this week they would start the process to attack looming budget deficits. He called on members to begin scrutinizing state spending and looking for programs to cut or trim. “We have a commitment to not raise taxes,” he said. “But, at the same time, as chairman of the committee, I think every member should have the right to express their concerns. Those concerns will be vetted with the committee, and the committee ultimately will make a determination.” State government revenues are projected to remain essentially flat during the 2017-18 fiscal year, beginning July 1. But state economists project deficits of $1.3 billion the year after that, and of $1.9 billion during the subsequent year.

Count him out — Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced this week he won’t run for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018. The Republican from Merritt Island was widely expected to mount a statewide bid for the cabinet post, but bowed out this week, choosing to spend more time with his family. “I plan to remain politically active, but after years of travel to fulfill my obligations to the House Republican Conference and as Speaker of the Florida House, there is nothing I want more than to spend time with my Kristen and our daughters as they finish out their final years of being at home before going off to college,” he said in a statement.

Keep the money in Northwest Florida.

That’s the message Sens. George Gainer, Doug Broxson, and Bill Montford are hoping to send with Sen Bill 364. The bill aims to ensure funds received in the settlement of the state’s economic damage claims caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill remain in Northwest Florida’s eight disproportionately affected counties.

“Nearly seven years after the spill began, on a daily basis, we are still hearing from constituents whose families and businesses were drastically impacted,” said Montford. “This legislation affirms our longstanding commitment to keep these critical funds in Northwest Florida to provide for the ongoing economic recovery of our region.”

Under current law, the eight counties — Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Wakulla — are set to receive 75 percent of all settlement funds received by Florida. The bill clarifies the money should be directly appropriated to Triumph Gulf Coast Inc. no later than 30 days after received by the state.

Way to go, Greenberg Traurig Tallahassee!

The Tallahassee office celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Governor’s Club this week. Gov. Scott, CFO Jeff Atwater, founding Chairman Larry J. Hoffman, senior Chairmen Cesar L. Alvarez and Matthew B. Gorson, and Co-President Ernest L. Greer, and several lawmakers and state agency heads all came out to celebrate the occasion.

“When the Greenberg Traurig Tallahassee office opened 25 years ago, we gained not only an established state government relations team that had been instrumental in practically every major legislative issue over the preceding 20 years, but a strong multidisciplinary legal team experienced in all major areas of the law as well,” said Gorson.

The Tallahassee office now includes a diverse team of lawyers, governmental relations professionals, and business staff.

“Since joining Greenberg Traurig 25 years ago, we have built a full-service platform to serve all of our clients’ needs, both here in Florida and across the nation, through the firm’s legal and lobbying efforts,” said Fred W. Baggett, managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee office. “You simply cannot deny the success this partnership has achieved.”

Gov. Scott might want Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act but Florida CHAIN says that’s just misguided.

“Governor Scott is basically suggesting a wholesale repeal of anything connected to Affordable Care Act a/k/a Obamacare.  This would be a travesty.  Upon repeal, approximately 20 million people would immediately be without health insurance and the cash flow mechanism between hospitals, physicians, pharmacies and all the other players would become a short-term disaster,” the organization’s board of directors said in a statement this week.

“The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, but with some targeted modifications to fix those parts that are problematic, we could come up with something very workable,” the group continued. “This solution, however, needs to be developed through an evolving process, not an across the board repeal with piecemeal segments, as the country waits for the various replacement plans to evolve and be revealed in the new Trump Administration and 115th Congress.”

In a letter to Congress this week, Scott, a potential 2018 U.S. Senate candidate, said the legislation should be completely overhauled giving more flexibility to the states.

Senate President Joe Negron hopes the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans convert Medicaid to a block grant program that allows Florida more flexibility in providing health care to the poor, disabled, and elderly.

Opinion on the Appropriations Committee was more divided during a meeting this week.

“Block grants don’t work,” Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson said. She believes Florida’s position should be that “Medicaid block grant is a nonstarter. We need to be just as aggressive with this new administration as we were with the outgoing one.”

Republican Sen. David Simmons argued a block grant would give Florida room to devise a program allowing low-income beneficiaries to earn more without being cut off.

“The whole system is a total failure,” he said. “They’re forced into a lifestyle that penalizes success, incentivizes failure.”

Karen Woodhall of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy testified that federal rules allow just the sort of program Simmons envisioned.

In fact, she continued, Florida used to have a “bootstrap” program — “so that you didn’t lose your benefits the minute you did better. You started to ratchet down” in benefits but didn’t lose them entirely. Other states do that now, she said.

“That’s an example of something I’m sure we could work on together, and I look forward to helping you with it,” Woodhall said.

Welcome aboard, Joel Brown.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District announced this week that Brown had joined the district as a government affairs program manager. Originally from Tampa, Brown will serve as liason between the SWFWMD and the constituents of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Before joining SWFWMD, he worked as the West Central Florida regional manager for CFO Jeff Atwater and the Department of Financial Services. He later served as Atwater’s press secretary.

Brown also served as district administrative assistant to the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

The Florida Family Policy Council will hold its Pro-Life, Pro-Family Lobby Days on March 13 and March 14 at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee.

The two-day event includes team lobbying, presentations and the annual legislative prayer breakfast. Speakers over the two-days include Gov. Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Anitere Flores, Sen. Greg Steube, Rep. Kim Daniels, and Rep. Jamie Grant.

Florida TaxWatch is focused on justice reform.

The watchdog group released a new report this week looking at Florida crime and corrections data over the years. The 40-page report tackles a number of issues, including sentence lag time, plea bargains and inmates’ education levels.

The report found that majority of offenders sentenced in fiscal 2015 took plea bargains and received sanctions for nonviolent offenses. The report also found stringent sentencing polices lead to lengthier prison stays; the state’s incarceration rate is declining as the inmate population rate begins to level off; and prison admission and release rates are in a decline.

The report also found nonviolent offender make up more than half of annual prison admissions.

Term limits could be coming.

The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee began discussing judicial term limits during a committee hearing this week. While proposals have failed in the Legislature in the past, they are a top priority for House Speaker Corcoran.

In Florida, appellate judges — including justices of the Supreme Court — are appointed by the governor subject to merit retention elections. They may serve until age 70 if the voters retain them. No appellate judge has ever been bounced via a merit retention vote.

Drink those mimosas while you can.

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture citrus crop forecast showed a slight decrease in Florida orange production to 71 million boxes in the 2016-17 season. The state’s citrus industry has been hurt by the citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease is attacking fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree. And Florida’s famous oranges are most at risk.

“The future of Florida citrus, and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports, depends on a long-term solution in the fight against greening,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement this week. “Our brightest minds are working to find a solution, but until then, we must support our growers and provide them every tool available to combat this devastating disease.”

Putnam has asked the federal government to consider approving antimicrobial treatments to fight greening, which is caused by a jumping plant louse and the bacteria it hosts.

Congratulations, Lukas Hefty!

Hefty, the math and science magnet coordinator at Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. Elementary School in Pinella County, was honored by the Milken Family Foundation, the state Department of Education announced this week. Hefty was recognized for his work in developing the school’s nationally recognized STEM curriculum.

“By engaging students as early as kindergarten in the school’s STEM activities and inviting families to join in the fun, Mr. Hefty is helping young learners establish a solid foundation that will benefit them as they continue their education and eventually enter the workforce,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “I am pleased to recognize him for his dedication to education, and I look forward to learning about the great things his students are bound to accomplish as a result of his efforts.”

Hefty has been as an educator for 11 years, and was instrumental in writing and developing unique math and engineering curriculum. He is national board certified, and holds a master of arts degree in elementary education with a focus on math and science.

Hefty is just one of 35 educators nationwide to receive this year’s award.

Will 2017 bring victory for ride-hailing companies? Some Floridians sure hope the answer is a resounding yes.

Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Sprowls filed legislation this week to address transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft. The proposals parts of previous measures that have been introduced but not passed over the last few years.

“Ridesharing companies offer a competitive alternative to the jobs and services of the past,” said Andrew Vila, a spokesman for Generation Opportunity, in a statement. “We look forward to engaging with the legislature and activating our grassroots army to push for statewide standards.”

Among other things, the bill prohibits local governments from regulating the companies, includes background checks that don’t require fingerprints, and searching driving history records.

“Our elected officials need to strip away the red tape that is crushing innovation and opportunity for Floridians to thrive,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, in a statement. “We will hold elected officials accountable that stand against common sense reforms to expand available services to entrepreneurs and consumers.”

Call him, Professor.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off a teaching residency this week at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, where he is currently an executive professor. The class is meant to teach students about the role of “gubernatorial leadership and its impact on government at all levels,” according to the university.

More than 60 students are enrolled in the 10-day course. Students, according to the university, are expected to hear from Bush, and other governors and state legislators, about the roles and responsibilities of state leaders.

While Bush, who served as the state’s governor from 1999 to 2007, ran for president in 2016, Floridians probably won’t see him on the campaign trail anytime soon. The Associated Press reported this week that Bush said it was unlikely he’d run for office again.

“I unraveled everything I was doing to prepare for this – you don’t do that lightly,” he told the Associated Press. “I just think this was my chance. The conditions of this election weren’t tailor-made for me and I lost. But I’m not in therapy. I’m not in the fetal position. Life goes on.”

Here’s a list Florida might not be too thrilled to top.

CoreLogic reported this week that Florida led the United States in foreclosures, with 48,494 completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in November. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that while that number is significantly higher than any other state, it is still down 42 percent over the year.

The state reported a foreclosure rate of 1.4 percent, the seventh-highest in the nation. Florida accounted for about 12 percent of all completed foreclosures nationwide.

Settle into the couch, Florida.

CFO Atwater thinks it’s time we have a talk. No, not that talk (obviously, birds and bees fall under Agriculture Commissioner Putnam’s jurisdiction). He just wants to chat about money.

In his weekly newsletter, Atwater highlighted the Department of Financial Services “My Money” program, which aims to help teach people with development disabilities gain the confidence and skills they “need to live more independently.”

The program uses interactive games, activities and educational videos to help participants learn and practice skills at their own pace. Parents can also use the program to learn how they can help children “solidify and apply these new skills.”

These sure are healthy schools.

Thirty more Florida schools earned HealthierUS School Challenge designations in December, bringing the total number of Florida HUSSC schools to 249, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam announced this week.

“It’s great that these schools are providing their students the nutrition and physical activity needed for academic success,” he said in a statement. “Our goal is to continue working with schools to increase the amount healthy choices offered to Florida’s students.”

The challenge, joint effort with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a voluntary certification initiative to recognized efforts to improve food and beverage options, offer nutrition education and promote physical activity. Schools must meet specific criteria, such as providing smarter snacks and opportunities for physical activity.

It time to ramp up the fight against screwworm.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called on the federal government to step up its response to an infestation of New World screwworm in Florida this week, requesting more cash to help fight the infestation.

“If we don’t move aggressively to halt the spread of this dangerous pest, the result could be catastrophic for Florida’s wildlife and livestock industry,” wrote Nelson in a letter sent today to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “More than 130 endangered Key deer have already fallen victim to the screwworm. We cannot allow the white-tailed deer population, or the endangered Florida panther, or Florida’s nearly $1 billion beef industry to collapse too.”

Federal officials this week confirmed the flesh-eating parasite was found in a stray dog near Homestead.

Speaking of screwworm: The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture released sterile flies in the Homestead area as a precautionary effort.

“While the dog has been treated and is doing well, there are still a lot of unknowns about the dog’s history and recent locations. Given that Florida’s livestock industry is at stake, this sterile fly release is a precautionary move to ensure we’re doing everything we can to aggressively eradicate the screwworm from Florida,” said Commissioner Putnam in a statement.

The sterile insect technique has been used since the 1950s as an effective way to eradicate screwworm. The technique is considered safe for people, animals and the environment.

The technique releases sterile male flies into infected areas. Those male flies then mate with local females, producing no offspring. With fewer fertile mates available in each succeeding generation, the fly, in essence, breeds itself out of existence.

Danny Burgess Jr. missed his daughter Adeline’s third birthday this week — he was busy in Tallahassee, presiding over his first meeting as chairman of the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee.

“She’s back home. She’s a three-nager. Daddy couldn’t be there,” said the Zephyrhills Republican.

He remarked on the “bittersweet” occasion following the committee, in which trial attorneys, the president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a representative of home restoration contractors, and state officials conducted a generally civil discussion of assignment of benefits reform.

“It’s been tough. What I think I’ve realized is that we all do this to make a difference and try to impact others’ lives in a positive way,” he said. “Along those roads we sometimes miss those precious moments in life, and today is definitely one of them. So I wanted to wish my baby girl happy birthday. Daddy loves you. I’ll be home soon. Hopefully, when she’s older, she will understand that we did all this for her and for all of our children.”

The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee began work this week to extend the lobbying ban for former members of the Legislature and statewide officeholders to six years, and to strengthen oversight of local and special district officials.

The panel discussed three proposed reform bills. The first, PCB PIEC 17-01, would extend the ban against lobbying their former agencies from the existing two years and apply it to statewide elected officials. The proposed constitutional amendment would require approval by three-fifths of the House and Senate and by more than 60 percent of the voters.

PCB PIEC 17-01 would change Florida Statutes to reflect the change, and also ban former legislators from lobbying executive agencies for six years.

PCB PIEC 17-03 would tighten ethics disclosures for local officials and bar them from creating shell companies to do businesses with boards on which they serve. Abstaining from matters in which they hold interests would not be enough — they also would have to abstain from lobbying or discussing such matters with colleagues.

Committee chairman Larry Metz said he’s open to creating a statewide lobbyist registration system to spare local governments the burden of creating individual their own.

Kraig Conn, legislative counsel to the Florida League of Cities, said local officials are open to reform but wary of creating “unnecessary barriers to public service.”

Attorneys for the Office of Insurance Regulation and a quasi-official ratings agency filed arguments on the merits of an appeal involving the 14.5 percent workers’ compensation premium hikes that began to kick in last month.

Miami workers’ comp attorney James Fee has challenged the increase, and persuaded Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers that OIR and the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, violated the Sunshine Law in calculating the new rate.

Both defendants argued the law doesn’t apply — it says rating agencies’ internal committees have to be open to the public, but NCCI dismantled its internal committee in 1991 over antritrust concerns. A single employee was responsible, although he consulted colleagues on the details. The rest of the process was open, they argued

“If allowed to stand, the trial court’s order will mark a dramatic expansion of the requirements of Florida’s Sunshine and Public Records Laws,” NCCI argued in its brief.

Fee has until Jan. 23 to file his reply brief.

The chairwoman of the House Energy & Utilities subcommittee might need to invest in a hard hat. Her members might want to do that, too.

During the panel’s first meeting this week, Kathleen Peters said she planned to conduct as many visits as possible to facilities operated by the utilities regulated by the Florida Public Service Commission, which the committee oversees.

“I strongly encourage you to contact your local utilities — whether its energy, whether its water, whether its telecommunications — and start setting up some site visits,” she said.

She said she’d be happy to accompany them on such outings and offered: “I hope you will join me on a lot of the tours I plan on taking this year and next.”

BlueLine Associates is moving south.

Gov. Scott announced this week that BlueLine Associates, a professional services firm, is planning to move its global headquarters to Tampa. The firm is moving from Cary, North Carolina, and the relocation will create 150 new jobs and invest more than $2 million in the local community.

“It is great news that BlueLine Associates chose to move their international headquarters to Florida from North Carolina, which will create more than 150 new jobs for Tampa families,” said Scott in a statement. “We were competing with North Carolina and Louisiana, but ultimately BlueLine Associates chose Florida for their new headquarters. I look forward to BlueLine Associates continued success in our state.”

BlueLine Associates provices consulting, managed services, and staffing solutions to a variety of industries. According to the Governor’s Office, new jobs are expected to pay an average annual wage of $71,909.

“This move gives us access to Florida’s strong talent pool and allows us to continue the strategic expansion of our business,” said Rocky Silvestri, president of BlueLine, in a statement. Our company culture is at the core of our business success, our client’s satisfaction, and the happiness of our people.  We are excited to bring those guiding principles to Tampa.”

Oysters for everyone!

Several Harris Corporation employees designed and built a machine to help restore oyster beds in the Indian River Lagoon. The machine — which was donated to the Brevard Zoo’s Oyster Restoration Program — helps funnel shells into oyster bags, which serve as the foundation for new reefs.

According to Harris Corporation, six employees donated 240 hours to design and build the mechanism.

The Brevard Zoo has been working on oyster restoration in the Indian River Lagoon for more than a decade.

The state’s wildlife management area system is looking good at 75.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the state’s wildlife management area (WMA) system, one of the state’s greatest natural treasures. To celebrate, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hosting free events throughout the year.

“Florida has one of the largest systems of public lands in the country at nearly 6 million acres, and these lands are the best of the best of what wild Florida has to offer,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “These natural communities span a variety of habitats from longleaf pine uplands and pine flatwoods to the hardwood hammocks and sawgrass savannas of the Everglades. Not only are these areas beautiful, they are managed to provide habitat for many species of wildlife and access for people to enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and more.”

The state’s wildlife management areas provide recreational opportunities, like paddling and horseback riding, and hunting opportunities to Floridians. The first WMA was established in 1941 in Charlotte and Lee counties. Today, the FWC is the lead manager or landowner of over 1.4 million acres, and works in partnership with other governmental or private landowners on another 4.5 million acres.

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:







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