Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 11.30.16


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

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


I read about late last night and had to share it with Sunburn readers.

This big-picture story from The New York Times’ Amanda Taub on the state of democracy globally — and in the United States — is troubling. Particularly this passage, where Taub writes:

Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ thing had risen to 1-in-6 in 2014, compared with 1-in-16 in 1995.


That trend is particularly strong among young people. For instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers calculated that 43% of older Americans believed it was illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19% of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 53% of older people thought a military takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36% of millennials agreed.”

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DRIVING THE DAY – CHRIS HART TOP PICK FOR NEXT ENTERPRISE FLORIDA HEAD via Florida Politics – Hart, longtime president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, was recommended Tuesday to become the next head of Enterprise Florida (EFI), the state’s public-private economic development organization. EFI’s executive committee unanimously backed Hart; the full board meets Wednesday morning at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa in the Florida Panhandle. The leading candidate, Michael Finney, took his name out of contention to pursue a teaching position. Finney had been president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The other candidate is Richard Biter, a retired assistant secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. Hart, if approved, will be paid $175,000-$200,000 per year, down from former agency leader Bill Johnson’s salary of $265,000. The agency’s head also serves as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce.


The Florida Senate’s ruling class has been crowned.

Senate President Joe Negron unveiled the final members of his leadership team and committee chairs Tuesday. Allies got prime posts. Freshmen senators snagged chairmanships. And for the second term in a row, a future Senate President is now the Majority Leader.

Here are seven things to know about the Senate hierarchy:

Call him “Leader” — Negron tapped Sen. Wilton Simpson to be the Senate Majority Leader for the 2016-18 term. The Trilby Republican is often credited with helping to end the fight for the Senate presidency between Negron and Sen. Jack Latvala, and appears to be handsomely rewarded. Simpson is in line to become the Senate President in 2020-22, as long as Republicans keep the majority. And he’s the second future Senate President to serve in the role in recent years. Sen. Bill Galvano held the position during the 2014-16 term, and is line to ascend to the presidency in two years.

Double duty — Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, will have her hands full for the next few years. Negron picked Flores, a longtime ally, to serve as his Senate President Pro Tempore, and on Tuesday announced she’ll be chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services appropriations subcommittee and the Senate’s Banking and Insurance committee. She’s also the No. 2 on all-powerful Senate Appropriations committee, serving as vice-chair to Latvala’s chairman.

Rule-maker — Negron looked to another top ally, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, to chair the Senate Rules committee. A former Senate Majority Leader, the Fort Myers Republican will now play a big role in deciding which bills make it to the Senate floor. She’ll also be tasked with navigating the occasional — and sometimes sticky — rules dispute.

Pinellas power — One thing was clear Tuesday: Pinellas County lawmakers scored plum assignments. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, had already been installed as the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations committee. But on Tuesday, Negron announced Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, would serve as chairman of the Senate’s Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee. Need money for a project in Pinellas? The next two years might be the best time to ask.

High priority — It’s not a secret that Negron plans to make higher education and criminal justice a top priority for his time as president. He’s vowed to boost the state’s public universities and wants to put an end to what he has called the criminalizing of adolescence. To help accomplish his goals, Negron turned to Galvano and Sen. Randolph Bracy. Galvano will serve as the chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee, where he’ll be responsible for finding cash for help fund Negron’s priorities. Negron tapped Bracy, a freshman Democrat, to chair the Senate Criminal Justice committee. Expect him to tackle policies that will help reduce the number of juveniles who end up behind bars.

Democrats in charge — Bracy isn’t the only Democrat that Negron picked to head a Senate committee. In a show of bipartisanship, Democrats will be at the helm of three other committees. Sen. Lauren Book, a freshman member from South Florida and the daughter of legendary lobbyist Ron Book, will chair the Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee. Negron tapped Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson to serve as the chairwoman of the Military and Veteran Affairs, Space and Domestic Security committee; while Tallahassee Sen. Bill Montford will serve as chairman of the Commerce and Tourism committee.

Pro-gun chairman — An advocate of expanding the rights of gun owners will now oversee the same committee that blocked concealed carry legislation in years past. Negron picked Sen. Greg Steube, a freshman Republican senator from Sarasota, to head the Judiciary Committee. Steube backed bills to expand the rights of concealed weapon permit holders while in the House, but many were blocked by then-Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee. Steube has said he’s planning to file a broad bill to expand the rights of concealed carry permit holders, and legislation has already been filed in the House.

— “Senate Democrats not completely shut out of power in Joe Negron administration” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

— “Senate education committees get makeover, new leaders via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida

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TOM LEE FILES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ON PROPERTY TAXES via Florida Politics – Lee has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to keep “dramatic increases in annual property tax assessments” in check on vacation homes and other properties. “Failure to pass this joint resolution will result in one of the largest tax increases in the history of our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Florida voters will have the ultimate say on the 2018 ballot, but it is the legislature’s responsibility to act in a timely manner so these important provisions don’t expire.” The amendment, which would apply to Section 27 of Article XII of the state constitution, would protect limits now in place on annual tax hikes. Florida voters amended the constitution in 2008 to give property owners some protection, according to a statement from Lee’s office. “The amendment, set to expire in 2019, currently prohibits the assessment of certain non-homestead property, including second homes, rental properties, vacation homes, vacant land or commercial property, from increasing by more than 10 percent per year,” it said. “Sen. Lee’s resolution would extend this provision indefinitely.” Property owners affected by this provision in 2016 will save $776 million, he said.

HAPPENING TODAY – DUVAL LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION MEETS TO SELECT CHAIR — The Duval County legislative delegation will hold an organizational meeting at 1 p.m. in Jacksonville City Council Chambers, 117 W. Duval Street in Jacksonville to elect the incoming 2016-17 delegation chair and vice chair. The committee will also convene for its general legislative public hearing. The meeting is scheduled to go until 5 p.m.

INSURANCE OFFICE APPEALS RULING BLOCKING WORKERS’ COMP PREMIUM HIKE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has appealed a trial court ruling blocking a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, putting that ruling on hold pending review by a state appeals court. The office filed its notice of appeal … with the 1st District Court of Appeal. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled … that the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, which proposes rates for workers’ compensation insurers in Florida, failed to open its deliberations to the public or provide its data to an actuarial expert retained by the plaintiff in the case. That, Gievers concluded, violated Florida’s open-government laws. Miami workers’ compensation attorney James Fee had challenged the rate hike in his capacity as a business owner who buys insurance for his employees. His lawsuit named NCCI and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. The rating agency said it also planned to challenge Gievers’ ruling. The increase, valued at $1.5 billion, was due to begin taking effect Thursday and would roll out over the next 12 months as business owners’ policies come up for renewal. The office approved the increase Oct. 5.

JUDGE FINDS FOR CORRECTIONS IN DRUG-TREATMENT VENDOR DISPUTE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – An administrative law judge is recommending dismissing a challenge to the Department of Corrections seeking outside substance-abuse treatment and other transitioning-back-into-society services in Orange County. Bridges of America, the Orlando-based nonprofit that runs the program, has for months been waging a legal and PR battle to keep its facility open, and another in Broward County. The Broward battle ended in a settlement. Corrections has been letting its agreements with vendors expire as part of a larger plan to reduce services “outside the walls.” The department previously announced a new program called Spectrum, which will offer many of the same services Bridges provides, but inside the state’s prisons. Judge Lisa Shearer Nelson last week found that the department’s invitation for bids was “not contrary to competition, arbitrary or capricious, and (does) not contravene the Department’s governing statutes, the agency’s rules or policies.” … “The successful vendor under the (request for proposal), should there be one, would still be providing a community release center,” she wrote. The order went back to the department, which is expected to adopt its findings. “The department is looking forward to continuing to work with Bridges of America to provide services to inmates and offenders in an effective and efficient manner,” Michelle Glady, FDOC spokewoman, said in a statement.

BONG BAN DOESN’T APPLY TO MEDICAL POT, ADVOCATE SAYS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Florida’s bong ban, as toothless as critics say it may be, now is preempted by the recently approved constitutional amendment on medical marijuana. That’s according to Ben Pollara, campaign manager of United for Care. The group has fought for the ballot initiative, which first failed in 2014 before passing this year with 71 percent of the vote. State law prohibits devices such as “metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic pipes,” commonly known as “bongs,” when used to smoke pot. But the amendment’s language says “medical marijuana treatment centers” can “sell (and) distribute” what it calls “related supplies,” so long as they go to “qualifying patients or their caregivers” and are registered with the state Department of Health. “The plain language of the amendment covers ‘related supplies’ and was written that way precisely because of poorly conceived pieces of public policy such as the law in question.” Pollara said. Lawmakers have tweaked the bong ban over the years, to include ever more inventive ways of smoking. They have outlawed “2-liter-type soda bottles” if used to smoke an illegal substance, and even have banned “balloons” and “duct tape” if used as drug paraphernalia. State Sen. Darryl Rouson … backed a bill when he was in the House that made the sale of all marijuana pipes a first-degree misdemeanor, with second and subsequent violations classified a third-degree felony. The Legislature passed the bill, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott and became law in 2013. But even Rouson has admitted that the amendment, if passed, would basically nullify any bong ban as it relates to medical pot.

FLORIDA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION APPLAUDS DONALD TRUMP FOR HHS PICK via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The president-elect selected Georgia Rep. Tom Price, a critic of the Affordable Care Act, to head the Department of Health and Human Services. If confirmed by the Senate, he is expected to play a critical role in Republican efforts to repeal and replace the current health care law. “As a physician, Dr. Price understands the impact that government policies have on the delivery of care and we believe he will bring common-sense solutions to the challenges facing our health care system,” said Dr. David Becker, president of the Florida Medical Association. Price, a 62-year-old six term congressman and orthopedic surgeon, has chaired the House Budget Committee for the past two years. A conservative from the Atlanta suburbs, he has worked closely with House Speaker Paul Ryan to craft GOP budgets aimed at reducing the deficit. “President-elect Trump has made an excellent decision in nominating Dr. Price,” said FMA CEO Timothy J. Stapleton. “He has spent his entire career serving as an advocate for patients, as both a physician and a legislator. We look forward to working with him to improve our nation’s health care system.”

— “Trump adds Dennis Ross to transition team” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

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HAPPENING TODAY — STEVE SCHALE TALKS TO TALLAHASSEE TIGER BAY CLUB — The Democratic consultant is scheduled to speak at the Capital Tiger Bay Club at 11:30 a.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola in Tallahassee.

HAPPENING THURSDAY — NEAL DUNN HOSTS “PRIMARY DEBT RETIREMENT” FUNDRAISER — Incoming Rep. Neal Dunn is scheduled to hold a “primary debt retirement breakfast” at 8 a.m. Thursday at The Capitol Hill Club, 300 1st Street, SE in Washington, D.C. The event calls for a $2,500 contribution to be considered a PAC host and $1,000 contribution to be an individual host. The event will benefit Friends of Neal Dunn. Dunn defeated two other Republicans in the Aug. 30 primary in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The doctor defeated Democrat Walter Dartland and Libertarian Rob Lapham in the November general election.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Eddie BorregoPhil Compton, former Rep. Keith Fitzgerald.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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