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

trump, donald - scowling

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.

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.

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