Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.18.18
Sunrise in Miami

Sunrise in Miami

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

We must begin this day with a special happy birthday shout-out to our sister from another mother, the AMAZING … the INCREDIBLY KIND … the insert-superlative-here Stephanie Smith, who would easily win a straw ballot vote among those who work in Florida politics if asked to name the most liked person in The Process.

But she is wildly accomplished, too! From her days in the Governor’s Office to her work with AT&T and now in her current role with ride-sharing pace-setter Uber, Smith has built a career out of one success after another. It’s no wonder Smith was voted the winner of the Golden Rotunda award last year for best in-house lobbyist.

Right now Smith is traveling in the Czech Republic, where she is several hours ahead of us, so she’ll probably be just sitting down to lunch as Sunburn hits in-boxes. Please join us in celebrating her day by wishing her a happy birthday on Twitter. Her handle is @StephSmithFL.

Stephanie Smith, Florida Public Policy manager at Uber.

Happy 25th wedding anniversary to Screven and Teah Watson. It ain’t easy making it a quarter century, but if you want to read how it’s done, check out Screven’s beautiful and, um, historically accurate message on Facebook.

Welcome to the world Crawford Grover Brown, the sparkling baby boy of Jessica Crawford and Donovan Brown. “He and momma are happy and healthy,” writes Brown on Facebook. “Daddy is overfilled with joy and is a big ball of mush. His brother and sister are over the moon in love with him.”

Congratulations to the new parents!

First in Sunburn is a major personnel note — Jeff Woodburn joins The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners — The Advocacy Group — one of the state’s leading, full-service government relations firms — has added Woodburn, a top policy adviser and legal counsel, to its team of experts in Florida, the firm has announced. Woodburn most recently served as policy director for Governor-elect Ron DeSantis‘ campaign.

Woodburn “has deep policy, government, and legal experience, which is critical to counseling and effective representation, and I’m thrilled he has joined our team,” Senior Partner Al Cardenas said. “His time in leadership positions in the Florida Legislature, executive level and government agencies — including directing policy for CFO Jimmy Patronis‘ office and Governor-elect DeSantis’ campaign — will prove invaluable for our clients.” … Woodburn will help manage legislative and regulatory services in the firm’s downtown Tallahassee office.

Congrats: Jeff Woodburn “has deep policy, government, and legal experience, which is critical to counseling and effective representation,” Al Cardenas said. “I’m thrilled he has joined our team.” Image via Mark Wallheiser.

Sunburn learned about one more major personnel note late Monday night and would be remiss if it did not put it as close to the top of ‘burn as possible.

Samantha Sexton, who would be described as one of Florida politics brightest young stars were she not already well on her way to a blockbuster career, will be named the new Director for Government Relations for the University of Florida, leading its Tallahassee office and reporting to the great Mark Kaplan.

“Samantha is going to help UF build on our momentum in research, academic excellence, and economic development to become a Top 5 national public university and deliver even greater benefit to our state,” said Kaplan. “She has been a tireless champion for her alma mater and I am excited that Samantha is bringing her advocacy skills and savvy to our team. She will be a great fit.”

Sexton had previous been with the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, whose leaders were smart and kind enough to know that Sexton is bound for big things and wish to see her succeed.

“Sam has been a great contributor to PIFF’s recent successes and an integral and effective part of our advocacy effort,” said Michael Carlson, president of PIFF, “While we are sorry to see her go, we know that she will make a great contribution to the University. We wish her the very best.”

Congrats Samantha.


Tweet of the day:

@DavidJollyFL: Just an opinion, but for any GOPer considering primarying Trump: if you weren’t all in opposing him when it mattered – through persistent word, deed, & vote – then no amount of professed conviction as a 2020 candidate will matter. There’s really no lane for you. cc: Lot of folks

@FeedHopeNow: As an infant, Ryan needed a liver transplant – which was no small feat in the 1980s. Thanks to the advocacy of @SenBillNelson & President Reagan, Ryan found a match! Fast forward 37 years. Today, Ryan helped serve a farewell lunch for Senator Nelson as Culinary Training student.

—@MattGaetz: .@RonDeSantisFL was right to call out @Airbnb for treating Jewish homes in the West Bank differently. I’m glad to see they have now reversed course. Great leadership from #DesantisNuñez.

—@JebBush: Congratulations to @Richardcorcoran on today’s state board of education vote. Under the leadership of @RonDeSantisFL and @Richardcorcoran, Florida will remain a national leader in empowering parents and providing every child with access to a quality education.

@DanTallahassee: We’re 2.5 hours into this Leon County delegation meeting. The silver lining? Barbara DeVane, Florida NOW lobbyist, just said she has to deal with a lot “bullshit” at the Capitol.

@SteveSchale: Christmas present to myself —> taking a Holiday break from the ole Twitters. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas!

@UPSStore: If your child addresses a letter to the North Pole, you can leave it with us. We do shredding.

@JoePClements: There is no social sin more grave than listening to a device sans headphones in public.


116th Congress convenes — 16; College Football National Championship — 20; Florida’s gubernatorial inauguration — 21; Scott Maddox trial begins — 27; Office of Insurance Regulation’s OIR Summit begins — 28; Super Bowl LIII — 47; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 56; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 77; Tampa mayoral election — 77; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 80; Iowa Caucuses — 412; 2020 General Election — 686.


Nikki Fried wants pardon for Groveland 4” via The Associated Press — Florida’s incoming agriculture commissioner says she wants to get a formal pardon for four young African-American men wrongly accused of raping a white woman in what is considered one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in Jim Crow-era Florida. Fried said she would bring up the Groveland Four’s case at the first Florida Cabinet meeting she attends and try to expedite a review that could lead to their posthumous pardon at a clemency board hearing. As Agriculture Commissioner, Fried is one of four members on the state’s clemency board, which also includes the Governor, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer.

The Groveland Four: (L to R) Jailer Reuben Hatcher, Walter Irvin, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall Image via Gary Corsair/Orlando Sentinel.

>>>How morally right and politically smart is this move by Fried? Well, when you have a prominent thought leader on the left (Chris Hand tweets: This is the leadership that the #GrovelandFour & their families have needed for so long. Thank you, @nikkifried, for your commitment to justice for the @TheGroveland4) and an outspoken conservative (Sarah Rumpf tweets: Good move by ⁦@Nikkifried⁩. I sincerely hope the rest of the new Cabinet will act swiftly on this) both saluting the effort, that’s when you know you are doing the right thing.


Florida’s first Latina Lieutenant Governor to play an active role in an obscure post” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — When DeSantis’ campaign first contacted Jeanette Nuñez about joining the Republican ticket for Florida Governor, the veteran state lawmaker wanted a little more information and some time to think. On the verge of leaving the Florida House of Representatives, Nuñez needed to know she could commit to the campaign. She also wanted to be sure she’d fit with DeSantis, a Palm Coast Congressman with little experience in state politics. And then there was the issue of her responsibilities in what historically has been an obscure post with no job description and little function. “I wanted to make sure he and I share the same vision of what a Lieutenant Governor would be and would do under his administration,” Nuñez said in an interview. “We both agree as Lieutenant Governor-elect I’ll have an active role in the administration.” Heading into the Jan. 8 inauguration, signs suggest that Nuñez will not only have a role to play in the DeSantis administration, but she may become one of the most important Lieutenant Governors in recent memory. Her role only figures to grow as the Legislature convenes its annual Session in March.

Jeannette Nuñez is not going to be your run-of-the-mill Lieutenant Governor.

Richard Corcoran unanimously appointed Commissioner of Education” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis publicly recommended Corcoran, who has served as a top adviser to DeSantis during the transition. Corcoran talked about his vision for the future of Florida’s educational system, which is to move away from what he called “one-size-fits-all” schools. “We won’t be concerned with tradition, or who has the power, or who has the might,” Corcoran said. “What we’re going to do is break down those walls and give kids an opportunity.” Several members of the audience, including Andrew Spar, the vice president of the state teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, questioned why the board would “forfeit” its ability to do a national search for the next commissioner, as it had done in the past. Michael Olenick, one of the board members, said Corcoran “checks all the boxes,” eliminating the need for a search. Following the meeting, Fedrick Ingram, the president of the FEA, told reporters the union was “disappointed” in Corcoran’s pick, but said he was holding out for a sense of collaboration from the former speaker.

Ron DeSantis wants Jim Zingale for Dep’t of Revenue director” via Florida Politics — DeSantis will recommend Zingale as the next head of the state’s Department of Revenue (DOR), “build(ing) on the DeSantis-Nuñez Administration’s promise of bipartisanship.” “I am pleased to recommend (him) … and am certain the Cabinet will share my confidence in Jim,” DeSantis said in a statement. If chosen for Revenue, it would be a homecoming: Zingale served 18 years with the department, serving as Deputy Director for nine years and seven years as Executive Director, the top job. The position answers to both the Governor and Cabinet, meaning hiring and firing also requires the consent of the CFO, Attorney General and Agriculture Commissioner … Zingale most recently served as Research Director of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, and he also was a consultant with Capitol Hill Group and Deloitte.

DeSantis task force hones in on environmental improvement” via Florida Politics — DeSantis‘ transition from Governor-elect to Governor continues, and primary to that: his Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture. The 40-person panel, chaired by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, is expected to make recommendations by the end of December, on issues ranging from restoring the Everglades to controlling the red tide and green algae that have polluted Florida’s waterways and choked out aquatic life …. Mast said the goal was “how to achieve more immediately” so that DeSantis can be the “best governor for the environment in Florida’s history,” echoing the recurrent contention that DeSantis will be a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” Whether that’s just an aspirational goal or something more remains to be seen.

DeSantis announces Transition Advisory Committee on Government Operations” via the Sunshine State News — The committee will be chaired by Larry Hart, Lee County tax collector. The committee is comprised of a diverse group who will advise and develop their plan to implement DeSantis’ goal of “ensuring that the most critical functions of government are operating efficiently, responsibly and with the utmost transparency and accountability.” The committee will also be focused on the state’s “burdensome” regulatory environment and streamlining processes. Members of the more than 30-member Committee includes former Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold, attorney Richard Coates, former state Sen. Pat Neal, former state Reps. Chris DorworthClay IngramMarcello Llorente and Tom Grady, as well as Marathon City Manager Charles Lindsay and former Deputy Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Department of Management Services Ken Granger.

Happening today — The DeSantis Transition Advisory Committee on the Economy will meet at 1 p.m., at the University of South Florida Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, 124 S. Franklin St., Tampa.


Lauren Book files bill to ban sale of child-like sex toys — Sen. Book filed a bill (SB 160) saying, “A person may not knowingly sell, lend, give away, distribute, transmit, show, or transmute … an obscene, child-like sex doll.” The bill would also bar any offers to do the same, or possessing such a doll with the intent to sell. Advertising the objects would also be criminalized. A violation would be a third-degree felony. Book, who represents Senate District 32 in Broward County, has made preventing the abuse of children a top priority of hers in the Legislature. Book, a Plantation Democrat, was named chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs late last month.

Activist and state Sen. Lauren Book is cracking down on sex dolls that have child-like features.

SpottedJeff Brandes in “States race to catch up with electric scooters” via Wall Street Journal — … More than 25 states and Washington, D.C., have e-scooter sharing services operating in them, according to scooter-sharing companies. Republican state Sen. Brandes said he would introduce a bill in March, when the new legislative session begins, to clarify that they are legal under state law. “It’s all brand-new, and we want to maximize our flexibility,” he said, adding the state will likely leave rule-making largely to local officials.

Jackie Toledo files bill making texting while driving ’primary offense‘“ via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rep. Toledo filed a bill Monday that would make “distracted driving” a primary offense. The bill (HB 107) would apply to texting while driving and to talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving. Current law bans using a cellphone while driving as a secondary offense, which means law enforcement officers can only pull over or cite a driver if they’ve committed another infraction. … Toledo filed similar legislation during the 2018 Legislative Session; it passed 112-2 in the Florida House, but failed in the Senate. Wilton Simpson is sponsoring the bill in the Senate this year.

Interview with incoming House Education Committee chair Jennifer Sullivan” via podcastED of redefinED — State Rep. Sullivan … said being home-schooled gives her unique insights into parental choice and personalized learning that will inform her worldview as the new chair of the House Education Committee. In this redefinED podcast, she points out she struggled to read as a child. Had she been educated in a Florida public school rather than at home — where her mom had more flexibility to try different approaches — she said she might have fallen short on Florida’s third-grade reading test and been retained. “As we did life, she read to me a lot. And we would work on it. But not in a way where I even knew we were working on it,” Sullivan said.

Newly named House Education Committee Chair Jennifer Sullivan talks education with refinED. (Image via Colin Hackley)

Indian River aid, ‘Home Rule’ urged to Volusia lawmakers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Time and again, representatives of Volusia County, Daytona Beach and other cities and towns in the county urged support for septic-to-sewer and other environmental protection projects aimed at improving the struggling Indian River Lagoon. And time and again, they defended the “Home Rule” provisions that have been picked at and almost picked apart by the last couple of Florida Legislatures. “It’s heartening to hear themes that are so central to so many cities,” New Smyrna Beach Mayor Russell Owen told the delegation meeting. With state Sen. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs taking the chair and state Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff of DeLand taking the vice chair, the seven-member delegation — all Republicans — heard a troubling update on the health of the Indian River Lagoon, presentations a couple of proposed local bills and of a handful of pleas for local projects, many of which were oriented toward improving the health of Indian River.

Happening today — State analysts are slated to revise estimates of general-revenue taxes, which play a key role in funding Florida’s schools, health care programs and prison system. The analysts, meeting as the state Revenue Estimating Conference, huddle periodically during the year to review data and update such things as sales-tax estimates. The process is closely watched in the Capitol, with the results helping determine how much money the Legislature will have for the state budget. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Happening today — The Pinellas County legislative delegation — state Sens. Darryl RousonEd Hooper and Brandes, as well as state Reps. Chris SprowlsJames GrantNick DiCeglieChris LatvalaBen DiamondJennifer Webb and Wengay Newton — meet in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session, 9 a.m., St. Petersburg College, Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. North, Seminole.

Happening today — The Broward County legislative delegation will hold a public hearing in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session, discussing several topics, including education, cultural affairs and health and human services., 9:30 a.m., City of Sunrise Civic Center, 10610 West Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise.

Happening today — The Clay County legislative delegation — state Sen. Rob Bradley, as well as state Reps. Travis Cummings and Bobby Payne — will it be in advance of the 2019 Legislative Session, 4 p.m., Clay County Commission chamber, 477 Houston St., Green Cove Springs.


Aging advocates sue Florida over Medicaid waitlists via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Two advocacy groups are suing Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, contending changes in the state’s Medicaid waitlists discriminate against the elderly and the poor. Justice in Aging and Southern Legal Counsel contend in a recently-filed class-action lawsuit that consolidating waitlists for certain Medicaid services effectively prevent low-income older adults and individuals with disabilities from obtaining care. “Defendants have the ability, under federal Medicaid law, to provide these services,” the complaint reads. “Instead, they ration services to a restricted number of people, and, as a result, fail to address the care needs of thousands of wait-listed older adults and adults with disabilities.”

Supreme Court turns down Uber records case” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal filed by a subsidiary of Uber Technologies in a dispute about whether Broward County needs to release records about the number of passengers picked up by Uber drivers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Uber subsidiary, Rasier-DC, LLC, went to the Supreme Court in March after a ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal. A company that operates Yellow Cab in the Broward area filed the lawsuit requesting records submitted by the Uber subsidiary to the county as part of a licensing agreement. A panel of the appeals court upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that part of the information is not covered by trade-secret protections and should be public.


Another headache for Broward’s new elections chief: rejected paychecks” via Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Some poll workers tried to cash their checks, only to have them rejected by their banks. Others haven’t gotten their checks yet because they were sent to wrong addresses. The rejected checks weren’t because the elections office was out of money, but because the routing numbers for its bank account were missing. Poll worker Bill Garrett was surprised to get a letter from Bank of America that his $180 deposit was posted to his account in error as the check did not have the needed numbers. It turns out, staff told Broward’s new elections supervisor Pete Antonacci that Garrett’s problem was a “very common one,” with poll workers tearing off part of the routing numbers or using scissors and cutting above the numbers. “The remedy is simple,” Antonacci said. “Quit using this skinny, insubstantial paper” and keep the perforation marks away from the routing numbers. Antonacci has directed staff to use the vendor-type set-up and paper for future checks to poll workers.

Judge Laurel Lee, wife of Sen. Tom Lee, asked to recuse from transportation tax lawsuit” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Monday is the deadline for defendants in the All For Transportation sales tax lawsuit to request that the presiding judge take herself off the case. The question remains: Does Hillsborough Circuit Judge Lee have too big a conflict of interest to oversee the case in an impartial and unbiased manner? The 1 percent transportation-and-transit sales tax was approved by voters in Hillsborough County last month. Lee’s husband, Republican state Sen. Lee of Thonotosassa, was a vocal critic of the All For Transportation initiative … Documents obtained from Hillsborough County through a public records request show one of the attorneys representing Stacy White in his case … is a major donor to Sen. Lee. Tampa attorney Martin Garcia personally donated $1,000 to Lee’s campaign in late September. His real estate firm, Pinehill Capital Partners, donated $1,000 that same day. The year before that, the firm contributed $10,000 and another $10,000 in 2015, campaign finance records show.

Sen. Tom and Judge Laurel Lee, who is being asked to recuse herself from the legal challenge to the transportation tax her husband opposes.

FPL finishes deal for Vero Beach utility” via the News Service of Florida — FPL said it would provide service to about 35,000 customers in Vero Beach and other areas of Indian River County. The state Public Service Commission on Nov. 27 gave final approvals for the deal, which FPL says will lead to lower electric bills for the former Vero Beach utility customers. “After nearly a decade of work together, we were able to overcome every obstacle and help the city achieve its goal of reducing electricity costs,” FPL President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Silagy said in a statement.

Wakulla County Commission chairman Ralph Thomas files for HD 7” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Thomas, who chairs the Wakulla County Commission, has filed to replace state Rep. Halsey Beshears in House District 7. “I served our nation in uniform, and now I want to serve our rural communities in the Florida House of Representatives,” said Thomas, who was a member of the U.S. Navy from 1985 to 1997. “As a hometown small-business man, veteran, and conservative leader, I understand our blue-collar communities and will fight for our beliefs in Tallahassee. We believe in hard work, Christian values, and making America great again.” Thomas was previously rumored to be interested in the seat after Beshears was chosen by Governor-elect DeSantis to be the next Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Trust for Poynter founder’s widow sues Tampa Bay Times for defaulting on multimillion-dollar loan” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Marion K. Poynter Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust loaned the Times Holding Co. and Times Publishing Co. $9.1 million on May 2, 2016 — one day before the Times announced its acquisition of the Tampa Tribune — according to the lawsuit, filed Dec. 6 in Fauquier County, Virginia. Marion Poynter, who resides in Fauquier County, is the widow of Nelson Poynter, the longtime Tampa Bay Times publisher who created its present-day ownership structure. The Times’ balance on the Poynter loan is $7.79 million with a 1.42 percent interest rate, according to the lawsuit, which states that the Times made all its payments between June 1, 2016, and April 1, 2018. The defaults also came about one year after multiple local philanthropists, including Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and health care titan Dr. Kiran C. Patel, backed FBN Partners, a local investor group that was formed to support the newspaper.


Partial government shutdown could impact Florida” via Jerry Hume of Spectrum News 13 — Workers at the Kennedy Space Center would be forced to stay home Christmas week, and there is no guarantee they would get back pay. In previous government shutdowns, only 38 Kennedy Space Center employees were exempt out of the 1,970 employees. The potential shutdown would not impact Tuesday’s planned SpaceX launch, but it could slow down launches planned in the new year. Tens of thousands of customs and border protection agents would be required to work without pay during the holidays. The Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks would also be a part of the shutdown.

Kennedy Space Center would be particularly hard hit in a partial government shutdown.


Gov.-elect DeSantis, meet the Florida Constitution” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times — Weeks before he takes office, DeSantis is suggesting we ignore the state Constitution. In this case, DeSantis has concerns about the implementation of Amendment 4. The governor-elect wants to postpone the Jan. 8 implementation of the amendment until the Legislature weighs in. Now it should be pointed out that this is a major change in state law, and there are some administrative issues that need to be figured out. But, and I don’t think I’m breaking news here, that’s the governor’s job. And the Legislature has absolutely no role. “That was the best part of Amendment 4,’’ said Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. “In the long history of amendments, it might have been the most straightforward and coherent ever written.’’

Thank Pam Bondi if Floridians lose health care benefits” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The federal lawsuit she joined on behalf of the state to challenge the Affordable Care Act resonated with a friendly conservative judge in Texas, who struck down the entire law. The ruling will be appealed, but it unnecessarily leaves millions of Floridians anxious and uncertain about whether they will get to keep their benefits and coverage in the long term. The judge concluded the entire law must be scrapped because he found unconstitutional the requirement that most Americans must have health coverage or pay a tax penalty. That is little comfort to Floridians who are among 23 million Americans who get health coverage through the federal or state marketplaces, or through Medicaid expansion in 36 states. Now the future of those benefits, from coverage on the federal marketplace to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, has been put at risk by a partisan lawsuit from Republicans who have failed for years to improve the Affordable Care Act or craft a viable alternative. Those plaintiffs include the most partisan Florida attorney general in memory, who fortunately has just three weeks left in office before she heads to Fox News or parts unknown. Merry Christmas, from Bondi.

Will Coggin: This holiday season, beware of naughty charities” via Florida Politics — Naturally, people want to give to good and effective charities so their donation can actually make more of an impact. A good charity is more difficult to find than many people would expect. Part of the problem is so many charities are poorly run and lack any serious accountability — a “black hole” of accountability, according to some experts. One example is the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, which was the subject of a CNN exposé revealing the organization raised $55.9 million over several years, yet virtually none of that money was given to veterans. What should you do? First, be sure to check out a nonprofit with a thorough evaluator. CharityWatch, a nonprofit watchdog, is considered one of the best. More fundamentally, consider giving locally. National charities of all stripes run into the same issues: Non-transparency, bloat, corporatism, donations spent on consultants and executives, etc.


First in Sunburn — Daniel Nordby, general counsel to Rick Scott, resigns — Gov. Scott’s top in-house lawyer last Friday tendered his resignation, effective Jan. 8, Scott’s last day in office. In a letter to DeSantis, Nordby called his 20 months as general counsel “the highlight of my professional career.” His “most enduring responsibility,” he added, was advising Scott “on the appointment of more than 100 judges to Florida’s trial and appellate courts.” He’s a triple graduate of the University of Florida, with a bachelor of science in Microbiology and Cell Science, a bachelor of arts in Classical Studies, and a law degree that he received magna cum laude. His résumé is here.

Nordby out: Daniel Nordby has resigned as General Counsel to Gov. Rick Scott

Former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to chair FAIR — The Florida Association for Insurance Reform (FAIR) announced that McCarty was elected chair of the “nonpartisan association advocating for balanced insurance reforms.” He just joined the Board of Directors last month. In a statement, McCarty said, “What makes this organization unique is its commitment to advancing the dialogue among diverse stakeholders with the ultimate objective of providing quality insurance products at affordable prices.” The organization also announced that retired insurance executive Sonja Larkin-Thorne would be co-chair. McCarty was Florida’s first appointed Insurance Commissioner, serving 2003-16. He was forced out by Gov. Scott after being pressured by a prominent insurance lobbyist who was one of Scott’s top fundraising bundlers. In 2016, McCarty founded Celtic Global Consulting, “providing comprehensive services focused on insurance issues and trends.” 

Personnel note: Bob Burleson joins Ballard Partners — The lobbying firm said Burleson, the longtime Florida Transportation Builders Association (FTBA) President, will become a partner of its Tallahassee office following his retirement from FTBA. Burleson has been a fixture at the Florida Capitol since 1989. “With Burleson at the helm, FTBA achieved countless legislative victories over the last three decades, from securing the largest funding increase for transportation in Florida history to protecting the state’s transportation trust fund,” a news release said. Before that, Burleson was an executive at southeast construction company Wiley N. Jackson Co. for nearly 20 years until its sale in 1987. “His many years successfully navigating the Florida legislative process … make Bob a tremendous asset to the Ballard Partners team and our clients,” Brian Ballard said.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Keith Arnold, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Bad Boy Bail Bonds, Inc.

Gus Corbella, Greenberg Traurig: Florida Grand Opera

Richard Fidei, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: ProSelect Insurance Company

Thomas Griffin, Lisa Hurley, Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Florida Surveying and Mapping Society, Ringling College of Art & Design. UAS Association of Florida

Carlton Mayers, SPLC Action Fund

Brian Sullivan: Alzheimer’s Association

Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Miami Downtown Development Authority


As a lobbyist, Jennings DePriest saw an opportunity to change the way associations connect with lawmakers. 

After striking a partnership with Tallahassee app designers, he did just that. 

Jennings DePriest wants to change the way lobbyists interact with lawmakers.

RallyWise is a fresh mobile app designed for associations looking to make a difference. The full-service tool connects users with lawmakers, tracks bills and pushes updates to your home screen. 

Price: $1250 annually gets an association of unlimited users, bills and updates. 

Clientele: Already using the service are the Florida Swimming Pool Association, Florida American Legion, Coastal Conservation Association Florida and Florida Blockchain Business Association.

Added value: It’s neither a replacement nor competitor to LobbyTools, according to DePriest. Instead, RallyWise is a complementary tool focused on helping association members with varying interests — people like single-issue advocates who may never travel to Tallahassee but want to effect change from home.


Holiday gas price outlook looking merry” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — The holidays can be hard on wallets, but gas prices may not add as much to that strain this year. AAA, the Auto Club Group, predicts that Florida is heading for two-year gas price lows for the holidays’ thanks to lower oil prices. State gas prices averaged $2.29 a gallon on Monday, down one cent over the week. Tampa Bay gas prices averaged $2.20 a gallon, up 8 cents over the week. Nationally, gas was $2.37 a gallon Monday.

’Salvage Santa’ redoubles holiday efforts to help storm-ravaged Panama City” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Two months after one of the strongest hurricanes on record passed over Mike Jones’ house, half the structure sits mangled and exposed to the cool north Florida temperatures. Like the rest of the people who live in and around this port town, Jones is trudging toward recovery from Hurricane Michael. Jones, 65, has another name in these parts: “Salvage Santa.” The identity arose from his decades of fixing up damaged toys and handing them out to children in need at Christmastime. Normally, he gathers enough over the year for 800 to 1,000 children. But this year, he’s partnering with Bay District Schools to stock toys for 14,000 kids. He’ll be handing them out with a crew of elflike volunteers during a five-day giveaway event. Since the call went out on social media last month, donations have rolled in from near and far, including a bicycle salvage group from the Tampa area called Bikes for Christ.

Panama City’s Mike Jones takes donations of toys and used bikes, repairs them and gives them the needy families, earning him the name ‘Salvage Santa.’ (Image via

Florida family enters ‘great Christmas light fight’ hoping to win money for a giraffe” via Kevin Boyer of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Michelle Sowell and her two daughters have been putting on the “Sowell’s North Pole Christmas Lights Display” for 15 years, because she loves the holiday and wanted to bring a big Christmas attraction to Santa Rosa County. She said her family used to visit St. Anne’s Catholic Church’s light display in Pensacola before the church stopped putting them on. Soon after, she decided to continue the tradition at home. The Sowell Farms lights might win the family some money this year — $50,000 to be precise — as finalists of the ABC television show “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” “We want a giraffe,” Sowell said. She wasn’t kidding. The farm has several exotic animals, she said, including a zebra, kangaroo and a camel. The farm also serves as a wedding venue, and brides, Sowell said, love including the exotic animals.

— ALOE —

Disney pays $23 million for ranch land near celebration. See what the mouse might do with it.” via Laura Kinsler of the Orlando Sentinel — The BK Ranch, located on Old Tampa Highway about a mile west of the Poinciana SunRail station, has been envisioned for years a master-planned community to rival Celebration, the world-famous, Disney-built neighborhood. The ranch’s master plan calls for 3,000 homes and 378,000 square feet of commercial and office space. The transaction follows the same model as Disney’s 2014 purchase of Mira Lago, a failed 3,000-acre residential development south of Poinciana. It was bought to mitigate wetland impacts as a result of new construction in the Disney theme parks and resort areas.

Disney spends $23 million for the B-K Ranch, which stretches roughly 965 acres in Osceola County. Now, what are they going to do with it?

Top of mind: ‘Justice’ is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year” via Leanne Italie of The Associated Press — The word follows “toxic,” picked by Oxford Dictionaries, and “misinformation,” plucked by Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told The Associated Press he that “justice” consistently bubbled into the top 20 or 30 lookups on the company’s website, spiking at times due to specific events but also skating close to the surface for much of the year. “These are stories that connect to the culture and society across races, across classes,” Sokolowski said. “We get this word that filters in.” That includes Twitter in a big way.


Best wishes to one of the classiest of them all, Carol Dover, as well as Peter Boulaware, INFLUENCE 100’er Julio Fuentes, soon-to-be Florida Division of Emergency Management head Rep. Jared Moskowitz, and Alex Penelas.

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.

One comment

  • Gary Corsair

    December 19, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    On behalf of the families of the Groveland Four, thank you Nikki Fried and Marco Rubio for advocating pardons. This is the outcome I hoped for when I first brought this terrible injustice to light 17 years ago. I can only hope that the State of Florida corrects this terrible wrong while the siblings of defendants Walter Irving and Charles Greenlee are still living. Gary Corsair, author, Legal Lynching: The Sad Saga of the Groveland Four. [email protected]

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