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Sunburn for 12/31 — A morning read of what's hot in Florida politics

By on December 31, 2012

A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics sponsored by Tucker/Hall — a top-notch public affairs and public relations firm. Visit TuckerHall.com to read about their team, success stories and case studies.

Much of the attention in this holiday-shortened week will be on Washington, where the nation may plunge off a cliff into an economic abyss. Things generally are quiet in Tallahassee, but with the new year come a number of changes in rules and laws. Among those, the high profile change to personal injury protection auto insurance and the annual automatic increase in minimum wage.

A preview of the week’s events via the News Service of Florida can be found here.

2012 WAS THE BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE: The year began with a Winter White Wedding and ends with our baby, Ella Joyce, turning twelve weeks old. And there were so many wonderful moments in between. Both Michelle and I feel blessed and grateful. No year could be better than this one, but we can’t for what lies ahead in 2013.

A NEW SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

Please check out the revamped and, hopefully, much improved SaintPetersBlog.com. The new design is based on a feature-rich, professional media and magazine theme. The new SaintPetersBlog is fully-responsive and includes a “sticky” menu bar, a slider on each category page, 5 different ad units, including a wallpaper ad, a drag-and-drop homepage, 14 custom widgets, secondary feature headlines and so much more! Please let me know what you think about the new design.

THE YEAR THAT WAS IN FLORIDA POLITICS here, including:

In an election year and a redistricting year, you might have expected this: the biggest stories of 2012 ended up being an election and redistricting.

A third ongoing story also pervaded the year’s news: The economy continued its long, slow rise from the ashes of the recession, and by year’s end the rebound – while facing the possible stomach-punch of a fiscal cliff setback – appeared to be solid. Unemployment is down dramatically from a year ago; home sales are back, as are home prices; and consumer confidence is up for most of us.

A SUGGESTION FOR HOW TO CELEBRATE NYE IN TALLY

The Downtown Tallahassee Business Association and the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority will host Big Bend’s inaugural 2013 Downtown Tallahassee New Year’s Eve Celebration on Monday, December 31, 2012, beginning at 7 p.m. EDT in Kleman Plaza. The celebration, which is free and open to the public, will be hosted by Tallahassee Radio Personality Big Woody Hayes and will feature performances by Sister Hazel and Tom & the Cats and the Ameris Bank fireworks show.  For a complete schedule of events and transportation opportunities, please visit www.downtowntallahasseenewyearseve.com.

WHAT IS YOUR POLITICAL RESOLUTION FOR THE NEW YEAR? Email me (SaintPeter4@gmail.com) your resolutions and I’ll publish the best ones.

BEST POLITICAL QUOTES OF THE YEAR: A  recap of the top 10 political quotes of the year, with special deference for quotes that defined the election in some way, shape or form, here.

CHECK OUT the best viral political videos of 2012.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Introducing Stock Rhinestone Waistbands! New for 2013!”

FIVE POLLING LESSONS FROM 2012

Harry Enten says there are five polling lessons we should take from the 2012 election season:

1. When likely and registered voter polls disagree in high turnout elections, you should usually go with the registered voter surveys. 2. Cellphones are generally needed for an accurate telephone poll. 3. Internet polling is the wave of the future. 4. Internal polls published publicly generally should not be trusted. 5. When state and national polls disagree, you should generally go with the state data.

REPUBLICANS FEARFUL OF 2013

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans are fearful about their own lives in 2013 – a huge jump of over 50 percent since 2006, according to a poll released Monday.

By contrast, three-quarters of Democrats are hopeful about their own lives in the coming year, as are half of independents, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll.

A whopping 72 percent of Republicans are fearful about their own lives, and 79 percent are fearful for the world, the poll found. Only 20 percent of Republicans were fearful in 2006, a gigantic 52-point leap. In 2008, those numbers were already rising as President Barack Obama was elected. Then, 54 percent were fearful.

WHY THERE WON’T BE A RECESSION IN 2013

Concerns of a renewed recession in 2013 are overblown, according to economist Bill McBride, so long as lawmakers avert the “fiscal cliff.”

“This is important to follow because residential investment tends to lead the economy… The key downside risk for the US economy in 2013 is too much austerity, too quickly.   However, barring a policy mistake (I expect a fiscal agreement), it seems unlikely there will be a sharp decline in private investment in 2013. … This is because residential investment is already near record lows as a percent of GDP and will probably increase further in 2013, and  that suggests the US will avoid a new recession in 2013.”

***Representatives from Florida’s aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on March 6, 2013, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the opportunities the industry brings to Florida and the nation’s space program. During Space Day, industry leaders and other aerospace supporters will meet with House and Senate members, as well as the lieutenant governor, to discuss  growing areas of the state’s $8 billion space industry, and determine the best strategies for leveraging these markets for Florida’s benefit in the years ahead.***

FISCAL CLIFF TALKS HANG BY A THREAD via POLITICO

Negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff are still hanging by a thread after Republicans agreed to take off the table a controversial provision that would have cut Social Security benefits. But now, a new sticking point has emerged over “turning off” the sequester, the tens of billions of dollars in spending cuts slated to hit the Pentagon and federal agencies beginning Jan. 2. Democrats want to use some of the revenue from increased taxes to postpone those cuts. Republicans, however, are objecting to that proposal, saying they want to get savings from other areas. A potential compromise has been floated to use a portion of the new revenue and other savings from a cliff deal — a “50/50 split” — to “turn off” the sequester, but it is unclear if GOP leaders will agree to that offer.

TWEET, TWEET: @marcorubio: Report that #GOP insisting on changes to social security as part of #fiscalcliff false.BTW those changes are supported by @barackobama.

FISCAL CLIFF STALEMATE COULD MEAN ROCKY 2013 FOR U.S. via the Associated Press Efforts to save the nation from going over a year-end “fiscal cliff” were still in disarray as lawmakers returned to the Capitol to confront the tax-and-spend crisis. A tone-setting quotation was Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s assertion that the House under Republican Speaker John Boehner had been “operating with a dictatorship.” President Barack Obama flew back to Washington from Hawaii after telephoning congressional leaders from his Christmas vacation perch. Once back, he set up a meeting with leaders of both parties at the White House late Friday to make a fresh attempt to find a solution before Monday night’s deadline. … Partly by fate, partly by design, some scary fiscal forces come together at the start of 2013 unless Congress and Obama act to stop them. They include:

  • Some $536 billion in tax increases, touching nearly all Americans, because various federal tax cuts and breaks expire at year’s end.
  • About $110 billion in spending cuts divided equally between the military and most other federal departments. That’s about 8 percent of their annual budgets, 9 percent for the Pentagon.
… If New Year’s Day arrives without a deal, the nation shouldn’t plunge onto the shoals of recession immediately. There still might be time to engineer a soft landing.So long as lawmakers and the president appear to be working toward agreement, the tax hikes and spending cuts could mostly be held at bay for a few weeks. Then they could be repealed retroactively once a deal was reached.
***Today’s SUNBURN is also sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. With more than 45 years of combined legislative and regulatory knowledge and experience, Corcoran & Johnston’s ability to navigate through the processes and politics of government and deliver for their clients is unmatched.***

MY TAKES

In defense of Jim Rimes: Certainly there are wanton cases of ethical abuses involving “revolving door” scenarios, but those issues do not apply to Jim Rimes. Instead of worrying about the revolving door, state government should be opening the door to such a capable and talented staffer.

Will Weatherford is Florida’s Politician of the Year: For his role in the controlled burning of the Republican caucus in the Florida Legislature, for his statesmanship during the decennial reapportionment process and for his commitment to repair several crumbling pillars of state government, Weatherford is my choice for Florida Politician of 2012.

OTHER MUST-READS FROM SUNDAY

Big Medicaid, Obamacare issues face Florida in 2013:  Dealing with issues that affect the health care of millions of poor and uninsured residents, Florida leaders in 2013 could move forward with a long-awaited overhaul of the Medicaid system and likely will decide how to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act.

How Big Tobacco got its way in Florida Legislature: In 2009, tobacco lobbyists aggressively pushed a bill that drastically capped the amount four tobacco companies have to pay to appeal certain court judgments against them.

Six Florida leaders to watch in 2013: There will be plenty of opportunities for state and regional leaders to make a difference. Here are six difference-makers to watch.

Will GOP keep denying lessons reinforced by 2013: A generation of young voters, many turned off by the GOP’s positions on issues like same-sex marriage, have aligned with the Democrats, just as Ronald Reagan won over a generation of young voters three decades ago. More than seven in 10 Hispanic voters backed Obama over Mitt Romney in November, while as many as 8 million white voters that were expected to turn out opted to stay home.

***Walmart and the Walmart Foundation launched “Fighting Hunger Together” a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment through 2015 to help fight hunger in America.  The initiative leverages Walmart’s size and resources to provide nutritious food and the Walmart Foundation’s ability to grant funding to nonprofits that help elevate the issue.  Join Walmart in the fight against hunger by visiting here, Twitter or Facebook, and by asking others to do the same, today.***

5 QUESTIONS WITH SEN. JACK LATVALA here, including:

Q: Are all elections options on the table? Restoring early voting days? LATVALA: Yes, I think going back to the old way of early voting that we’ve done for the last 10 years is one of the options. I’ve even had people suggest that perhaps we should open all the precincts for early voting, not just certain locations but maybe have all the precincts open for early voting the weekend before the election. So the suggestions run the full gamut of possibilities. I handed out a map of the country to the members of the committee, and I think some of them were very surprised to see that there are still 18 or 20 states where there is no early voting. And in many of those same states, you have to have an excuse to get an absentee ballot. Those states include a lot of the bastions of Democratic political success: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts. I haven’t heard an outcry from the people in those states saying they need more opportunities to vote.

BILL WOULD FORCE YOUNG DRIVERS TO PUT AWAY CELL PHONES

Sen. Thad Altman has filed a proposal that would bar drivers under age 18 from using wireless phones or other communications devices while they are behind the wheel. Minor drivers who are caught texting or talking on the phone would have their licenses suspended for 30 days, according to the proposal (SB 152). Altman also would take other steps aimed at improving the safety of young drivers, such as placing a new limit on the number of minors who could be in a vehicle at one time. A driver under 18 could not have more than three passengers who are minors unless accompanied by someone over age 21. That restriction would not apply to passengers who are siblings.

FLORIDA CITIES LOOKING TO CHANGE LAW ON POLICE AND FIRE PENSIONS via Ed Bierschenk of the TC Palm

Police and fire unions as well as the Florida League of Cities want to change a 1999 law keeping cities from using $50 million in insurance-tax revenue to cover pension shortfalls. Cities must use the money to increase pension benefits and not help pay for existing ones. “If you have the flexibility to use these dollars to sustain those benefit programs, it won’t have to come out of taxpayers’ pockets,” said John Thomas, League of Cities spokesman. The league estimates $500 million in insurance-tax money has been spent on these extra pension benefits in the past 13 years.

FOUR HOUSE DEMOCRATS FILE FOR RE-ELECTION

Four freshman House Democrats from South Florida have filed paperwork to seek re-election in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections website. They are Reps. Bobby Powell in District 88; Katie Edwards in District 98, Richard Stark in District 104; and David Richardson in District 113. Edwards and Stark easily beat Republicans in the November general elections, while Powell and Richardson won their seats in Democratic primaries.

INMATE RE-ENTRY BILL RE-EMERGES

Many nonviolent felons would be funneled into substance-abuse programs and work re-entry training instead of serving out their sentences behind bars, under a proposal filed by Rep. Daphne Campbell. The bill, HB 69, calls on the Department of Corrections to establish such a diversion program and sets parameters on who could qualify to participate. Lawmakers in recent sessions have been looking for ways to reduce the state’s prison population as part of an effort to save money. In recent sessions, the legislation has been sponsored by former Sens. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland. In the House, former Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, joined Campbell in co-sponsoring the proposal in the past. The issue may fall on more receptive ears this session. House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, has made it clear he is looking for reforms in the state’s correctional system, a push that has the growing support of business and fiscal-conservative groups seeking to cut costs.

NEW ON THE TWITTERS: @FLSpaceDay and @SIMWins (Anthony Pedicini’s Strategic Image Management).

VIDEO GAME COMPANY HELPS WRITE FLA. TAX LAWS, SAVES MILLIONS by Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel

EA is profiting so handsomely from Florida’s entertainment incentives because it helped rewrite the state program. Records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show that lobbyists for EA have worked closely with an influential Central Florida lawmaker — state Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando — to mold the 9-year-old program to EA’s advantage.

In one instance, an EA lobbyist suggested a revision to the program that was adopted, almost verbatim, by the Legislature a month later. The change could soon save EA several million dollars more each year.

Electronic Arts says Florida as a whole has benefited from the incentives. It says the incentives have nurtured the growth of the entire video-game industry, which EA said now employs more than 6,000 people statewide at an annual average wage of $80,000.

EA also said it is adding jobs at its Maitland studio and noted that it contributes to charitable and civic causes in Central Florida.

WHO LOBBIES FOR ELECTRONIC ARTS? Foley & Lardner’s Mike Harrell, Robert Hosay and Jonathan Kilman.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Steve Geller: Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters

Jim Horne: Charter School Capital, Inc.

TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT HIRES GINA EVANS FOR LOBBYING POSITION

Gina Evans, a well-liked former senior legislative assistant to Speaker of the Florida House Larry Cretul, has been hired by Tampa International Airport to lobby on state and local matters. Evans, formerly of Brewton Plante, P.A. began work last week.

Evans’ hiring comes after a comprehensive search process that saw several local political players, including Rich Reidy, an aide to Hillsborough County Commission chairman Ken Hagan, vie for the position. In the end, Evans was the clear-cut choice of TIA’s management. “Gina has incredible energy and the right experience,” said Janet Zink, Director of Communications for TIA. “She will be a great addition to the Tampa International Airport team.”

Earlier this month, TIA hired Van Scoyoc Associates Inc. to a three-year, $500,000 contract to lobby the federal government for funding to to reimburse $93 million of the $124 million the airport spent on a system to detect explosives in luggage after Sept. 11, 2001.

***The Florida Health Care Affordability Summit, taking place in Orlando, Fla., on January 10-11, 2013, will bring some of the most knowledgeable stakeholders in health care to the table – from health plans, hospital executives and health care providers, to some of Florida’s biggest employers and elected officials – to discuss how to make Florida healthier and bring affordable, accessible, quality health care to Floridians. To register to attend or for more information, please visit www.healthcareflorida.com.***

APPOINTED: James “Ted” Schatt to the Fifth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Kevin Brennan and Todd Jennings to the Sixth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission;  William A. Lewis to the Fourteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Belinda Keiser and Terrence P. O’Connor to the Seventeenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

APPEALS COURT TO HEAR ONLINE TRAVEL CASE via the News Service of Florida

The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in February in a long-running tax fight between counties and online-travel companies such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.

A Leon County circuit judge this year ruled against 17 counties that argued the companies had not properly paid tourist-development taxes — an issue that also has flared in recent years in the Legislature. Online-travel companies, which serve as middlemen between hotels and travelers, charge customers for room rentals and fees related to providing the service.

The legal fight centers on whether tourist-development taxes apply to the total cost that customers pay or only to the portion that goes for room rentals. While counties say the total cost should be taxed, the industry says taxing its fees would amount to a services tax. The appeals court last week scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 12.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE UNCHANGED

Florida’s consumer confidence remained unchanged in December, according to a monthly University of Florida survey. December’s figure was 74, the same as the revised November reading. Overall confidence reached a post-recession peak in September and October at 80, but is down six points for the second month.

PSC TO GET UPDATE ON PROGRESS ENERGY’S NUKE PLANT

The state Public Service Commission has scheduled a Jan. 7 meeting to get updated information about Progress Energy Florida’s idled nuclear-power plant at Crystal River. Progress has been studying whether to repair or permanently shut down the plant, which has not operated since 2009 because of cracks in a containment building. A consultant’s report this year said it would cost a minimum of $1.5 billion to repair the plant and that the amount could go as high as $3.43 billion in a “worst-case scenario.”

RETAILERS HAVE GOOD, BUT NOT GREAT YEAR

This holiday season, the busiest part of the year for retailers, time was not an issue. Many stores extended their hours and consumers had at least a month between Black Friday and Christmas to complete their holiday shopping. But the year didn’t stand out for Florida’s retail industry, which had the smallest holiday sales growth since 2008.

RETIRING

Former Florida university system chancellor Charles Reed ends his tenure as California State University system leader with plans to return to Florida, the LA Times reports.

***SUNBURN is sponsored in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, Visit www.bascomllc.com to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

FLORIDA’S TOP TWEETERS FOR 2012. Here is my ranking of Florida’s Top Political Tweeters for 2012.

When it comes to determining the Top Tweeters, we prioritize quality, not quantity. The rankings are based on someone’s Klout score.  When someone engages with your content, Klout assesses that action in the context of the person’s own activity. These principles form the basis of their PeopleRank algorithm which determines your Score based on how many people you influence, how much you influence them and how influential they are.

Top Elected Officials – Allen West, @AllenWest – 82, Rick Scott, @FLGovScott – 82, Marco Rubio, @MarcoRubio – 81; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, @RosLehtinen – 81; Connie Mack, @COnnieMackIV – 79; Debbie Wasseman-Schultz, @DEStweets – 78; Dennis Ross, @RepDennisRoss 76; Steve Southerland, @Rep_Southerland 73; Daniel Webster, @RepWebster 72.

Top Media Personality  – Joy Reid, @TheReidReport – 79.

Top Organization – Obama for America, Florida, @OFA_FL – 73.

Other highlights - Kenneth Quinnell at #11 with a score of 71, Steve Schale at #18 with a score of 70, Jordan Raynor at 23 with a score of 69, and .yours truly at 24 with a score of 68. Others in the top 50: Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times, Rick Wilson, Adam Smith, Roger Stone, Paula Dockery, Steve Beste, Mary Ellen Klas, Stephanie Smith and Darden Rice.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Barney Bishop. Thank you for your friendship, Barney.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WEEK to Carlos Lopez-Cantera, TJ Ewin, Chris Latvala, Brock Mikosky, Meredith O’Rourke, and Skylar Zander.

MEDIA NOTE: PULITZER PRIZE WINNER EUGENE ROBINSON TO KEYNOTE SUNCOAST TIGER BAY’S ANNUAL DINNER via Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing

Tampa Bay area political junkies will have the opportunity to see and hear from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist in the flesh next month, when he appears as the keynote speaker for the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club’s Annual Dinner on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater. You can go here to find out all the details about the event.

MEDIA NOTE 2: BILL CHURCH, EXEC. EDITOR OF OREGON’S STATESMAN JOURNAL, TAKING REINS OF SARASOTA HERALD TRIBUNE He’ll be joining former Tallahassee Democrat Publisher Pat Dorsey, who went to that Halifax Media Group daily in October. Church has been the Oregon daily’s editor since June 2006.

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