Sunburn for 1/18 — A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms. You need their team on your side during this Legislative session for media, grassroots and netroots support. Visit to read about their team and how they can help you.


A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds 52% of Americans approve of President Obama’s overall job performance.

They also mostly agree with his agenda. Fifty-six percent believe that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter, compared with a combined 42% who want them less strict or kept the same… Also, for the first time in the poll, a majority of Americans — 52% — favor allowing illegal immigrants who hold jobs to apply for legal status in this country. And in the latest fiscal fight in Washington, more respondents say they would blame congressional Republicans (45%) than Obama and congressional Democrats (33%) if the nation’s debt limit isn’t raised and the country is unable to meet its obligations.


First Read compiles some statistics from the start of President Obama’s first term.

The Dow Jones Industrial average is up 5,550 points since then. The economy is growing (instead of contracting). Consumer confidence has nearly doubled (though it remains below where it was before the Great Recession). And a larger percentage of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction (but a majority still think it’s on the wrong track).

On the other hand, there’s data indicating that the nation isn’t better off than it was four years ago – and that the Great Recession continues to take a toll on families. Median household income (adjusted for inflation) is lower than it was in 2009. And more Americans live below the poverty level than they did four years ago.


In its first poll in 2013 of Florida, Public Policy Polling finds that Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate for President in Florida for 2016. Two of the most high profile potential Republican candidates for next time come from Florida, and Clinton bests both of them on their home turf: 50/46 over Marco Rubio and 49/44 over Jeb Bush.

Clinton has an 88/10 favorability rating with Democratic primary voters and is their overwhelming choice to be the party’s 2016 standard bearer: 65% want her as their candidate, followed by 15% for Joe Biden, and 4% for Andrew Cuomo and Elizabeth Warren. No one else polls over 1%.

In the instance that Clinton didn’t run things are wide open on the Democratic side: Cuomo leads the way with 22% to 15% for Warren with everyone else in single digits – Deval Patrick at 5%, Martin O’Malley at 4%, Kirsten Gillibrand at 3%, Mark Warner at 2%, and Brian Schweitzer at 1%. But the big winner is ‘not sure’ at 48%. 


Rubio has the edge over his mentor, Jeb Bush, as the preferred choice of Republicans to be the party’s 2016 presidential nominee.

62% of GOP voters in the state want Rubio to run in 2016, compared to 49% for Bush. Overall 31% of voters say they’d like Rubio to be their 2016 candidate to 26% for Bush, 11% for Mike Huckabee, 7% for Chris Christie, 5% for Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan, and 2% for Rick Perry and Susana Martinez.

Rubio’s lead is based on his strength among voters describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ He gets 39% with them to just 20% for Bush. The two are about tied when everyone else is factored in. One thing noteworthy in the crosstabs related to Christie is that he’s the choice of just 1% of voters describing themselves as ‘very conservative,’ putting him in last place among everyone we polled.

>>>Rubio continues to be the state’s most popular politician with a 49/36 approval spread, outdistancing both Nelson and Governor Rick Scott.

RUBIO CONFIRMED FOR CPAC by Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio is returning to the stage that helped put him in the national spotlight. The Florida Republican will speak at CPAC 2013 in March, the American Conservative Union will formally announce this morning. 

“My friend Marco Rubio has quickly become one of our nation’s most prominent conservative leaders,” said ACU Chairman Al Cardenas. “Senator Rubio’s participation will serve as motivation to CPAC attendees and conservatives across the country to take action and bring our country back on track.”

The 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, to be held March 14-16, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, will provide three days of “blockbuster speeches, policy discussions and networking opportunities – all celebrating the shared principles of smaller government, a strong national defense and traditional American values,” an announcement read.


Terry Sullivan, Senator Marco Rubio’s deputy chief of staff, moves full time to Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC as PAC director, and veteran GOP fundraiser Dorinda Moss joins as finance director. 

Sullivan is a veteran of S.C. politics, has a decade of experience in presidential, gubernatorial and Senate campaigns, and is the former managing partner of First Tuesday Strategies, in Columbia.

Moss was NRSC finance director for the 2010 and 2012 cycles, helping raise $220 million. Moss, a Tennessee native, has raised money for the RNC, the Bush-Cheney campaign, Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich and Lamar Alexander.

BILL NELSON’S GREAT PYTHON/PR ADVENTURE by Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson really hates pythons.

To show how much he means it, Nelson set out to personally kill some of the critters. Equipped with handguns, machetes and five airboats loaded with media, wildlife experts, aides and one true fellow Florida cracker, Python Bill spent six hours stalking the menacing monsters.

“You can hear the hissing right now. This guy is getting upset,” Nelson said contemptuously of a live 13-foot Burmese python, its girth as thick as a man’s thigh, that three men held out to show reporters before Nelson set out from Alligator Alley for the hunt.


Congressman Trey Radel told The Shark Tank that President Obama could be impeached over his executive actions on gun control.

“It is one of those times in our history, we are at this breaking point,” said Radel. “We have completely lost our checks and balances in this country, the Congress needs to hold the president accountable for the decisions that he’s making right now, and that why again, I would say that all options should be on the table.”

Earlier this week, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas also threatened Obama with impeachment.

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RICK SCOTT’S PROBLEM WITH WOMEN by Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald Tribune

According to the Public Policy Polling survey released today, only 33 percent of respondents approved of Scott’s handling of his job. When just women were asked, the numbers were even worse. Only 27 percent of women approved of Scott’s job, while 60 percent disapproved of his work.

In a head-to-head match up with Democrat Charlie Crist, women overwhelmingly are picking Crist, according to the poll. About 61 percent of women voters report they’d pick Crist to just 31 percent for Scott.

If it were just one poll, that would be one thing. But a Quinnipiac Polling Institute survey last month also showed Scott’s trouble with women. Asked if they had a favorable view of Scott, only 27 percent of women in the Quinnipiac poll said yes. Forty-two percent. Another 29 percent saying they hadn’t heard enough.


Scott said in a statement he agreed with county election supervisors who have asked lawmakers to limit the length of the ballots and allow for more days of early voting.

Scott’s comments come the same day as a report from a University of Florida researcher found that African-Americans were twice as likely to be impacted by the GOP-led election reforms in 2011 that shortened early voting from two weeks to eight days. Scott supported the bill when he signed it, but this week told black legislators he had nothing to do with it.

Now, he’s not only supporting more early voting days, but allowing county supervisors to conduct early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, when black churches have historically conducted voter-drives.

“We need shorter ballots. We need more early voting days, which should include an option of the Sunday before Election Day. And, we need more early voting locations,” Scott said in a statement.

TWEET: @ShannonLLove: Gov. Scott is like the new boyfriend who tries to become just like the ex to keep the girl. #desperate 

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The Florida Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision has upheld sweeping changes the state made in 2011 to the public employee retirement system.

The challenge to the law, brought by the statewide teachers’ union and other public employee groups, contended that a change to the law that required employees to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to their pensions was unconstitutional because it violated the right to collective bargaining. A trial court agreed and the case was immediately sent to the Supreme Court.

The ruling allows lawmakers to avoid another $2 billion budget hole next year and state workers will see their salary cuts retained indefinitely. The lawsuit, Scott v. Williams, was filed by the Florida Education Association after lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed, against 623,000 government worker salaries.

Justices Jorge Labarga, Ricky Polston, Barbara Pariente and Charles Canady formed the majority opinion. Justices Fred Lewis, James Perry and Peggy Quince dissented.


Gov. Rick Scott: “The court’s ruling today supports our efforts to lower the cost of living for Florida families. This means even more businesses will locate and grow in our state, which creates even more opportunities for Floridians to live their version of the American dream.”

Senate President Don Gaetz: “While I am still in the process of reviewing the Supreme Court’s opinion in its entirety, I commend the Supreme Court for their thoughtful and timely review and appreciate their upholding of the Legislature’s proper role in establishing pension policy and making budgetary decisions on behalf of the people who elect us. … The changes made to the Florida Retirement System reflect the Legislature’s efforts to maintain a sound retirement system for our hard-working state and local government employees as well as the reality that Florida taxpayers can no longer bear the full cost of this benefit. Today’s ruling validates the Legislature’s sound policy judgment that public employees in Florida, like the public-sector employees in the vast majority of other states, should play a role in funding their retirement packages.”

Speaker Will Weatherford: “We are reviewing the Court’s decision as it relates the state’s pension system and what it means for Florida’s fiscal outlook. On the surface, this appears to be a decisive victory for taxpayers. We are pleased the Court has upheld our actions on pension reform.”

Florida Chamber via Twitter: @FlChamber: Congrats to FL Supreme Court for upholding state law on government employee pensions.

Florida Democratic Party’s Scott Arceneaux: “Rick Scott and this Republican controlled legislature are squeezing the middle class while giving tax breaks to the GOP special interests. It’s not fair, it’s not leadership and it’s certainly no way to address our state’s fiscal problems. We are disappointed in today’s ruling.”

Florida Education Association President Andy Ford: “The next elections in 2014 can turn this decision around.”

Florida PBA President John Rivera: “This decision is a disappointment for the employees but we respect the Supreme Court’s decision – we are a nation of laws. Although we had a different perspective on addressing the financial challenges Florida faced, our members remain committed to working with the legislature to resolve these challenging issues.”

Florida TaxWatch’s Dominic Calabro: “I am enthusiastic about today’s ruling, as the majority opinion validates the approach and work product of the Florida TaxWatch Government Cost Savings Task Force, which just today released its latest list of recommendations.”

James Madison Institute’s Dr. Bob McClure: “The long delay of this Florida Supreme Court ruling on pensions had state officials on edge, wondering if an adverse ruling would cause a budget crisis. Fortunately, by a slim 4-3 margin, the Court has allowed Florida to move forward without this particular cloud hanging overhead. Like government employees across the nation, those in the Florida Retirement System will now contribute toward their pensions. That’s good news, but the pension reforms must not stop there.”

Susannah Lindberg Randolph via Facebook: WTF, Barbara Pariente. WTF.

 ***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.***

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Will House Massage Bill Find Happy Ending In Senate?” via the Sunshine State News


The hesitance by members of the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, which surfaced at a Thursday meeting, raises questions about whether the project has any prospects for revival.

The state sunk millions into the site, developed by Spider Data Services, before skittish state officials began distancing themselves from it. The contract with the company technically expired Dec. 31.

Officials balked in part because, they said, Spider Data said it would cost another $1 million a year to maintain the website with 600 licenses for legislators and staff members, with more funding needed if the system is taken public. Senators at Thursday’s meeting said public availability was critical.

“We’re not going to be greatly enhancing the opportunity for Floridians to visit,” said Sen. Alan Hays, who chairs the funding committee that will also examine the site. “It sounds to me like this is gross misuse of public funds.”

Hays also said he was uncomfortable with some of the information that was available on the site, which provides working papers and other documents used in the preparation of the budget.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Candidly, I’m not in favor of disclosing all the itty-bitty memos that go back and forth between myself and various staff members or other members of the Legislature. I’m sorry. If the public doesn’t have any greater faith and confidence in my judgment than that, then they don’t need to re-elect me.” — Senator Alan Hayes


State Rep. Mia Jones says she thinks state Rep. Darryl Rouson is bluffing after he told the Tampa Bay Times that he has enough votes to wrap up the minority leader race for the 2014-2016 term.

Rouson told the newspaper he has the support of 27 House Democrats, which would be more than enough in a chamber that has 44 Democrats.

“I really don’t believe he has 27,” said Jones as she drove from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. “I know for a fact a number of our colleagues are still neutral.”


A Leon County judge has rejected a request from the Legislature to dismiss a challenge to a Senate redistricting plan approved last year, the first ruling in what could be a precedent-setting case under the new Fair Districts standards.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz suggested an appeal was inevitable.

The dispute comes in a case filed by a group of citizens and a coalition of voting-rights groups against the new Senate district boundaries, which opponents say violate the redistricting constitutional amendments approved by voters in a 2010 referendum. The Fair Districts Amendments were adopted in an effort to curb politically gerrymandered districts.

At issue in the case is a statement the constitution makes in a different section about the Supreme Court’s automatic review of legislative redistricting maps: “A judgment of the supreme court of the state determining the apportionment to be valid shall be binding upon all the citizens of the state.”

Because the Supreme Court approved a second draft of the Senate map — it voided the first draft — in April, attorneys for the House and Senate argued that there was no room for new challenges.


The Legislative Budget Commission approved nearly two dozen amendments to the state budget Thursday, officially untangling some long-standing disputes with unanimous votes and minimal discussion.

Lawmakers approved the first spending from $334 million Florida received as part of a national mortgage settlement with bankers.

The amendments voted on Thursday will divvy up $60 million in funding, including $35 million for down-payment assistance, $10 million for housing counseling, $5 million for legal aid and $5 million each for state courts and the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi to deal with legal and foreclosure costs.

The panel also approved $513,884 to settle a lawsuit over artwork originally intended for the new 1st District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and his predecessor, former CFO Alex Sink, had refused to pay for historical photographs prepared by Signature Art Gallery, a Tallahassee firm, for the opulent building derisively known as the “Taj Mahal” courthouse.

That refusal prompted a series of legal disputes that engulfed the Department of Management Services, the Department of Financial Services, Atwater and Peter R. Brown Construction, which subcontracted the work to Signature Art Gallery.

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The business-backed non-profit group argued Thursday that the state could save about $1.2 billion next year if they made changes in health care, collected an online sales tax and implemented changes to the criminal justice system.

“The tax watch is committed to maximize taxpayer value by facilitating a productive, innovative and fiscally responsible government for the people and taxpayers of Florida,” said TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro. “They are continually looking at ways to do it better and responsibly fund today’s and tomorrow’s requirements to build a better Florida.” Click here for a list of its recommendations.

***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.***

“4TH FLOOR FILES” TALKS TO PETE DUNBAR about Steve Metz, Lucy Morgan and his preference for Cole Haan here.


For the third straight year, Ron Sachs Communications has been awarded a prestigious Bulldog Award, this time receiving the top award in the nation in the category of “Best Health/Fitness/Medicine Digital/Social Campaign” for the firm’s work on the Water Quality & Health Council’s “Healthy Pools” Campaign. In addition to the national first-place Gold Award, Ron Sachs Communications received Best Online/Social Media Community of the Year Bronze (top three) recognition for the Consumer Federation of the Southeast’s “Protect People with Brain Injuries” campaign.

A TRIBUTE TO LUCY MORGAN by Florence Snyder for Florida Voices

If it weren’t for Lucy, “we would probably steal the silverware,” then-state Sen. Rod Smith told Jeff Klinkenberg, Tampa Bay Times reporter and Florida’s leading repository of information about our state in the decades before it became an international punch line.

Lucy swears she is retiring for real on March 1. Time to lock up the silverware.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY this weekend to the super savvy Jennifer Lux.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been 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.