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Takeaways from Tallahassee – The “That Was Easy” edition

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Gov. Rick Scott gave a State of the State speech on Tuesday that was focused almost entirely on creating jobs and cutting taxes, boasting that Florida has added more than a million jobs since he took office. During Scott’s speech, there was, of course, the obligatory cheering and standing ovations. There was also “wooing.” At least, that’s how lobbyist Gus Corbella described it on Twitter.

@GusCorbella: Wooing is never appropriate for the State of the State. This is a speech in the Chambers of the House, not a Bieber concert.

So who was doing the “wooing”? hears that it was none other Scott Chief of Staff Melissa Sellers doing her best Arsenio Hall impression.

In the run-up to Scott’s State of the State speech, Scott’s staff met, at least, a half-dozen times with a kitchen cabinet of lobbyists representing industries that would benefit from his tax cut proposal, according to several of the participants in the meetings. Spearheaded by Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Director Jeff Woodburn, the meetings involved strategizing about how to best build support for the Governor’s priorities, including the distribution of talking points that would later make their way to a pro-Scott website, Among the A-list lobbyists who participated in the briefings were Jon Johnson of Johnson & Blanton (repping the Florida Retail Federation), Slater Bayliss of Cardenas Partners, Brewster Bevis from Associated Industries, Chris Dudley of Southern Strategy Group, Fred Karlinsky of Greenberg Traurig, and Bill Rubin. There were also representatives from the Florida Realtors and NFIB.

Scott wants to eliminate all corporate income taxes charged to manufacturers and retail companies, permanently cut sales taxes on manufacturing equipment and gradually reduce the state’s sales taxes charged on commercial rents.

This outreach by the Scott administration runs counter to the early years of his time in office, when even the most connected Adams Street’ers were rarely looped into the governor’s priorities.

Don’t poke fun at Florida lawmakers for being excited about the first week of the 2016 Legislative Session, I thought to myself as I compiled my notes for this year’s first edition of Takeaways from Tallahassee. You’ll piss off Kathy Mears (Chief of Staff to Steve Crisafulli), I warned myself.

But I can’t help myself.

The Legislature passed and sent to the governor legislation that Senate President Andy Gardiner and Speaker Crisafulli identified as top priorities. Legislation will help Floridians with developmental disabilities. Another was an industry-supported water bill that streamed too fast for environmental activists.

“This is what working together can do, and obviously, this is us finishing off a work plan we started together,” Crisafulli said during a joint news conference with Gardiner. “Obviously, there is a lot left to do, with the budget to pass and some great things we can do for the state of Florida over the next several weeks.”

No offense to Crisafulli or Gardiner, but what the first week felt like was summer school, where students finish off those final credits before heading off to junior college.

To put it another way, with the leadership priorities passed, lawmakers are still upside down in their checkbook after the meltdown of last year’s legislative session. Let’s see what they do in Weeks 2 & 3.

All of that said, what a moment it was Wednesday when Gardiner told his colleagues that the Speaker had just called to let him know that the House had accepted a traveling amendment proposed to the unique abilities scholarship bill proposed by Don Gaetz that would name the scholarships after Gardiner.

The under-reported story of the week may be Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran‘s comments at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Capitol Days event. Only a couple of reporters, including’s Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, heard what Corcoran had to say. It was a lot like his designation speech, only more so.

“Who is the cause? Who are the problem?” Corcoran asked the gathering of some of the state’s top business leaders. “It is us. We are absolutely the enemy and the reason we are the enemy, the reason Donald Trump is on the rise, is because we campaign one way and we govern another.”

Sure, Corcoran is the Speaker D and he could probably tell the Chamber that the folks at Associated Industries are better-looking and he’d hear nary a peep of dissent, but it takes some gumption to speak this kind of truth to power.

“As much we are first and foremost the enemies, you guys are too,” he said. “Look over the last 40 years and ask yourself, what has government done? Has it been liberals and socialists and communists and unions who have fought for policies that have rigid statutes to protect your profits, eliminate risk and guarantee contracts? No. It’s our business community that has done that. I get that you are pro-business but, what matters, is being pro free-market. If we’re pro-free-market, everyone will do well. But when you’re championing for those things that protect you. The result is horrible.”

Corcoran’s comments reflect a neo-libertarianism that differs from the worldview of past Republican leaders. But Corcoran isn’t the only lawmaker who believes there is a difference between being pro-business and pro free-market. Read what Sen. Jeff Brandes told Mary Ellen Klas for her story about the influence of special interests on The Process.

“Big beer and craft brewers, big power and solar, taxi cabs and Uber — they are the same issue repackaged,” Brandes said. “Some people see Florida as a frontier open for business, and others see it as a fortress that needs to be protected. It’s free market as they define it.”

If you want a preview of what Corcoran’s Speakership will look like, you need to listen to what he’s saying now.

Food Fights update:

>>> Seminole compact: Odds are already growing longer. Next two weeks, as bill gets first workshop and committee meeting, are key.

>>> Fantasy sports: Bill passed first committee, even picking up the support of conservative Republican Scott Plakon. But now it’s being lumped in with rest of Seminole compact, gambling issues.

>>> Jet fuel tax: It’s been smooth sailing, or should I say flying, for the jet fuel tax proposal, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. George Moraitis, as it passed its first committee stops in both the House and Senate with no opposition.

>>> Ride-sharing: Little movement so far, but Sen. David Simmons‘ bill that set insurance requirements for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft is up Tuesday in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

A food fight is also shaping up around a bill pertaining to auto insurance that would halt pre-insurance inspection of some used cars. As Arek Sarkissian of The Political Fix explains, the point of contention is wrapped up into 70 words of the 11-page SB 1036, by Sen. Brandes and would make the mandatory physical inspections optional for insurers. On one side of the issue are Ron SachsRyan Banfill and the rest of Sachs Media Group, which is running the PR campaign for the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, whose recently hired executive director is Jennifer West.

TWEET, TWEET: @GrayRohrer: It’s a banner week for the “Interest Group Survey Shows Public Supports Its Agenda” genre.

Reading Windy March’s (he’s back with the AP for another session) story about how Sen. Gaetz anti-corruption bill is facing a rocky path in the Legislature, I have to wonder, why isn’t Matt Reed, the columnist and opinion editor for the USA Today Network’s chain of Florida newspapers, registered as a lobbyist?

As is widely known, lawmakers cannot accept campaign contributions while in Session. So, of course, the Monday night before Tuesday’s gaveling in of the House and Senate is a carousel of lawmakers walking around Adams Street to pick-up checks from interests groups and lobbying firms. Among the busiest fundraisers that day were Katie Ballard — who is really making a name for herself among top politicos — and Kris Money, who was spotted accompanying (at different points) Speaker Crisafulli and Senate President-to-be Wilton Simpson. One lawmaker, who will remain nameless, was seen collecting checks at Jacob’s in the Doubletree right up until the bell rang Tuesday morning.

Also spotted at Jacob’s this week was an odd pairing: Alvin Brown‘s former Chief of Staff Chris Hand and Lenny Curry‘s political brain, Brian Hughes.

A warning for the week ahead: The Green Bay Packers lost a heartbreaker of a playoff game … in overtime … after rallying to tie the Arizona Cardinals in regulation. That means POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon, an avid Packers fan, can’t be in a very good mood. Tread carefully, my friends.

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.

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