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Backroom Briefing: Sending Messages in 140 Characters

December 29, 2016 - 10:00pm

As he prepares to enter the White House, President-elect Donald Trump continues to regularly use the social-media platform Twitter to amplify his message.

He established that trend during his unconventional presidential campaign, using the 140-character tweets to laud supporters and hammer, sometimes personally, his opponents.

With his inauguration approaching, Trump hasn't toned down his Twitter commentary. This week, for example, he slammed the Obama administration over a United Nations vote on Israeli settlements, sending reverberations throughout the diplomatic world.

As Trump's tweets attract worldwide attention, Florida legislative leaders are no strangers to the "Twitter-verse," although their commentary plays out on a smaller stage.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, seems comfortable in the medium, with more than 2,800 tweets and more than 7,000 Twitter followers.

He used his tweets to effectively criticize Visit Florida's formerly secret $1 million promotional contract with the rapper Pitbull. In fact, Corcoran's criticism, coupled with a lawsuit, spurred Pitbull to reveal the contract details, which he did through his Twitter account.

Corcoran is enough of a Twitter master to understand tweets can be used with a heavy hand or lighter touch.

A case in point is when an Orlando Sentinel reporter tweeted a portion of a column that suggested maybe Corcoran "just doesn't like Pitbull or his music or the sexiness the Pitbull brand evokes."

"Lol," Corcoran responded in a tweet. "None of the above. Pitbull could have made a video with my grandmother knitting in church -- same response."

Corcoran's use of Twitter follows in the tradition of recent House speakers, including Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who has 12,900 Twitter followers, and Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who has 21,400 followers.

Florida Senate leaders have been more cautious with Twitter.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is picking up his Twitter game, with 256 comments and 5,900 followers. His tweets haven't evoked much controversy.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, with 628 tweets and 6,100 followers, used his Twitter account to praise Pitbull after the rapper defended his promotion of Florida tourism at a Tampa concert earlier this month.

"One class act!" Latvala tweeted.

The last two Senate presidents, Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, were not tweeters.

As evidence of a generational view, Gaetz's son, incoming U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, is a prolific tweeter, with 5,900 tweets and 8,600 followers.

The younger Gaetz recently had to respond to a Twitter critic who questioned the cost of the F-35 fighter jets, a military program that is important in Gaetz's district, with pilots training at Eglin Air Force Base.

"Look at the F-35 program, with the money, the 100s of billions of dollars," the tweet said. "It's out of control."

The source of the tweet? The incoming tweeter-in-chief: Donald Trump.


Many Florida workers will see a modest boost in their wages starting Sunday as the state's minimum wage rises a nickel to $8.10 an hour.

It is the first minimum wage increase since January 2015, when the hourly rate rose by 12 cents to $8.05. There was no increase in 2016.

Under a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004, the wage is adjusted annually by the state Department of Economic Opportunity based on a consumer price index.

Tipped workers will earn at least $5.08 an hour.

Florida's hourly minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which has not been changed since 2009.

Florida has not followed the lead of California and New York, which have approved laws to eventually raise the minimum wage in their states to $15 an hour.

Legislation seeking to raise Florida's wage to $15 an hour has not advanced in the Legislature, with strong opposition from business groups.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "All I want for Christmas is 7,000 Twitter followers." --- state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (@josefelixdiaz) on Christmas Eve. He apparently got his wish, as he had 7,034 followers on Thursday.




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