Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 5.31.17 – Rick Scott’s budget strategy; Bad news for Andrew Gillum; He-Man on the ballot; Jeb Bush no longer fishing for the Marlins

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Here’s a travel tip for when you visit Paris: don’t tell your French tour guide that “some people believe the American culinary scene is on par with France’s.”

We were walking — more like eating our way — through Montmartre when I made this bold statement. Montmartre is a village within the metropolis and thought of, as one observer notes, the way New Yorkers talk about the Village: It’s not what it used to be, It’s like Disneyland, the artists can’t afford to live here anymore, too many tourists, etc.

In front of The Wall of Love, a love-themed 40 square metres wall in the Jehan Rictus garden square in Montmartre.

But we are tourists!  So we just lost ourselves in the steep and cobbled streets of one of the most historic and interesting neighborhoods in Paris. The food here is exactly what you imagine when you think of France. A bakery follows a cheese shop, which follows an open air fish market, which follows a speciality foods shop, which follows a wine store specializing only in Pouilly-fume. Then there is a chocolatier and another bakery and another cafe and…

… all of the weight I took off in advance of this vacation has returned. But it’s all so delicious — and affordable. Fifteen Euros buys a charcuterie board that would cost five times that in the States. The nondescript glasses of Champagne Michelle has been enjoying are better than any of the big labels American bars limit themselves to serving.

And, yet, here I was, carrying the red, white, and blue for the American food scene.

We have such a diversity of influences and so many dialects of cooking which don’t exist elsewhere (just try to find great BBQ in Paris), along with access to the greatest supply of ingredients and produce and meats, that we’ve almost caught up with the French just by sheer weight of it all.

To prove my point, I reminded our tour guide that it was the American team which this year brought home the gold from the Bocuse d’Or, the most prestigious culinary competition in the world.

“But all of zee great dishes are French!” our guide insisted.

Clearly, she has not had the Panang Mole, which combines Thai red curry with Mexican mole, from Nitally’s in St. Petersburg or the thousands of other uniquely American dishes that make our food scene so great.

What a twist: Enjoying all of this wonderful French food has me longing for the comforts of home.


The question on everyone’s mind this week: What’s going on with the budget?

With just a month until the end of the fiscal year, Florida lawmakers have yet to send the 2017-18 budget to Gov. Rick Scott for his consideration. Some Capitol watchers thought the Senate could send the spending plan to the governor as early as Tuesday; but, it wasn’t among the 26 bills sent to the governor yesterday afternoon.

As Associated Press reporter extraordinaire Gary Fineout pointed out last week, the lag time between passing the budget (which happened on May 8) and sending it to Scott is one of the longest since the Naples Republican took office. The Legislature took 28 days to deliver the budget to Scott in 2012, but with an early session to tackle redistricting that meant the budget still landed on his desk in early April.

Gov. Rick Scott speaks about job creation in Florida at Fish Tale Boats in Lee County. Photo credit: Naples Daily News.

What he’ll do once it lands on his desk remains unclear. For weeks he’s been traveling the state calling out lawmakers for their decision to cut funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, two of his top priorities, and has pointed out he “can veto the entire budget, veto a portion of the budget, or … veto a line in the budget.”

Once the governor receives the budget, he’ll have 15 days to act. Scott said he thought he would receive it “sometime this week.”

If Scott gets it today, he’ll have until the middle of June to make up his mind. That would give lawmakers enough time to hustle back up to Tallahassee if Scott vetoes the budget, triggering the need for a special session before the end of the fiscal year.  

So … what’s the hold up?

— “Rick Scott still mum on 2017-18 budget veto plansvia Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. #NeverStopReaching***


“Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Former Gov. Jeb Bush earned the nickname “Veto Corleone,” with the intentional misspelling of “Vito,” for his aggressive use of the line-item veto. It was even used as a TV ad in Bush’s ill-fated run for president last year. But Bush’s record is in jeopardy, thanks to Gov. Scott. Yearly totals compiled by the LobbyTools legislative research service show that Scott vetoed $1.9 billion in spending in his first six years in office. If he wipes out more than $250 million from the budget that’s headed to his desk — which is highly likely — Scott will have surpassed Bush’s $2.1 billion over eight years, making him the rightful “Godfather” at the state Capitol in Tallahassee. And Scott still has a year to go. … 

— Scott’s veto track record does come with an asterisk, however. In that first year, he vetoed more than $615 million, but nearly half of the amount, or $305 million, was legislative authorization for an environmental land-buying program to be funded from sales of surplus land.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will present veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal at 9 a.m. at the National Guard Armory, 16386 Spring Hill Drive in Brooksville.

— House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, Leader Pro Tempore Bobby DuBose, and Ranking Member on the Education Committee Shevrin Jones have all written op-eds in opposition to HB 7069 and have called for Gov. Scott to veto it.

>>>”Respect Florida’s public schools and properly fund them” via Rep. Cruz

>>>”The Governor must Veto HB 7069 on behalf of our public schools” via Rep. DuBose

>>>”Florida education bill’s path isn’t how the process works” via Rep. Jones

First on #FlaPol – “House releases document listing state budget line items by county” via Florida Politics — The House released a county-by-county list of budget line items Tuesday, ranging from a $26.8 million loan for a highway project in Alachua County to $64,820 in adult education money in Washington County. Speaker Corcoran’s office dropped the list without comment, but it followed by four days Florida TaxWatch’s annual list of budgetary “turkeys” — line items included without sufficient public scrutiny or ranking low on the state’s priority lists.  TaxWatch asked Gov. Scott to veto projects totaling $178 million. “This report was produced prior to the veto process,” the document notes.

Wildlife Federation seeks special session to finance conservation land purchases” via Florida Politics — The Florida Wildlife Federation wants the Legislature to meet in special session to pump money into the state’s environmental land-buying program. The organization issued a written statement to Gov. Scott, House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron, arguing the Legislature is under a “clear obligation” to finance Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative approved by 75 percent of the voters in 2014. “They clearly directed our elected leaders to set aside some of our public tax dollars to buy conservation land so we have some of natural Florida left for future generations,” Federation President Manley Fuller said. “What does the 2017 Legislature do?  Allocates zero money for land conservation. Zero. Lawmakers need to go back and fix this in a special session.”


Bad news for Andrew Gillum? Tallahassee named most dangerous city in Florida” via Florida Politics — Tallahassee had 767 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, far more than in any of Florida’s 21 other metro areas observed by the FBI. It was also well above the state’s violent crime rate of 461.9 per 100,000 (Florida was the 11th highest in the nation). 

Gillum’s camp pushes back on the report: “Here’s the real story of Tallahassee: it was ranked one of the best cities in Florida to start a business and it continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Geoff Burgan, the Gillum campaign’s communication’s director. “People expect that communities will have challenges – what they care about is how you address them, and the Mayor’s taken public safety very seriously. He’s worked to put more police on the street and increase community policing practices. He’s also addressed the social side of public safety – from expanding the Summer Jobs program to offer kids an opportunity, to using restorative and alternative justice programs to better address systemic issues.”

— Gillum will address the Capital Tiger Bay Club at 11:30 a.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.)

Gwen Graham picks up endorsements of three prominent environmentalists – The Democrat announced Tuesday that she received endorsements from 1000 Friends of Florida founder Nathaniel Reed, Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller and former House Speaker Jon Mills, a board member of the Everglades Foundation.

Old news – “Foreclosure attorney to announce AG bid” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times; One week ago: “Citing need for ‘new energy,’ Ryan Torrens becomes first Democrat in Attorney General racevia Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

“Miami Commissioner Ken Russell opens congressional exploratory committee” via David Smiley of the Miami HeraldRussell, a Democrat and first-term commissioner representing downtown and Coconut Grove, has tapped Utrecht, Kleinfeld, Fiori, Partners in Washington D.C. to help him decide if he should open a 2018 campaign for the CD-27 seat being vacated by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Locally, he’s working with political consultant Fernando Diez.

— “… I believe I need to do that next step, to see if this is the right decision to move forward and serve. I’ve already spoken with the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] in Washington, the state party chairman for the Democratic Party here in Florida,” Russell, 43, told the Miami Herald Tuesday afternoon. “This is something that’s very important to me. I represent the common neighbor who becomes a local politician. And that voice is becoming stronger and stronger.”

Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Annette Taddeo qualify in SD 40 — Six candidates vying to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles qualified to run in the Senate District 40 special election as of the end of the day Tuesday. Two Republicans — former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares — and three Democrats — Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith, and Annette Taddeo — qualified to run for the seat. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz filed a letter with the Department of State last week saying he planned to resign from his House District 116 seat to run for the Senate, but has not yet qualified. He has until today to do qualify. 

There’s a real He-Man on Florida ballot via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – State election officials on Tuesday agreed to let Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth qualify for a special election. Schlaerth turned into state officials an affidavit that contends he did not create the nickname to “mislead voters.” He also included an affidavit of a friend who says he was introduced to Schlaerth as “He-Man” last year. State rules allow nicknames to be placed on the ballot if it can be shown that the candidate is known by the nickname.

If Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth’s campaign materials don’t include a play on “I have the power,” it would be like he’s not even trying.

Jeb Bush endorses Jose Mallea in HD 116 — The former Florida governor is throwing his support behind Mallea in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. “There is no question Jose Mallea is the right leader for District 116,” said Bush, who served as governor from 1999 until 2007, in a statement. “Jose has an inspiring personal story of working hard to achieve success in both business and public service, and now wants to ensure that same American dream is attainable for everyone, not just a select few. I know that Jose will effectively put his conservative principles and leadership skills to work in Tallahassee for the community he loves and for our great state.” 

Miami Republican candidate took wedding engagement photos in Cuba” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — A Miami Republican running in a special Florida House election traveled earlier this year to Cuba, where he and his fiancée posed for engagement photos in Havana. Daniel Anthony Perez, a 29-year-old attorney and first-time candidate for House District 116, described it as a family trip to see his fiancée’s elderly uncle. “It was to visit a family member,” Perez said Tuesday to a Miami Herald reporter who asked about the photos, which are posted online.

In Miami politics, even the location of where a candidate took their engagement photos can be controversial.

“We did take pictures while we were there. But the main reason we went was to visit her uncle. We took food, we took medicine.” … Perez and his fiancée, Stephanie Nicolas, posted their engagement photos on The Knot, a popular wedding planning website. The couple’s profile is public. The photos were also posted by PS Photography, a Miami-based studio.

More legislative hopefuls file for 2018Carmelo Garcia has filed to run in House District 41. Garcia, a Winter Haven Democrat, filed the necessary paperwork on Friday to challenge Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew, who was first elected to the seat in 2016. State records show Tony Munnings Sr. filed to run in House District 55. Munnings, a Lake Placid Democrat, is challenging Republican Rep. Cary Pigman. The Avon Park Republican was first elected in 2012 and is running for his final term in the Florida House.


Celeste Philip: Current indicators improved, but Zika threat remains serious” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Florida Surgeon General Philip and Gov. Scott told a roundtable of Orange County public health officials in Orlando that Zika preparedness is up and incidents and rain down this year, but the risk of another major disease outbreak remains significant and no one should abandon precautions. Florida has seen 50 confirmed case of Zika infection so far in 2017, all from overseas transmissions, and less than half of what was seen by this time in 2016. The dry spring has helped, as has more vigilance by officials and citizens, Philip said and that must not change. Real mosquito season is coming, and last summer’s experiences, with hundreds of confirmed cases and a local outbreak from infected mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County. “Compared with last years’ experience, we are better positioned,” Philip said.

Jeff Atwater offers insurance advice as hurricane season opens” via Florida Politics — Hurricane season begins Thursday. Are you covered? Are you sure? Better take a look at your policy, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater advised … “For a better chance of a complication-free claims process, Floridians should carefully review all insurance policies to ensure that proper coverage is in place for their home, car and belongings,” Atwater’s office said … Atwater suggested Floridians write down the state’s toll-free insurance help line number — 1-877-693-5236. It’ll put them in touch with experts who can help them file insurance claims and help solve problems during the claims-filing process.

Three-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday begins Friday via Florida Politics —  The Florida Retail Federation has issued a reminder that the new disaster preparedness sales tax holiday begins this week. Right in time for hurricane season, the state will waive sales taxes on purchases of emergency supplies beginning at 12:01 p.m. Friday, ending at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. … The waiver extends to solar-powered lights; self-powered radios; batteries; electric generators and fuel tanks; nonelectric coolers and reusable ice; and more. There are price limits for covered items. The Florida Department of Revenue has issued a tip sheet with all the details. The hurricane season begins Thursday and runs through Nov. 30.

Knox to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary Friday” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Winter Garden-based Knox Medical is set to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary in a location near Florida Hospital’s downtown campus. Knox is one of nine companies statewide licensed to produce and sell medicines derived from cannabis. Knox has been in operation for several months, relying primarily on delivery service, and earlier this month opened its first storefront, in Gainesville. The Orlando dispensary will be its second, and the company vowed to open more in Jacksonville, Lake Worth, Tallahassee and St. Petersburg in a short time. The Orlando location hold a grand opening at 11 a.m. Friday, at 1901 N. Orange Ave., about six blocks from Florida Hospital, a location consistent with the company’s vowed strategy of locating near major medical centers.

Miami megamall is biggest in U.S. – but don’t call it a mall” via Kurt Anderson of The Associated Press – Call it retail-tainment. Just don’t call American Dream Miami a mall. Developers are proposing a massive 6 million-square-foot (557,000 square-meter) project on the edge of the Everglades in bustling South Florida that would dwarf any other shopping mecca in North America, including Minnesota’s Mall of America. Don Ghermezian, president of developer Triple Five Worldwide Group of Edmonton, Canada – which also built Mall of America – said this is not your father’s shopping mall. In addition to millions of square feet of retail, the project would include an indoor ski slope, a water park, a submarine ride attraction, a skating rink, 2,000 hotel rooms, theaters, a performing arts center and places to eat and drink. “We are not mall developers. That’s not what we’re trying to build,” he said. “A lot of it is ‘retail-tainment.’ What we’re trying to create is an economic engine.”


The rainy season might be on the horizon, but the threat of wildfires is far from over.

According to the Florida Forest Service, more than 2,300 wildfires have burned over 233,000 acres in Florida this year. There were 84 active wildfires burning as of Tuesday, according to the Florida Forest Service.

“As we enter what is traditionally Florida’s rainy season, much of the state is still experiencing drought conditions and elevated wildfire danger,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement. “Residents and visitors need to pay attention to and comply with local burn bans and should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

More than 2,300 wildfires have burned more than 233,000 acres in Florida already this year.

At least two dozen counties had burn bans in place as of May 26, according to the Florida Forest Service. That doesn’t include the four counties — Duval, Hillsborough, Sarasota, and Orange — that have permanent burn bans in place.

According to the Forest Service’s fire danger index, about half of the state’s 67 counties had a moderate or high threat of fire on Tuesday. The index did not appear to put any county in the “extreme” risk category, several counties were in the “very high” risk category.

Putnam encouraged Floridians to take steps to reduce their wildfire risk, including by creating 30 feet of defensible space around their homes.


Appointed –  Babu Varghese and Pankaj Shah to the Florida Board of Professional Engineers.

Personnel note: Bonnie King named president of Film Florida — Film Florida announced Tuesday that Bonnie King, a film commissioner for the Space Coast Film and Television Office, a Committee of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council, has been named president of the 2017-18 board of directors. King started her career as a radio broadcaster, becoming the first woman in Brevard County to host a rock-and-roll radio show during the day. She also worked as a marketing director for a regional shopping mall, before joining the Space Coast Office of Tourism/Film. “I look forward to working side by side with industry professionals as we seek opportunities to strengthen the film, TV and digital media industry,” she said in a statement. “Florida is open for business and competing for high wage jobs in the film, television and digital media industry and we plan on continuing to spread that message.” The organization also announced its 2017-18 executive board officers: Gail Morgan with the Emerald Coast Film Commission will serve as 1st vice president; Tony Stopperan with Ringling College of Art & Design will serve as 2nd vice president; Herta Suarez with SAG-AFTRA will serve as secretary; and Lauren O’Quinn with ClassAct Studios will serve as treasurer. Kelly Paige will serve as the immediate past president.

Sachs Media Group announces new leadership – Preparing for future growth following a record year in 2016, Sachs Media Group Tuesday announced major new roles for key company leaders. Sachs named Michelle Ubben the firm’s president, following her longtime service as senior partner and chief operating officer. Ryan Cohn, the firm’s vice president of digital, was named executive vice president and is part of the core leadership team setting a course for the firm’s future direction and growth. Sachs Media Group acquired Cohn’s firm, What’s Next Marketing, in 2012. Lisa Garcia was named chief operating officer, taking on responsibility for the firm’s working processes and daily operations. Garcia also will head up the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Sachs Media Group’s new president, Michelle Ubben; founder/CEO Ron Sachs; Executive Vice President, Ryan Cohn; Lisa Garcia, Chief Operating Officer.

Turning 50, Greenberg Traurig tops the Law360 400 via Cristina Violante of Law360 —  Greenberg Traurig LLP is celebrating its golden anniversary with a trip to the top of Law360’s list of the largest U.S. law firms, capping off decades of steady growth by ousting Jones Day from the No. 1 spot. While its 2 percent growth in 2016 mirrored the industry’s overall average, the uptick was enough for the firm to leapfrog its rival, which shrank slightly, according to our annual ranking of the largest U.S.-based law firms as measured by domestic attorney headcount. “We’ve gotten bigger over the last 50 years, without a doubt,” said Brian Duffy, Greenberg’s CEO. “I also think we’ve gotten better every year over the last 50 years, and the latter is the more important part. There’s nothing magic about being a larger firm, but it is important to always, every day, be a better law firm.” … While most firms at the top of the Law360 400 trace their lineage back at least a century, Greenberg Traurig has become the largest U.S. firm after opening its doors 50 years ago in Miami. At the behest of its clients, the firm began crawling up the Eastern Seaboard in 1991 when it expanded into New York City, now the firm’s largest office. The firm launched its Atlanta office in 1998, it opened its doors in Boston, Chicago and Delaware in 1999, and it moved into New Jersey in 2002.

— ALOE —

GayDays expected to bring $100 million economic boost” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – What began in 1991 as a one-day celebration with 3,000 participants now spans a week and brings more than 180,000 gay and lesbian visitors to 40 events that pump an estimated $100 million into the local economy. Walt Disney World Resort initially posted signs at their gates warning families of GayDays’ visitors but now for the first time this year paid for a full-page ad in the GayDays publication. The resort unofficially designated June 1-4 as days to wear symbolic red shirts at each of its theme parks. Visits to SeaWorld and Universal also are on the schedule. GayDays has pledged this year to collect donations to support the onePulse Foundation.

GayDays began in 1991 as a one-day celebration at Walt Disney World with 3,000 participants. Now, the week-long event brings more than 180,000 gay and lesbian visitors to 40 Orlando venues, with an estimated $100 million going into the local economy.

Jeb Bush no longer interested in buying Marlins” via The Associated Press – The ex-presidential candidate and former Florida governor is no longer interested in buying the Marlins and has ended his pursuit of the team … former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who had been part of Bush’s group, is still exploring a bid with other investors. Jeter becomes the frontman for an investment group competing with a group led by businessman Tagg Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The Romney group includes Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

Joe Henderson: Frank Deford’s passing deserves a moment of pause and reflection” for Florida Politics – People have rightly praised him as a consummate storyteller, wordsmith, and a giant in the world of sports writing – although, for Frank, a more appropriate description would be writer, period. Never mind the subject. Like wannabe’s everywhere, I poured over each line of a Deford story in Sports Illustrated. He routinely did things with words that I could only imagine. The magazine wisely granted him time and space to dig deep into a subject, and he repaid by producing lasting literature. One of the beautiful things about literature is that it survives eternally. These men wrote prose that happened to be about sports. They turned words into pictures and reminded everyone that when done properly, telling the story is an art. They made that matter. Godspeed, Frank Deford.

Where did Buster Posey go wrong in Monday’s Giants vs. Nationals brawl?” via Bob Sparks for Florida Politics – Actually, he was not involved. To put it mildly, that is the very reason he became a big story … video showed the former Florida State player standing still while events unfolded. Perhaps he was stunned because catchers are normally in the loop when an opponent is about to get drilled. To borrow from politics, we must ask “what did Posey know and when did he know it?” … “Well, I mean after it happened, I kind of saw Harper point,” Posey told the media in the Giants’ clubhouse. “Next thing you know, he’s going out after him. Those are some big guys tumbling around on the ground. So, it was a little dangerous to get in there sometimes.”

Happy birthday to Keith Fernandez and Adrian Lukis.

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.

Latest from Peter

Go to Top