A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
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GALLUP: VOTER ENTHUSIASM DOWN SHARPLY HEADING INTO MIDTERMS
A majority of U.S. registered voters, 53 percent, say they are less enthusiastic about voting than in previous elections, while 35 percent are more enthusiastic. This 18-percentage-point enthusiasm deficit is larger than what Gallup has measured in prior midterm election years, particularly in 2010 when there was record midterm enthusiasm.
Among registered voters, 42 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, while 50 percent are less enthusiastic, resulting in an eight-point enthusiasm deficit. But Democrats are even less enthusiastic, with a 23-point deficit (32 percent more enthusiastic vs. 55 percent less enthusiastic).
Typically, the party whose supporters have an advantage in enthusiasm has done better in midterm elections. Republicans had decided advantages in enthusiasm in 1994, 2002, and especially 2010 — years in which they won control of the House of Representatives or expanded on their existing majority. Democrats had the advantage in 2006, the year they won control of the House. Neither party had a decided advantage in 1998, a year Democrats posted minimal gains in House seats.
… A separate measure, one that historically has been predictive of turnout, asks Americans how much thought they have given to the election. Currently, 26 percentof Americans say they have given “quite a lot” or “some” thought to this year’s midterm elections, much lower than Gallup’s initial measurement in 2010 (37 percent) but on par with early readings in 2006 (28 percent) and 1998 (29 percent).
Not surprisingly, Americans usually give more thought to the election as it draws nearer — but in midterm election years, that typically has represented only about half of the public right before the election. The lower level of engagement at this point compared with similar points in prior years may indicate that overall voter turnout will be lower than in the last two midterm election years.
Currently, 37 percent of Republicans say they have given at least some thought to the election, compared with 24 percent of Democrats. Republicans’ scores on this measure almost always exceed those for Democrats, so the size of the advantage is what matters for predicted turnout. The current 13-point Republican advantage in election thought is slightly smaller than the 2010 average of 15, but larger than the 2006 and 2002 averages of two and four points, respectively. That suggests Republicans may enjoy an above-average advantage in turnout this year, although perhaps not as significant as in 2010.
VOTERS LIKE OBAMACARE IF YOU CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE
The latest Marist poll in Kentucky finds that registered voters dislike Obamacare by a wide margin, 57 percent to 33 percent.
However, when voters were asked to give their impression of “kynect,” the state exchange created as a result of the health care law, the picture was quite different with a plurality in favor, 29 percent to 22 percent.
“Call it something else, and the negatives drop,” said pollster Lee Miringoff.
OBAMA STRUGGLING IN FLORIDA, NEW POLL FINDS via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News
Despite carrying Florida twice, a new poll from a conservative group shows President Obama is underwater in the Sunshine State.
The poll from McLaughlin and Associates taken for the American Future Fund finds a majority of those surveyed–53 percent–disapprove of Obama while 43 percent approve of him. The poll finds Obama’s poor standing can impact the Florida gubernatorial race, as only 39 percent say they want a governor cut from Obama’s mold while 50 percent would rather see a Republican governor push back against the White House.
Only 41 percent of those surveyed say they approve of Obama’s federal health-care law while 53 percent oppose it. A strong plurality–44 percent–strongly disapprove of Obama’s health-care law.
The poll of 800 likely voters was taken from May 4-May 6 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent. The poll relies on 47 percent men and 53 percent women while 40 percent of those surveyed are Republicans and 37 percent are Democrats.
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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Today, Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver a speech on retirement security at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “To ensure that a secure retirement can remain part of the American Dream in the 21st century, Rubio will propose new reforms to strengthen entitlement programs, make it easier for young Americans to save for retirement, and remove financial penalties on Americans who choose to keep working into their golden years. … This will be the latest in a series of policy proposals by Rubio to reclaim the 21st century American Dream. Earlier this year, he outlined reforms to address poverty, higher education and economic growth.” 1 p.m.
U.S. REP. DAVID JOLLY BELIEVES MAN HAS HAD AN IMPACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE via Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing
Unlike Rubio, Jolly definitely believes that climate change is caused by human activity. But like the Florida Senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate, the Pinellas-based Congressman says his issue is with how to address the problem.
“I believe climate change is occurring and I believe man has had an impact,” Jolly told CL. “The issue that we get lost on is debating what the response should be.”
Rubio told ABC’s This Week that he doesn’t believe human activity is causing “these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” That belief was backed up as the conservative approach to climate change on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program by host Joe Scarborough, who defended Rubio. “A lot of us believe the left have overreached on this issue and we’re not going to throw people out of work because of their ideological rampages,” Scarborough said.
Just 48 hours earlier, Jolly was standing along the white sands of Treasure Island Beach, promoting his inclusion of funding for a House bill for beach renourishment along the northern and southern parts of that beach (Specifically for Sunshine and Sunset Beaches respectively).
The congressman frequently invoked the damages done to the South New Jersey shore by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as an argument to renourish Pinellas’ beaches.
Last week a major study on climate change, the National Climate Assessment report, listed the Tampa Bay area as one of the most vulnerable in the land because of sea-level rise. Jolly says it’s mostly a responsibility of local and state governments to deal with improving the infrastructure to deal with that effect.
DEADLINE FOR IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL IS AUGUST, SAYS DIAZ-BALART via Bridget Bowman of Roll Call
The deadline to pass immigration legislation is this August, said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who is part of the effort to develop an immigration bill that could pass the House.
“The legislative process in essence, frankly, has to work on deadlines. There’s a deadline. And the deadline is that if we don’t get it done by August, it doesn’t happen,” Diaz-Balart told CQ Roll Call at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute’s awards gala.
“If Congress doesn’t act by the August break, the president is going to do something.
The Florida Republican said that if there is executive action on immigration, the president “will also then create a narrative of his choosing and again creating a situation where no further negotiations are possible.”
Although he is optimistic, Diaz-Balart cautioned that an immigration overhaul still faces an uphill climb in the House. However, Diaz-Balart said, “I wouldn’t be working this hard at it if I didn’t think there was a legitimate chance of getting it done.”
The Florida Republican would not say whether House Republican leadership was receptive to his plan, but he did say, “I’ve spoken to everybody.”
Diaz-Balart’s optimism comes at a time of uncertainty surrounding an immigration overhaul. Although there have been recent signs that immigration could be addressed this year, Speaker John A. Boehner told House Republicans last week that there is no “conspiracy” to address immigration policy without their support.
NRCC NAMES CURBELO TO “YOUNG GUNS” PROGRAM
The National Republican Congressional Committee has named Carlos Curbelo as one of its first 10 “Young Guns” of the 2014 cycle. This is the NRCC’s designation for top new recruits against incumbent Democrats or in open-seat races. Curbelo is running against Rep. Joe Garcia in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.
As Emily Schultheis of POLITICO notes, including Curbelo in this group is a signal to scandal-ridden former Rep. David Rivera – who announced he’d run again in CD 26 this year – that the NRCC’s preference is for Curbelo to be the party’s standard bearer in November.
The other nine “Young Guns” are: Martha McSally, who’s challenging Democratic Rep. Ron Barber in AZ-02; Bob Dold, running against Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider in IL-10; Mike Bost, challenging Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart in IL-12; Richard Tisei, facing Democratic Rep. John Tierney in MA-06; Torrey Westrom, running against Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson in MN-07; Stewart Mills, facing Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan in MN-08; Ryan Costello, running for retiring Rep. Jim Gerlach’s seat in PA-06; Barbara Comstock, running for retiring Rep. Frank Wolf’s seat in VA-10; and Evan Jenkins, challenging Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall in WV-03.
The list is a mix of both the top districts that have long been on Republicans’ target lists and the Republican recruits about whom they’re most excited: Rahall, for example, has always been seen as one of this cycle’s most vulnerable Democrats, while McSally (though she’s run before) is arguably one of the NRCC’s rising-star recruits.
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GOP POLL: SCOTT 42%, CRIST 38% via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald
American Future Fund, a conservative group, has released a poll showing Republican Gov. Rick Scott with not just a lead over Democrat Charlie Crist, but a relatively substantial one: 4 percentage points.
With the margin of error, however, one could call Scott’s 42-38 percent lead a tie as well.
Just as Republicans do when their guy is losing, Democrats are sure to doubt this poll’s validity. It’s an outlier, for now. And McLaughlin & Associates have what are generally known as “tight screens” for their likely voter polls, which could make this one inherently more conservative leaning.
That’s because a likely voter in a Florida midterm tends to be more conservative than one in a presidential race. And that’s why there are no Democrats elected statewide who hold a position in the state Capitol.
And that’s why it’s not a bad idea to guess that the race between Scott and Crist will be close. It might be already. Not only have more-conservative-leaning polls shown a tighter race as of late, but Scott is on pace to burn about $8.5 million in just over two months on TV alone.
Money like that has to have an effect. Because it always has.
The McLaughlin poll is composed of 37 percent Democrats, 40 percent Republicans, 23 percent Other/independent voters. Other polls showing Crist up had more Democrats and independents. (2006 turnout was R=43 percent D=42 percent, OTH=15.3 percent; 2010 turnout was R=44 percent, D=40 percent, OTH=16 percent — but note, there are wonky debates over self-ID and registered voter polls that might not make the polling and turnout percentages listed here as completely analogous).
CRIST RAISES $2.2 MIL via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel
Crist reported raising $2.2 million in April through his campaign account and political committee, Charlie Crist for Florida.
… Really the only take-away that is marginally interesting from this month’s reports is the insane difference in burn rate between the two campaigns. Including the dollars Scott’s Let’s Get to Work committee spent in 2012 and 2013 before it was converted from an electioneering organization into a political committee (sorry for the geek speak), the governor has raised $31.6 million but spent $13.9 million on an ad-buying blitz that is likely the earliest gubernatorial foray into major ad buys in Florida history.
Crist, by comparison, has spent just $1.23 million. He’s also raised less — $9.87 million. But since most of Scott’s spending has been since Crist’s campaign became official last November, the incumbent governor is outspending the former GOP governor turned Democrat roughly $11 to $1.
That ratio cannot continue for much longer.
GOV APPROVES TAX HOLIDAY FOR HURRICANE SUPPLIES via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel
Gov. Scott signed HB 5601 establishing a sales tax holiday for purchases of hurricane supplies such as batteries, tarps and portable generators.
Scott signed the bill after speaking briefly at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference at the Orange County Convention Center. The hurricane season begins June 1 and the sales tax holiday will run from May 31 to June 8.
He said the bill “puts $121 million back in Florida families’ pockets.”
Scott emphasized that recent flooding in Pensacola showed the need for “everybody in the state to get prepared” for the storm season.
“I flew to Pensacola right after the flooding happened and it was devastating,” Scott said. “Families didn’t anticipate it coming.”
APPOINTED: Thomas O’Malley to the Florida Poly Board of Trusteees.
… SIGNS BILL TO OK LAW LICENSE FOR NON-CITIZENS via The Associated Press
The Florida Supreme Court will be able to grant law licenses to non-citizens under a measure signed into law by Gov. Scott.
On Monday, Scott signed the bill (HB 755), which responds to a recent state Supreme Court decision.
The court ruled people in the country illegally can’t be issued law licenses. The case involved Jose Godinez-Samperio, who was seeking his license after passing the bar in 2011. Godinez-Samperio came to the United States with his parents on a tourist visa when he was 9, and they remained in the country after it expired.
The new law allows the court to issue law licenses if a person came to the country as a minor and has lived in Florida for more than 10 years.
… SIGNS BILL TRIGGERED BY COMMON CORE FIGHT
Three measures responding to complaints about Florida’s move to Common Core standards have been signed into law by Gov. Scott.
Scott on Monday signed a bill (SB 864) that would allow parents to object to school textbooks. The governor also signed a bill that would bar school districts from being able to collect student data like fingerprints. The measure (SB 188) would also bar the collection of information on the political or religious affiliation of students and parents.
Scott also signed a bill that repeals more than 30 mentions of Common Core placed into state law a year ago.
Florida is refusing to jettison standards based primarily on Common Core despite demands from activists and conservative groups. The bills were meant to address concerns that have been raised.
MEANWHILE … GOV. AND CABINET ARE JUDGES TODAY IN FPL VS. LOCALS FIGHT OVER POWER TOWERS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
Gov. Scott and members of the Cabinet face what may be the most controversial and politically delicate decision of their term Tuesday, when they will decide whether to give Florida Power & Light permission to build two new nuclear power generators and 88 miles of new transmission lines in South Florida.
The proposed high-voltage lines, which would be hoisted on towers which could rise as high as 150 feet, have generated opposition in the cities in Miami Dade County through which the lines would traverse — a region of the state that Gov. Rick Scott has deemed crucial to his re-election bid.
While cities from Miami to Coral Gables and the Village of Pinecrest have questioned the need for the power plants, their main objection has been on where to locate the 230-kilovolt lines on 80- to 100-foot poles.
The lines are projected to run from Cutler Bay through Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables to a substation in Coconut Grove. The towers would be built alongside Metrorail and down U.S. 1, past Cadillac show rooms, Porsche dealers, retail malls and through miles of concentrated development.
On the west, three 500-kilovolt transmission lines on 150-foot poles would run through the edge of Everglades National Park, a prospect that conservation groups say could have a detrimental effect on sensitive wildlife habitats.
FPL says the new lines are essential to supplying energy to South Florida’s growing population and, over the 40-year life of the project, predicts that customers will save $64 billion in fossil fuel costs, down from the $75 billion in savings the utility projected last year. Any further delay, the company argues, will be expensive for customers, said Peter Robbins, an FPL spokesman.
Democrat Nan Rich raised only $20,748 during April in her campaign for Governor, and receiving another $34,583 in in-kind contributions, according to reports filed with the Division of Elections.
The Weston Democrat raised $348,804 total through April 30, spending $244,554. She also took in a total of $216,883 in-kind contributions, with a majority coming from the Florida Democratic Party.
Rich is also the head of the Citizens for a Progressive Florida political committee, which raised a total of $92,815. The PAC did not report any contributions for April.
Putnam collected $91,085 in April, bringing his overall total to $1,778,309. He also had received a total of $571,358 in in-kind contributions through April 30. Democratic candidate Thad Hamilton had raised an overall total of $12,613 through last month.
Atwater, meanwhile, collected $139,385 in April and reported a total of $1,734,854. He also had received a total of $686,349 in in-kind contributions. Democrat William Rankin had raised a total of $8,342 through April.
Attorney General Pam Bondi collected $132,100 in cash for her campaign account in April, continuing to build a huge fund-raising edge over Democratic challengers George Sheldon and Perry Thurston.
Bondi had raised an overall total of $1,159,621 through April 30, while spending only $57,281. Two Bondi-affiliated political committees, dubbed “Justice for All” and “And Justice for All,” reported raising an overall total of $1.67 million in cash through April.
Sheldon, meanwhile, reported raising $19,083 last month, giving him a total of $212,386. But Sheldon’s campaign-finance report posted online also indicates he had spent $215,309.
Thurston, the House minority leader who did not raise money last month because of the legislative session, reported an overall total of $102,392.
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FORMER TAVARES MAYOR ENDORSES TERRI SEEFELDT FOR HD 31 Full blog post here
Former Tavares Mayor Nancy Clutts is endorsing Republican Terri Seefeldt for House District 31.
Seefeldt is running to replace term limited Rep. Bryan Nelson in the conservative seat representing Lake and Orange Counties and the towns of Eustis, Tavares, Umatilla, and Mt. Dora along with Apopka.
“We need strong leaders in Tallahassee to represent Lake County residents,” Clutts said in a statement. “My friend Terri Seefeldt fits that mold and I am honored to endorse her today. Terri understands that we need a balanced approach to growth in Lake County that will provide needed transportation infrastructure without compromising our quality of life and taxing our water resources.”
Clutts is a partner in the Corbin Group, a business-coaching firm based in the Villages; she was mayor of Tavares from 2002 to 2007.
SAVE THE DATE: On May 29, there will be a meet & greet for House District 74 candidate Richard DeNapoli in celebration of his 37th birthday. The event begins at 5:45 p.m. at Gianni’s Pizza, 212 S. Tamiami Trail in Venice.
EVEN WITHOUT APRIL FUNDRAISING, JEFF BRANDES STILL DOMINATING MONEY RACE IN SD 22 Full blog post here
Even without any donations in April, state Sen. Jeff Brandes continues to overwhelm in his re-election effort, despite his Democratic opponent having the best fundraising month ever.
The St. Petersburg Republican has so far collected a total of $409,465 for the campaign to retain his Senate District 22 seat, which covers southern Pinellas and part of Hillsborough County. He spent $29,539 on his campaign in April. This leaves Brandes with just over $220,000 cash-on-hand.
Brandes’ Democratic challenger, USF St. Petersburg political science professor Judithanne McLauchlan, raised $19,838 last month — the best single month of her campaign—giving her a total of $82,402, and $58,430 cash-on-hand.
IN HD 40 GOP PRIMARY, JOHN SHANNON CLOSING THE GAP WITH $12,675 RAISED LAST MONTH Full blog post here
State House hopeful John Shannon added another $12,675 in April for the District 40 race, nearly double the amount raised by GOP primary opponent Colleen Burton.
The Lakeland attorney and Marine Corps veteran now has $57,425 overall, and after spending $4,244 last month, now has over $50,000 cash on hand.
Burton, a former executive director for Polk Vision, is seeing her early advantage slip away, after launching her campaign last year with a substantial head start and running unopposed for much of last year. However, in April she only raised $7,575, for a total of $98,250. While that seems like a solid number, Burton also spent $10,108 last month, leaving her with just under $73,000 in her war chest.
SHAWN HARRISON WIDENS MONEY LEAD IN HD 63 Full blog post here
Former state Rep. Shawn Harrison used April to pull further ahead in contributions for his effort to regain the House District 63 seat.
The Tampa Republican posted another $8,525 in donations last month for a total of $86,410.
Harrison faces Democrat incumbent Rep. Mark Danish for the seat representing north Hillsborough County. First elected to the House in 2010, Harrison served a single term, losing to Danish in 2012.
Since sitting state legislators are prohibited from fundraising during the legislative session, Danish fell behind again in the April reporting period, holding steady with $66,757 in total. However, the incumbent did spend $2,182 last month, leaving him with just under $50,000 cash on hand. Harrison is also closing the gap there, as his war chest stands at just over $39,000.
IN HD 65, CHRIS SPROWLS WIDENS FUNDRAISING LEAD OVER CARL ZIMMERMAN BY RAISING $5,375 IN APRIL Full blog post here
Taking full advantage of the legislative fundraising break, Chris Sprowls widened his lead for the House District 65 race against incumbent Democrat Rep. Carl “Z” Zimmerman.
The Tarpon Springs Republican added $5,375 April 1-30 for a total of $145,041 overall in the race for the seat covering parts of north Pinellas County, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and East Lake.
Sprowls spent $9,379 last month, for $41,953 in total expenditures, leaving just over $103,000 cash on hand.
Since sitting legislators are banned from fundraising during the session, which ended May 2, Zimmerman reported zero in fundraising, leaving him with a total of $63,351 in donations — less than half the amount raised by Sprowls.
Zimmerman spent $150 in April, for a total expenditure of $1344, giving him $62,000 cash on hand, again only about 42 percent of the war chest of his first-time Republican opponent.
CHRIS LATVALA KEEPS MOMENTUM GOING WITH $162K RAISED FOR HD 67 RACE Full blog post here
House District 67 frontrunner Chris Latvala is maintaining his strong fundraising momentum, posting another $6,300 in April, according to filings with the Florida Division of Elections.
The Largo Republican is now at $162,460 overall in his effort to succeed term-limited GOP State Rep. Ed Hooper for the seat covering northeast Pinellas County. For three years, Latvala served as Hooper’s legislative aide.
Latvala spent $11,032 last month, giving him nearly $126,000 cash on hand.
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CONTEXT FLORIDA: CLIMATE CHANGE, BENGHAZI, PARENTAL CHOICE AND WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION
On Context Florida: When it comes to climate change, Martin Dyckman says that the Koch billionaires and other petrochemical oligarchs who profit from the status quo are playing people who think that what they cannot see can’t hurt them. The tragic fact is climate change can be seen and it is hurting people everywhere. Bob Sparks writes that the Benghazi, Libya tragedy is worth pursuing because four Americans are dead. What makes it profoundly disturbing, he adds, is the lack of desire by the Obama administration to get to the truth. Practical concerns of parents, not ideology, are driving the movement for private school vouchers, charter schools and other forms of parental choice. But because ideology is warping so much of the debate, Ron Matus addresses the myth that parental choice is the brainchild of the radical right. Afghanistan is welcoming a new dawn of women’s political participation, writes Audrey Gibson, and the recent election there marks one of the first opportunities any have ever had to play a part in the running of their country.
DRONES TAKE FLIGHT IN FLORIDA via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel
The moment wasn’t the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, but it megaphoned the message that drones have moved beyond the military and rolled up their sleeves for workaday tasks. Making, selling and flying aerial robots is taking off, even if the nation hasn’t yet set workplace rules for drones.
What they can do will be showcased this week in Orlando at the world’s largest drone event, with 600 exhibits of drone wares that could be used by cops, farmers and ecologists – for “dirty, dangerous or difficult” missions and for tasks such as tending orange groves, peeking into an industrial fire or measuring beach erosion.
Nearly 8,000 people are expected to attend the 41st conference and trade show of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Day-of tickets will cost more than $1,000, and the public is not invited.
Currently, only military and public agencies, including universities, are allowed to fly drones; the Federal government is formulating regulations for commercial users.
The industry is surging with competitors, each vying to show that their technology and approach should be the model for the new rules.
Even using the word “drone” is up in the air.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says a drone is what fighter pilots practice shooting at. Please use “unmanned aircraft system,” said association spokesperson Melanie Hinton.
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Bill Carlson and writer extraordinaire Adam Weinstein.