Sunburn for 5/9 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

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In the new conventional wisdom, Obama is said to be conducting a weak foreign policy that is damaging U.S. prestige and power. Faced with criticism of his stewardship of our place in the world, moreover, the President has been portrayed as a self-absorbed whiner…. Obama is choosing limited action in many spheres because he believes that more expansive action may create more problems than it would solve. He is a pragmatist who has always been depicted, particularly by his opponents, as an ideologue…

Lord knows, we get things wrong–we have fought unwise wars, ignored the plights of persecuted peoples, sent contradictory signals–but by and large, generation in and generation out, we have, in British journalist and economist Walter Bagehot’s phrase, muddled through. The question now is whether Obama is muddling through in the manner of his better predecessors or is at once withdrawn and weak.

WHY OBAMA MAY NEVER GET BILL ON IMMIGRATION via Manu Raju and Seung Min Kim of Politico

Marco Rubio spent months last year furiously negotiating a comprehensive immigration bill. But don’t count on the Florida Republican to revive his stalled bill in the next Congress.

“A comprehensive, single piece of legislation on any topic, but especially on immigration, is going to be very difficult to achieve,” Rubio, a potential presidential candidate, said when asked whether he’d push a large overhaul in the 2015-16 session. “We keep talking about the same issue now for 15 years, and everybody is doing this all-or-nothing approach. And all-or-nothing is going to leave you with nothing.”

Rubio’s grim assessment reflects growing pessimism on Capitol Hill that a sweeping immigration bill is achievable in President Barack Obama’s second term if nothing passes this year. It’s a remarkable shift from last year’s heady belief that the two parties would finally cut a deal on the contentious issue after Latino voters came out in droves to reelect the president in 2012.

A bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate last summer, faces fierce opposition in the conservative House — and there’s little chance a version of the measure passes even during a lame-duck session after November’s elections. This means lawmakers would have to start from scratch next year. But looming over the next Congress will be the 2016 presidential primary season, which could make it too difficult for GOP leaders, and potential presidential candidates like Rubio, to moderate on an issue that roils the conservative base.

Republicans, who appear poised to retain the House majority and potentially win the Senate this fall, say if Democrats continue to demand liberal policies on the nation’s undocumented immigrants, it would sink GOP efforts to move narrower immigration bills in a more conservative Congress. Some fear the end result could be no action on the issue until there’s a new president in office.


Certain states matter more than others in electoral politics. Ohio, Virginia and Colorado have been the battleground states during the last two cycles. Florida has been an afterthought, but it is positioned to return to the forefront. No state looms larger as the Republican Party mulls its future. It’s not just because two of the party’s top presidential hopefuls — Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — are from the Sunshine State. (Presidential candidates tend to perform better in their home states by as much as 4 to 6 percentage points.)

Florida is where Republicans have the most obvious opportunities to improve their 2016 chances. There are few places where an immigration bill could help the party more than in Florida, where 22 percent of the population is Hispanic. But immigration reform may not be sufficient for the G.O.P. to make significant gains among Hispanic voters, who lean Democratic on economic issues. The state’s growing diversity will make it far harder than is commonly believed for Republicans to retake Florida, the nation’s most populous swing state, in 2016. If the country’s growing diversity dooms the modern Republican Party, then Florida will be the first exhibition of the party’s demographic death spiral.

The next Republican nominee — Floridian or otherwise — will need every bit of help he or she can get. That’s because Florida’s non-Hispanic white voters have plummeted since 2000, to 67 percent from 78 percent, according to the Census Bureau. The number of eligible Hispanic voters doubled over that period, and the state’s new Hispanic voters aren’t Republican-leaning Cubans. They include Democratic Puerto Ricans, who have flocked to the Orlando-Kissimmee area, and other non-Cuban Hispanics settling elsewhere in the peninsula. The newest Cuban voters aren’t as Republican as their parents, either; Younger, third-generation Cuban-Americans didn’t grow up during the Cold War. The influx of Democratic-friendly Hispanics and broader Democratic gains among Hispanics combined to flip Florida’s Hispanic vote. According to the exit polls, President Obama won Florida’s Latinos by a 21 point margin, 60 to 39 percent, a reversal from 2004, when Latinos voted for George W. Bush, 56 to 44 percent.


Three prominent Florida Republicans — Bush, Rubio, and Gov. Scott — declined repeated requests to be interviewed on the subject. Rubio and Bush are viewed as potential presidential candidates. Political analysts say the reluctance of the three men to speak publicly on the issue reflects an increasingly difficult political reality for Republicans grappling with the issue of climate change, particularly for the party’s lawmakers from Florida.

In acknowledging the problem, politicians must endorse a solution, but the only major policy solutions to climate change — taxing or regulating the oil, gas and coal industries — are anathema to the base of the Republican Party. Thus, many Republicans, especially in Florida, appear to be dealing with the issue by keeping silent.

“Jeb likes to take positions on hot-button issues, the same with Rubio,” said Joseph E. Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami. “But on this, Republicans are dead set against taking action on climate change on the national level. If you have political aspirations, this is not something you should talk about if you want to win a Republican primary.”

Over the past year, Rubio has signaled his skepticism about the established science that fossil fuel emissions contribute to climate change. When asked in a 2013 Buzzfeed webcast interview if climate change posed a threat to Florida, Rubio responded: “The climate is always changing. The question is, is manmade activity what’s contributing most to it?” He added that “I’ve seen reasonable debate on that principle” and “if we unilaterally impose these sorts of things on our economy it would have a devastating impact.”


Relief is coming to thousands of Floridians affected by a violent storm system last week, which brought massive rainfall and flooding to the Panhandle and North Gulf Coast regions, causing at least one death.

On Thursday, Gov. Scott announced the creation of a new Florida Disaster Fund. The Fund helps Floridians impacted by disasters by coordinating support and local recovery efforts.

Earlier this week, Scott received approval for federal disaster relief for both Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.

Volunteer Florida, the quasi-governmental non-profit relief organization, accepts donations for the Fund through a link on its website.  In a disaster, they will collaborate with both the public and private sectors to facilitate response and recovery activities using resources from the Fund. Money will be distributed to disaster relief organizations.

Eligible applicants will include long-term recovery organizations and other non-profits, both faith-based and secular.


Donald Trump, who knows a thing or two about the gambling industry, is not impressed with the negotiation skills of Gov. Scott as he discusses a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The owner of the multi-billion dollar Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts in Atlantic City, and on-again-off-again presidential candidate, took to Twitter with his dissatisfaction over an anticipated deal with the Tribe.

Any future deal with the Tribe could rest on three issues: what games they can offer, exclusive rights for the Tribe to provide gambling outside Broward/Miami-Dade Counties and how much Florida will receive for the privilege.

Trump is not pleased:

@realDonaldTrump: Thought @FLGovScott was a better negotiator—the Seminole Indian gaming deal is a disaster for Florida. #sayfie

@RealDonaldTrump: Wow, looks like @FLGovScott wants to hand over the State of Florida to the Seminole Indians w/ the terrible gaming deal in talks! #sayfie


In the 10th annual survey of CEOs concerning their views of the best and worst states for business, over 500 CEOs across the U.S. responded. Business leaders were asked to grade states with which they were familiar on a variety of measures that CEOs themselves have said are critical. These include the tax and regulatory regime, the quality of the workforce and the quality of the living environment.

For example, a state’s attitude toward business is viewed as a critical component of its tax and regulatory regime, while employees’ attitude toward management is considered a crucial factor in the perceived quality of a region’s workforce. Public education and health are also important factors in the living environment, as are such things as cost of living and affordable housing.

Texas continues its 10-year historical position as the best state overall; but Florida, which ranks No. 2, is edging up and even overtaking Texas in its quality of living environment.

“We’ve learned from Texas how to tell our story better and it helps that we’ve cut taxes 25 times—about $400 million,” Florida Governor Rick Scott told Chief Executive.

Scott points to what he calls the Jim Collins “flywheel effect” where momentum is generated as more big name companies invest in his state. “When companies like Hertz, Amazon, Deutsche Bank and Verizon add jobs here, it causes more people to look at us. Business is comfortable that we’ll keep the tax base low and improve our workforce.”


Senator Andy Gardiner: “Economic development is stronger in Florida than it has ever been. Governor Scott and leadership from both parties have given Secretary Swoope and his team the tools needed to not only be competitive but successful in bringing companies to the state. Today’s news from Northrop Grumman is an incredible win for our state and we look forward to watching their continued growth in Florida.”

Senator Joe Negron: “I want to commend members of both parties for their support and diligent review of this incredibly important job creation project. The Legislative Budget Committee could not be happier that Northrop Grumman has chosen to bring up to 1,800 jobs and $500 million in capital investment to Florida.”

Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli: “As a fourth generation resident of Brevard County, I couldn’t be more proud and excited about today’s announcement by Northrop Grumman. Our community and our state have a long history in the aviation and aerospace industry and today’s announcement will continue our excellence for generations to come.  Bringing these jobs to the Space Coast will help recharge our economy and signal to other corporate leaders that we have the talent and commitment to help them succeed.”

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Among the bills heading to Gov. Scott include measures cutting taxes on a variety of items and an overhaul of the state’s school-grading system.

Three sales-tax holidays are part of HB 5601, the tax cut bill such as one on hurricane-preparedness supplies purchased between May 31 and June 8, as well as a list of credits and permanent sales-tax exemptions.

The bill is part of a $105 million package that makes up the remainder of Scott’s planned $500 million in tax and fee cuts, which began with a rollback of vehicle registration fees signed into law earlier by the governor.

SB 1642 is an education bill patterned after a proposal by Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, simplifying the school grading formula. It also eliminates penalties schools could receive for grades given in the 2014-15 school year.

The bill is part of an overall strategy to make up for the switch from the current FCAT standardized testing to an exam designed by the American Institute for Research. Scott expects to sign both bills.


Bills renaming a pair of state colleges, prohibiting the use of foreign law in Florida courts and giving additional parental input on school textbooks are some of the 58 legislative proposals sent to Gov. Scott on Thursday.

The governor has 15 days to sign, veto or let each bill enact as law without his signature.

SB 386 is one controversial bill, passed primarily along party lines, which codifies existing law declaring that any attempt to apply foreign laws in state courts to be void if it violates Florida policy. Opponents of the bill see the proposal as anti-Muslim, intended to attack Sharia religious law used in some Islamic countries.

The bill does not mention Sharia or any particular international law, which supporters say strengthens the law against legal challenges.

SB 864 allows county school districts to establish a process for parents to provide feedback on choices of state-sanctioned textbooks and other educational materials. Initially, the bill called for the elimination of the state textbook-approval process, requiring each county to implement their own local process.


Pasco officials are hoping for a different outcome than last year when Gov. Scott’s veto pen stripped away $5 million in local funding requests from the state budget.

This year’s spending plan calls for $17.8 million for Pasco.

In addition to the proposed performing arts and convention center in Wesley Chapel — which would gobble up most of the request at $10 million — politicians and social agencies are seeking funds for a regional magnate school ($1.5 million), a summer camp for disabled children ($36,000) and new fire hydrants in Dade City ($520,000).

Officials bristle at the term “turkeys,” which critics use to discredit local funding requests, noting that most of the funds are for public works projects.

Among this year’s requests, Dade City is seeking $520,000 to replace aging fire hydrants and water valves in the historic downtown.

Dade City Manager Billy Poe said the city’s hydrants and valves in the historic downtown are so antiquated, dating to the 1920s, that anytime workers repair a hydrant they must shut off water service to an entire city block.

Pasco utilities director Bruce Kennedy said the county wants $500,000 for new water lines for the impoverished community. The county sought the money last year, but Scott vetoed the request.

“We’ll see what happens this year,” Kennedy said.

MEANWHILE … CRIST CRITICIZED FOR PLANNING TRIP TO CUBA via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist criticized his opponent for traveling to Cuba on a fact-finding trip. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Crist now wants to visit the communist-run island to find facts of his own.

Crist said during his 2006 campaign that Democratic opponent Jim Davis shouldn’t have visited Cuba on a congressional trip, saying “I know when it’s time to visit Havana, and it’s when it’s free.”

But times, along with Crist’s party, have changed. In his second run for governor, Crist believes the United States should scrap the 52-year-old embargo, and he wants to visit the island to see what conditions are like there.

This year as a Democratic candidate for governor, he said he would support lifting the embargo, which he says hasn’t worked and has hurt Cubans.

“Messing with people’s turbulent political history should not be taken lightly,” said Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz of Miami, whose parents are Cuban immigrants.

He said it is one thing for a congressman, senator or even a sitting governor to visit the communist-run island for fact-finding; but to do so as a political candidate crosses a line, Diaz said.

Simply being in favor of lifting the embargo wouldn’t likely hurt Crist politically since there is growing support for the idea in the Cuban-American community, said Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based pollster whose company specializes in Hispanic public opinion and works more often with Democrats than Republicans.

But the idea of actually visiting the country is upsetting some Crist supporters, Amandi said.

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FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Senator Jack Latvala: “Visiting Mike and Jodi Halker at Due South Brewery in Boynton Beach. Their business and 18 employees would have been devastated by SB1714.”


Florida added 22,250 private sector jobs in April, a 33 percent jump from a month earlier, according to a report by national payroll processing company ADP.

ADP, which estimates job creation across 29 states based on payroll data, said Florida trailed only perennial leaders Texas and California, which added 29,080 jobs and 27,080 jobs in April, respectively. Together, the three states are in a league of their own. Next highest is New York, which added 10,260 jobs. Unlike the widely reported monthly reports on jobs and the unemployment rate from the Labor Department, the ADP analysis does not include government jobs.

Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and head of the ADP Research Institute, said the South and West continue to outperform the rest of the country. “Despite the improvement in weather, the Northeast was the only major region measurably down from the previous month’s number of jobs added,” he said.

As with previous reports, the lower-paying, service-producing sector accounted for the bulk of Florida’s increase — 17,960 jobs, compared with 4,290 in the goods-producing sector. Among larger metropolitan areas nationwide, Tampa Bay ranks among the 10 with the lowest average increase in wages and salaries from 2009 to 2012. In 2009, Tampa Bay wages averaged $40,590. By 2012, they averaged $42,230, an increase of just $1,640, according to BLS data. Among large counties, Pinellas County registered the biggest annual decline in weekly wages.

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Jolly will lend his ear to constituents on Monday as he hosts a meet-and-greet in St. Petersburg.

The event is from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday, May 12 at the St. Petersburg Woman’s Club, 40 Snell Isle Blvd. NE in St. Petersburg.

For more information on the event, call (727) 392-4100 or visit


Graham announced her economic plan to “help grow our economy for middle class families, with a focus on values that matter to North Floridians – bringing Republicans and Democrats together to break the gridlock in Washington and get Congress focused on this critical issue,” according to a release.

Graham’s economic plan includes five key areas:

• Fighting to put North Florida first by leveraging regional and local resources to spur job creation;

• Helping middle class families through initiatives like equal pay and increasing the minimum wage;

• Breaking the gridlock in Washington to get Congress focused on growing the economy;

• Investments in education and job training;

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Brian Ballard, Carol Bracy, Monica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: Camillus House, Inc., CB&I Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc

Slater Bayliss, Chris Chaney, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: RMS Lifeline Inc

Chris Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute of Florida


Ahead of Senate Democrats’ push to tackle college affordability, the University of Florida Student Government Association hired Squire Sanders to help with outreach on the Hill.

The student government was previously signed with Cardenas Partners, which lobbied for issues related to student loans and STEM funding, according to Senate lobbying records, and spent $20,000 between June 2012 and March 2014. 

At the state level, UF’s SGA is represented by Capital City Consulting.

Student government representatives did not respond to requests for comment.


On Context Florida: On the health-care front, there has been some good news and bad news. The funny thing, says Martin Dyckman is that it is the same news — depending on your politics. In the 14 sessions of former state Representative Jeff Kottkamp’s first three years in office, many were special sessions to work out significant differences between the House and Senate. According to political strategist Steve Schale, Florida is a swing state because it has an amazing collection of subgroups that, when added together, add up to be a competitive electorate.  Florida is both a persuasion and a turnout state, and yes, the demographics matter. Streamlining the process of allocating tax dollars to professional sports facilities was one of the highly watched issues facing the Legislature in 2014, writes Peter Schorsch. It is clear that conservatives/Republicans have an issue with subsidizing sports facilities, with only 38 percent of this demographic agreeing that government dollars should go to pro sports teams.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Facing Florida with Mike Vasalinda: Peter Dunbar and Screven Watson

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Senators Wilton Simpson and Chris Smith, Representatives Janet Cruz and Greg Steube

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

Political Connections on CF 13: Gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich

The Usual Suspects which airs on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, and Bill Cotterell.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm.  Visit to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE: Harold Hedrick, who is leaving the Senate Majority Office. Good luck!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY this weekend to Ryan Wiggins, Ashley Ligas, and of course, my bestie (sorry Richard) Alan Suskey

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.