Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 6.1.17 – Hurricane season is here; Gov. gets budget; Adam Putnam’s big $#’s; Ballard Partners’ latest hire

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.


The Sunshine State’s 11-year storm free streak ended in 2016, when two storms — Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew — swept through the state. Hermine, a Category 1 storm, hit Florida in September, becoming the first hurricane make landfall in Florida since 2005.

A month later, Hurricane Matthew snaked its way up the state’s East Coast. While it never made landfall in Florida, the strong storm caused extensive damage in Florida, including washing out 1.3 miles of A1A coastal byway in Flagler County.

Gov. Rick Scott surveys the damage in Flagler County following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins today and runs through Nov. 30. The NOAA forecast calls for 11 to 17 named storms this year.

With 15 named storms in the Atlantic, the 2016 storm season was the most active since 2012. And it served as a wake-up call for Floridians, especially since forecasters are calling for another active season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast calls for 11 to 17 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. Two to four of those hurricanes are expected to be major storms, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

Florida officials aren’t taking any risks, encouraging residents to get a put a plan in place and stock up on supplies — just in case.

“Preliminary forecasts point to an active hurricane season this year,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement Wednesday. “It’s crucial that Floridians plan early to protect their families and homes this hurricane season.”

Need to stock up on supplies? You’re in luck. Gov. Rick Scott OK’d a three-day, disaster preparedness sales tax holiday as part of a wide-ranging tax cut plan he signed into law last week.

The 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday runs from June 2 through June 4. During the three-day window, items like flashlights, batteries, coolers, and portable generators are tax-exempt. The sales tax holiday is estimated to save Floridians $4.5 million.

Once you’ve got the supplies, it’s time to make sure you have all of your insurance documents in order. Make sure to scratch down the state’s toll-free insurance helpline number, which is staffed by Department of Financial Services staff and can connect Floridians to insurance experts who can help file insurance claims and better understand their claims.

Now that all that is covered, we do have one question: Did Rep. Charlie Crist get his prayer note asking God to “protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties” to the Western Wall this year? Not that we’re superstitious, but 2016 was the first year since 2007 that he was unable to send his note before the start of hurricane season.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will kick off the 2017 hurricane season with a press conference at 11 a.m. at the National Hurricane Center, 11691 SW 17th Street in Miami. Credentialed media planning to attend must RSVP to before 8 a.m. On the day of the event, media must arrive no later than 10:15 a.m. for security purposes. Parking is located on the east side of the building with signage “NOAA Conference Parking.”

***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***


Senate sends $82.4 billion budget to Rick Scott” via Florida Politics — Senate President Joe Negron sent 13 bills, including the 2017-18 spending plan, to Gov. Scott on Wednesday. Scott now has until June 15 to act on the $82.4 billion spending plan, but exactly how he plans to proceed remains unclear. The Naples Republican has been tight-lipped on his plans for the budget, telling reporters in Fort Myers on Tuesday he can veto the entire budget, a portion of the budget, or veto a line in the budget. “I’m going to do what I do every year,” he said. “I’ll look through the budget and make sure the dollars are allocated in a manner that I think is good for the state.”

— Americans for Prosperity signals its continued support for this budget via state director Chris Hudson: “This budget also makes historic cuts to wasteful spending by zeroing out taxpayer dollars for controversial economic incentives. Forcing lawmakers back into a special session would demonstrate to taxpayers that special interests hold more weight in the Governor’s mansion than average Floridians who only expect their hard-earned dollars be used on essential government services.”

Prosecutors want Scott to veto raid on their money” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida prosecutors are lobbying Gov. Scott to whip out his veto pen and wipe out the Legislature’s $542.3 million raid on a wide range of trust funds, including a $10 million “sweep” of the state attorneys’ revenue trust fund (page 436 of the budget). … Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle sent an email to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera that said: “Please try to remember to ask the governor to veto state attorney sweeps.” … The fund was created during the Great Recession of 2008-09 to give prosecutors a cushion against shortfalls. The main revenue sources are prosecution costs, worthless check fines and penalties from traffic citations. State attorneys say revenue streams from all three are on the decline, especially from worthless checks, as consumers increasingly use debit and credit cards, not checks.

It’s hard to overstate how much critics hate Florida’s ‘scam’ education bill. Will the governor veto it?” via Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post – House Bill 7069, was passed by both the Florida House and Senate at the end of their legislative sessions without time for serious consideration or debate … Scott has not said what he will do, but his office recently released information indicating that public response has been mostly negative. The Orlando Sentinel described the legislation as a “scam”: “Imagine for a moment that you went to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread … But when you got there, the store manager said the only way you could buy bread would be for you to also buy a gallon of milk, 10 packs of adult diapers, a box of Popsicles, some day-old pastries, a 5-pound pork butt, 3 gallons of orange juice, a tin of anchovies and a fistful of lottery tickets. That would sound like a scam, right? Well, welcome to the way the Florida Legislature handled public education this year — legislation by scam.”

Couldn’t a similar story be written and headlined, “It’s hard to overstate how much supporters love Florida’s transparent education bill. Will the governor sign it?”

Scott approves DOT modification bill” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Scott signed five bills into law, including HB 865, the omnibus measure reforming areas of the Department of Transportation. In part, the bill prevents the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority from using DOT money in contracts that are not approved by the department. The bill also asks the department to submit a report taking a look at its district boundaries and headquarters and changes the allowable weight for vehicles fueled by natural gas on the interstate.

Criminal justice reform remains a top priority for Jeff Brandes via Florida Politics — Brandes, who has made criminal justice reform a top priority, was in Washington, D.C. last week for the Right on Crime annual summit. The conservative-leaning organization has been working on criminal justice issues in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Brandes said the key takeaway from the summit was that “many states are struggling with criminal justice reform at the same time.”“They’re all realizing that the current trajectory they’re on isn’t working,” said Brandes, who sits on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “I think one of the things is we’re learning from each other’s experiences. Texas started this years ago, and we’re learning from their experience. We know what is palatable and we know what the outcomes are.” … Brandes didn’t just focus on criminal justice during his trip to D.C. last week. He also met with Rep. Dennis Ross to talk about flood insurance; as well as Uber and Tesla to talk about bills passed during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Power struggle emerges over Constitutional Revision Commission rules” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Before the commission first met on March 20, Carlos Beruff proposed a set of rules to shape how the panel operates. They were modeled after the rules used by the CRC that convened in 1997-98 but modified to essentially give Beruff the authority to control which proposals made it to the ballot — more power than the chair had 20 years ago. Beruff, who is mindful of the fact that Gov. Scott is also likely to be on the 2018 ballot as a candidate for U.S. Senate, faced immediate resistance from the other commission members, who refused to adopt his rules.

— Among the changes Beruff is seeking are provisions that will allow him to reject proposals by individual members or committees, send a proposal back to a committee after it has been amended in another committee — a tool used to effectively kill proposals — and give him sole discretion over which proposals will be referred to which committee. He also proposes upending Florida Sunshine laws: allowing members of the commission to meet for the first time with two or more members in secret.

— Sen. Tom Lee filed an amendment late Wednesday that adopts the rules of the 1997-98 commission minus Beruff’s modifications.

— Former Senate President Don Gaetz said the working group’s efforts were shelved because Beruff and the governor’s staff didn’t like the results.


On Wednesday afternoon, Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign released a snapshot of the contributions it has collected for the campaign and political committee, as well as some other statistics that demonstrate, it says, “the wide range of grassroots support for Putnam’s campaign.”

Putnam has collected more than $2.1 million in the first month since he filed to run for governor, with more than $1.1 million in hard dollar contributions to the campaign. The contributions to the campaign came from 2,203 supporters. More than 1,714 supporters contributed under $500.

Tweet, tweet:

Overall, here’s where Putnam’s campaign stands:

— $13.4 million collected to date for the campaign and PC (combined

— $10 million cash on hand at the campaign and PC (combined)

Note: These numbers are as of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31. The campaign says contributions are still being processed.

And here’s an infographic the campaign shared:


Opponents eye 2018 to head off legislative moves legalizing slots” via John Breslin of Florida Record – Following a May 18 Florida Supreme Court ruling that stopped one county from allowing slots at a particular racetrack, those advocating against their spread said they are already working on the 2018 ballot initiative. “We are happy (with the ruling), but what happened was a partial victory,” said Paul Seago, executive director of No Casinos. “Hopefully we shoot now for total victory.” His group is working on a Voters in Charge initiative that will stop legislators moving to expand slots and other forms of gambling … Seago said his group and others have so far helped hold back legislation being passed. And the Voters in Charge ballot initiative will finally end those legislative moves, Seago said, adding that overall, No Casinos’ position is that the Florida constitution expressly bans lotteries except with limited exceptions.

Former Clinton aide Nancy Soderberg ‘seriously considering’ run for CD 6” via Mike Finch of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – Soderberg, a University of North Florida professor and a former aide in the Clinton White House, said she may run in 2018 for [the] seat occupied by Rep. Ron DeSantis. Soderberg … said this week while attending a Volusia County Democratic Executive Committee meeting that she was on “the precipice” of making a decision but hasn’t made up her mind yet. “I’m seriously considering it, absolutely, but I’m not really ready to go into the strategies yet,” Soderberg said. “I want to make my decision based on what the issues in the district are.” Soderberg, 59, was a national security adviser and served as an ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton … She has written two books about American foreign policy and has been teaching at the university for 10 years, she said.

American Action Network releases digital ads in congressional districts of Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo via Florida Politics — The $250,000 digital ad campaign is part of a multi-million dollar effort to advance tax reform in Congress. The ad — which will run on online platforms in the congressional districts of Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast — is the second in a series of advertisements featuring Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the American Action Forum president and economist. In the 60-second spot, Holtz-Eakin talks about the need for corporation income tax reform to help grow the U.S. economy and raise the standard of living. The ad will run in 28 congressional districts — including those of Curbelo, Mast, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — over the next two weeks. The ad is expected to run on online platforms, including YouTube and Facebook. Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Gwen Graham stresses protecting the environment, but takes $50K from developer fined $1.7M by state” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — A main theme of Democrat Gwen Graham’s nascent gubernatorial campaign has been criticism of Scott administration policies she says have battered Florida’s environment. …  Nearly one month before the speech, though, a political committee controlled by Graham received $50,000 from James Finch, a Panama City developer who in the past has been hit with large fines from environmental regulators. In each case, Finch has said his company, Phoenix Construction Services, did nothing wrong. … “Anyone who contributes to our campaign knows Gwen is determined to enforce Florida’s environmental laws and to protect our unique land and water,” said Graham spokesman Matt Harringer.

’Floridians need a champion again,’ Andrew Gillum says” via Kristen M Clark of the Miami Herald — Amid a crowded field of contenders for governor in 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum is casting himself as the “slightly out of place” candidate who would bring years of government experience but also fresh ideas and “something different” than Florida has seen under two decades of Republican rule. “It is our political leadership — or the lack thereof — that has failed us,” Gillum said Wednesday, speaking for nearly an hour in front of a couple hundred people at the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. “We’ve had enough with slogans and showgames, enough with struggling to get ahead, enough with shrinking from our state’s challenges. … Floridians need a champion again.”

— “Gillum knocks Trump, Scott and Graham on environmental issues” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

— “Gillum emphasizes training angle for economic development programs” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Jeremy Ring announces 2018 CFO bid — The Margate Democrat became the first person to throw his hat into the 2018 Chief Financial Officer race, filing to run for the statewide office on Tuesday. “Our campaign will be focused on innovating and inspiring students and entrepreneurs across the state to take their brilliant world changing ideas and turn them into a reality,” he said in a statement. “I can’t wait to travel from Key West to Pensacola and throughout all 67 counties to personally meet every Floridian. I am so grateful for this opportunity and now onward and upward.”

Ring, a former Yahoo executive, opened the East Coast office of the company out of his New York City apartment in 1996. He served in the Florida Senate from 2006 until 2016, serving a stint as the chairman of the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. Ring will formally announce his 2018 campaign with an event on Monday in Tampa.

Jose Felix Diaz, six others qualify to run in SD 40 special election — State records show Republicans Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Lorenzo Palomares; and Democrats Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith, and Annette Taddeo qualified as of noon Wednesday. Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth, a no party affiliation candidate, has also qualified to run. The special primary election is July 25, with the special general election scheduled for Sept. 26. A special election in House District 116, triggered by Diaz’s resignation, has been scheduled for the same days.

– “Alex Diaz de la Portilla’s website says he’s running in district that doesn’t exist” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News


Everglades Foundation’s fuzzy math exposed as coastal property values increase in 2016 – The Everglades Foundation hit a snag in its effort to drive a wedge between coastal residents and farming communities, as Glades farmers learned that coastal property values in Ft. Myers and Stuart actually increased during 2016.

Property appraisers in Lee and Martin counties announced a jump in property values, despite record amounts of rainfall and corresponding coastal discharges. This directly contradicts The Everglades Foundation’s claim in a 2015 study that discharges from Lake Okeechobee decreased property values in affected areas.

Reports from both TC Palm and Fort Myers News-Press said that property values in Martin County increased 5.3 percent, with an equivalent 6 percent increase for Lee County homeowners. In 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discharged more than 1.7 million acre-feet of water into the Caloosahatchee River, as well as 827,000 acre-feet of water into the St. Lucie river, and 718,000 acre-feet of water south of Lake Okeechobee.

In January, the Everglades Foundation was also caught using its fuzzy math with data from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), attempting to show a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee would perform better than similar storage to the north. This resulted in a SFWMD scientist accusing the foundation of “irresponsible science” with “more of an academic exercise than a realistic tool to support informed policy and decision making.”


First in Sunburn – Personnel note: Rebecca Benn joins Ballard Partners D.C. office — The Florida-based government affairs firm announced that Benn, the former director of federal affairs for CSX Transportation, is joining its Washington, D.C. office as a partner. “We are pleased to welcome Rebecca to our growing team in the nation’s Capital,” said Brian Ballard, president of Ballard Partners. “From negotiating billion-dollar budget bills in the Senate to advancing Congressional legislative priorities for the largest Eastern freight railroad, Rebecca’s extensive expertise in both the public and private sector ensure our diverse client portfolio will continue to receive the best guidance and advocacy for their issues.” During her five years at CSX Transportation, Benn directed all government relations initiatives impacting automation, safety, environmental regulation and safety and security, while overseeing federal constituent relations for seven states. She previously served as a professional staff member for the Subcommittee on Interior, Environmental and Related Agencies, as well as the Subcommittee on Veteran Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies. In both roles, she served as the leader Republican negotiators for bicameral and bipartisan billion-dollar federal appropriations bills, in addition to drafting legislative materials and analyzing budget requests. 

Personnel note: Rob Shave joins GrayRobinson via Florida Politics — GrayRobinson continues to grow its roster, announcing this week that Rob Shave has joined the firm as its director of government affairs. “Rob brings to the firm years of experience in a wide variety of public policy matters, including water policy, property rights, infrastructure and education-related issues,” said Dean Cannon, the firm’s executive vice president and chairman of government affairs, in a statement. “He’s an asset to our team and will be a strong advocate for our clients.” A Florida State University graduate, Shave began his career in government as committee staff for the Florida House Environment and Natural Resources Council. … Prior to joining GrayRobinson, Shave worked at Capitol Access, a Tallahassee-based lobbying firm.

Memorial service planned for Sergio Bendixen — A memorial service will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Storer Auditorium on the University of Miami campus, 5250 University Drive in Coral Gables. Bendixen, a pioneering public-opinion pollster, died Friday in Miami after a brief illness. “Sergio was a one-of-a-kind force to be reckoned with in the world of politics, a pioneer in the field of multilingual and multiethnic research, as well as a cherished mentor and loyal friend throughout South Florida, across the United States, and around the world,” said Fernand Armandi, his friend and business partner, in an email.

Appointed – Michael StricklandFrank CawthonKeith LawsonRobert Maphis and Edgar Laney to the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stuart Brown, SKB Consulting Group: Study Edge

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Inc. d/b/a FACCPA

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Iron Mountain Information Management

— ALOE — 

Florida dive boat captain bitten on hand by sea creature” via The Associated Press – Authorities say a dive boat captain known to hand-feed sharks was bitten by a “sea creature” off Florida’s Atlantic coast. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera tells the Palm Beach Post the agency’s marine unit responded Sunday after receiving a distress call from an Emerald Charters dive boat. They airlifted Randall Jordan to a hospital with hand injuries.

“Google’s breakdown of what American’s don’t know how to spell, state by state” via Travis M. Andrews of The Washington PostIn honor of the National Spelling Bee, which starts Wednesday, Google decided to see what words people in each of the 50 states struggle to spell. To do this, employees looked at Google searches of “how to spell ______” in each of the states from Jan. 1 to April 30 this year. Whatever word filled that blank most often in each state became denoted as that state’s “most misspelled word.” … The results may not be scientific, but they sure were amusing. … People in Wisconsin, for example, most frequently searched for how to spell Wisconsin. The longest word Americans didn’t know how to spell, searched for by both West Virginia and Connecticut users, was also an invented one: “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the word that one magic nanny named Mary Poppins sang about. … In Florida, the most misspelled word was receipt.

Happy birthday to Rep. Danny Burgess and Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Burlew.

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