Sunburn for 6/26 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

 Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: U.S. Men’s Soccer Midfielder Graham Zusi is a native Floridian and graduated from Lake Brantley High School in Central Florida. Cheer Graham (he’s No. 19) and the rest of the U.S. Men’s World Cup Team as the Americans face Germany at noon today.


The Supreme Court issued opinions on police searches of mobile phones and on the legality of a live-TV streaming service. Proponents of same-sex marriage are celebrating in Indiana and Utah. President Obama may be on the receiving end of a lawsuit this summer. And the crisis in Iraq spreads as Iran and Syria intervene.


In a strong defense of digital-age privacy, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that police may not generally search the cellphones of people they arrest without first getting search warrants.

Cellphones are powerful devices unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest, Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court. Because the phones contain so much information, police must get a warrant before looking through them, Roberts said.

The message to police about what they should do before rummaging through a cellphone’s contents following an arrest is simple. “Get a warrant,” Roberts said.

The court chose not to extend earlier rulings that allow police to empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers’ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.

The Obama administration and the state of California, defending the cellphone searches, said cellphones should have no greater protection from a search than anything else police find.

But the defendants in these cases, backed by civil libertarians, librarians and news media groups, argued that cellphones, especially smartphones, are increasingly powerful computers that can store troves of sensitive personal information.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @BrettDoster: Just ended reception with Pres W and 1st Lady Laura Bush. Saw more leadership in that 1 hour than 6 years of Obama White House.

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Bush is planning to headline a fundraiser for at least four Republican Senate candidates, seeking to make an impact on the 2014 election while exploring the possibility of his own presidential bid in 2016.

The fundraiser is scheduled for Sept. 23 in Tampa. The chosen candidates are crucial to a Republican takeover of the Senate, including Cory Gardner in Colorado, Joni Ernstin Iowa, Monica Wehby in Oregon and Tom Cotton in Arkansas. The event may also benefit the winner of the Aug. 26 Republican primary in Alaska.

Allies of Bush said an event of this magnitude will test the organizational skills of his team and allow him to connect with donors who could form the nucleus of his presidential fundraising network.

“I think it will help him make a decision about what he’s going to do and to articulate the policies he thinks the country should be pursuing,” said Al Hoffman, a Florida developer and former finance chairman for the Republican National Committee. “Jeb is also a Republican who always wants to help Republican causes.”

The fundraising vehicle for the event is likely to be a joint fundraising committee, which allows Bush to pick his own slate of candidates and allows donors to stroke one big check instead of multiple donations of $5,200 per campaign.

“Gov. Bush has been raising money and supporting Republican candidates through the 2014 cycle, and he is committed to doing what he can to help Republicans to take back the Senate,” said Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Bush.

Bush is reaching out to some donors who are eager to draft him into the 2016 race. “He’s moving all over the country, doing things for other candidates and positioning himself,” said Florida developer Mel Sembler, another former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. “That doesn’t look like a man who’s in the business world and not interest in running for president.”


If Sen. Rubio runs for president in 2016, one can look back to a packed room a few blocks from the Capitol on Wednesday as the birthplace of his platform.

For half an hour, wrapping policy details around anecdotes from regular people, the Florida Republican outlined proposals aimed at the middle class, a large swath of the electorate the GOP has had trouble connecting with.

“The great cause of our time is to reclaim the American Dream for more of our people than ever before,” Rubio said at a center run by conservative Hillsdale College.

Rubio has spent this year trying to put heft behind his long-regarded oratory skills — and to move beyond the treacherous immigration debate of 2013. His ideas include ways to make college more accessible, fostering job skills programs, growing the economy through less regulation and shifting anti-poverty funding to states.

Wednesday he sought to tie it all together in a self-billed “major address” barely concealed as having more ambitions than the Senate, a “new policy agenda designed specifically for the 21st Century.”

“There was once a time when people like my parents, with limited formal education, could still find jobs that paid enough to make it to the middle class,” Rubio said. “But now because of advances in technology, virtually all good jobs require a level of education beyond high school. But instead of adjusting to the realities of this new era, many of our institutions are failing us — and none more so than our federal government.”

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Gov. Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, is launching a new TV spot that criticizes Democrat Charlie Crist for not releasing his federal income tax returns.

“What’s he hiding?” the spot asks.

The Republican Party of Florida would not disclose the size of the ad buy or which TV markets are showing it.

Scott and his wife Ann released their joint tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012 when he filed his candidate qualifying papers last week, and Crist has said he’ll release many more years of tax returns after his accountant organizes them.

“He’s going to out-transparent me?” Crist said.

Crist was adamant that he wouldn’t release his wife Carole’s taxes: “She’s not running for office,” Crist said.

TWEET, TWEET: @bsfarrington: How come @FlGovScott isn’t asking for @SenatorNanRich’s and her husband’s tax returns?


The mystery “Progressive Choice” group has a new radio ad blasting Crist for pushing a bill to bring back “chain gangs” as a legislator, likening it to slavery.

The $49,000 radio ad-buy is airing in the Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Tallahassee, Gainesville and Jacksonville markets — the latest volley from the Maryland-based group, which many Democrats have accused of being a front for Florida Republicans trying to damage the former GOP governor’s prospects with his new party.

“The old chain gangs, they were called barbaric, humiliating, reminiscent of slavery,” the ad narrator says. “Charlie Crist didn’t care. As state senator, he wanted to put Florida prisoners back in shackles. Men chained together, wilting in the hot sun as heavy leg-irons dug deep into their skin. But to Chain Gang Charlie, it didn’t matter so long as he was tough on crime and easy on guns.”

Crist did sponsor a bill in 1995 to bring back chain gangs in Florida’s prison system, which then-House Speaker Peter Wallace said at the time brought back images of slavery. The maneuver drew national media attention and earned Crist the nickname “Chain-Gang Charlie,” which he often bragged about during his 2006 gubernatorial primary.

But Crist’s campaign lashed out at the ad’s sponsors – which the campaign assumes to be allies of Gov. Scott – calling it a “disgusting” attempt to ostracize Crist from black Democrats.

The group is also behind another race-baiting radio ad airing on black stations in Central Florida blaming Crist “for a lost generation of African-Americans” due to his support for tougher drug-sentencing and mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders. Because it is incorporated in Delaware as a 501(c)4 — and is buying ads two months before Crist’s Democratic primary — it doesn’t have to disclose donors under Florida law.

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Nearly a quarter of a million people are estimated to qualify as “personal caregivers,” authorized by state law to obtain and dispense marijuana to recipients, if the proposed Amendment 2 passes in November, a state fiscal analysis shows.

Under the proposed amendment to the state Constitution, anyone could qualify as a “personal caregiver” as long as they are 21 years old and have agreed to assist with patients’ use of marijuana. The amendment does not require any training or background checks for caregivers, opening the door for virtually anyone, including drug addicts and convicted felons, to qualify. Personal caregivers could assist with obtaining and administering marijuana for up to five patients.

Officials both in Florida and in other states that have already grappled with the issue of medical marijuana and defining “caregivers” warn that passage of the amendment could open a regulatory can of worms and new challenges over who can obtain and dispense the drug.

Florida Sheriffs Association president Grady Judd, who also heads the Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot coalition, worries that, “The math in the DOH analysis predicts the potential of 1.25 million recipients receiving pot just through the caregiver system alone, and that assumes the caregivers all stick to the maximum five recipients. There is no way this monster can be managed with the resources DOH plans,” said Judd. “I see increased taxes for Floridians so people can smoke marijuana if the public allows Amendment 2 to pass.”


Proponents of Florida’s proposed medical marijuana amendment have picked up a major supporter.

The Service Employees International union of Florida has thrown its support behind the amendment. The organization is one of Florida’s largest unions, boasting some 55,000 active and retired health care professionals and public service workers.

“Seriously ill patients should not have to expose themselves to prosecution for seeking to obtain the medicine they need,” Martha Baker, a registered nurse and vice president of union, said in a release.


With all the talk from Tallahassee of Las Vegas-style destination casinos possibly cropping up across Florida, voters are now wary of any politician looking to expand gambling statewide.

And they are prepared to take out their frustrations in the 2014 elections.

In a newly released survey, 73% of Floridians support a proposed constitutional amendment that gives voters the final say in legalizing gambling, preferring by a 53-43% margin to decide it with a statewide referendum, rather than a series of local votes.

Furthermore, pollsters found that constituents are considerably less likely to vote for candidates who openly seek to expand gambling or increase slot machines for pari-mutuels, a feeling that could spell trouble at the ballot box.

Although the public resistance to gambling expansion seems to be a bipartisan issue, 76% of Democrats are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports Las Vegas-style gambling without first putting it up a general vote than are Republicans (70%).

The poll of 604 voters, conducted by Hill Research Consultants and commissioned by Orlando-based No Casinos, found that nearly three-quarters of Florida voters (73%) say they support the proposed Constitutional Amendment, which requires a statewide voter initiative before authorizing any form of gambling. Of that number, 47% report they feel strong about it.

In fact, before lawmakers can even think about expanding gambling, voters — by a 63-28% margin — want the Legislature to fix existing regulations on gaming in Florida first.


Florida insurance officials say a disclaimer is being added to a state website that gave the misleading impression that many insurance companies were not seeking rate increases for health plans offered next year on the federal health exchange.

Office of Insurance Regulation spokesman Harvey Bennett says insurance companies weren’t able to shield rate prices and other information from the public, so many of them entered zeroes on the website to protect trade secrets. The website was temporarily taken down so the agency can add a disclaimer.

Based on data from the site, Health News Florida reported Tuesday that several insurers weren’t seeking rate increases and that a handful were seeking decreases, causing a stir. The state then acknowledged that the information on its site was inaccurate.

Insurers must file with the federal government Friday. State regulators aren’t planning to issue a report until July 31.


Florida Power & Light on Wednesday asked for permission from the Florida Public Service Commission to invest in a venture to drill for natural gas in southeastern Oklahoma.

In a release, the Juno Beach energy giant projects that overall savings for customers could reach $107 million during the next three decades by investing in natural gas production at the source rather than paying full market price.

“With a growing fleet of cleaner, fuel-efficient natural gas-fired power plants and contracts for reliable and diverse gas transportation in place, we believe this to be the next logical step in providing clean electricity for our customers at affordable prices,” FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy said in the release.

FPL has requested the state utility commission approve guidelines for future natural gas production projects, which would allow the company to take advantage of natural gas investment opportunities, the release stated.

The Palm Beach Post reports the request includes permission to invest $68 million into the project. FPL intends to partner with PetroQuest Energy, Inc., to explore for natural gas through 38 wells in the Woodford shale. PetroQuest would oversee and operate the wells.


State Senator Gardiner was awarded the Outstanding Legislative Achievement Award by one of America’s most influential trails, biking and walking organizations, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Gardiner was a driving force behind securing funding to begin work on the Coast-to-Coast Connector, a project to link existing trails into a 275-mile network from St. Petersburg to Titusville. Gov. Scott earlier this month approved $15.5 million to begin construction of the project as part of the 2014/15 state budget.

Gardiner also oversaw improvements of Florida’s State Transportation Trust Fund, which will allow state and locals funds to leverage federal investment for the construction of biking and walking infrastructure.

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The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund and Unified Sportsmen of Florida announced their support of state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto in her re-election effort for the Senate District 30 seat.

In giving her an “A+” rating, Unified Sportsmen of Florida Executive Director Marion Hammer said: “Your active support of issues that are important to firearms owners has been outstanding. Your pro-sportsmen, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Freedom record has earned you our endorsement and our gratitude.”


Former CFO Alex Sink has endorsed Democrat Sean Shaw in his bid for State House District 61, which covers Seminole Heights, East Tampa, Ybor City and parts of West Tampa.

Sink appointed the Tampa attorney to serve as insurance consumer advocate in 2008, a position he held until after the 2010 election.

“I’ve had the privilege of having a front row seat to watch Sean Shaw fight for Florida families for a long time,” said Sink in a statement released Wednesday. “As an advocate for Florida families needing and deserving quality, affordable insurance coverage, Sean was invaluable protecting and serving our most vulnerable citizens.”

“Sean deeply believes in Tampa,” she added. “Tampa needs Sean Shaw.”

Shaw is running for the HD 61 seat now held by term-limited Rep. Betty Reed. He faces fellow Democrats Tatiana Denson, Sharon Carter and Ed Narain in the August primary.


House District 65 GOP hopeful Chris Sprowls is hosting a fundraiser at 6 p.m. at the Salt Rock Tavern, 3689 Tampa Road in Oldsmar.

Among those expected to attend Sprowls’ event: Pinellas County Sherriff Bob Gualtieri, Reps. Larry Ahern, Jamie Grant and Kathleen Peters, Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala and Tarpon Springs Commissioner David Banther, among others.


Richard DeNapoli is hosting a meet and greet event to support his bid for House District 74 beginning 5:45 p.m. at the Saltwater Café, 1071 Tamiami Trail N in Nokomis.  


Super lawyer and Republican fundraiser Bill Scherer may sue to get two write-in candidates who don’t live in their district thrown off the ballot.

Scherer had a lot to say about the entry of two write-ins, which served to disenfranchise Republicans and independents.

“I find it humorous that all these supposedly smart political consultants didn’t read the law, which requires write-ins to live in the district at time of filing,” Scherer said.

Scherer said that any suit to get the write-ins kicked out of the races would have to be filed quickly. Otherwise, their names would be printed on the ballots.

The use of write-ins by political consultants to close primaries “is ridiculous,” the lawyer said.  He added it was a loophole, which Broward Democratic candidates use to “disenfranchise 40 percent of the voters (who are Republicans and independents) by using shills.”

“They use it to disenfranchise Republicans in Broward County, but in other areas they use it to disenfranchise Democrats. I always thought this law was like what Mr. Bumble described:  ‘The law is an ass – an idiot,’” Scherer said, quoting Charles Dickens in “Oliver Twist.”

Their entry into the races closed the August primaries to only Democratic voters.

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Google reporter James Call and the word “veteran” invariably are used together. That’s because Call has three decades of journalism experience covering Florida politics.

He’s been around the block. He’s seen it all. He’s grizzled.

He’s also now part of Extensive Enterprises, the new media parent company of,, Sunburn, Context Florida, and a new project Call will be running, a stand-alone news site titled “The Politics of Pot.”

Call, formerly the managing editor of The Florida Current, is already at work for Extensive Enterprises, bolstering its industry-leading coverage of state legislative campaigns. Once is launched, Call will be its lead reporter in the state capital. For, Call will serve as managing editor, while contributing original reporting and analysis of the Amendment 2 campaign, the implementation of the legislation known as Charlotte’s Web, and regulatory and lobbying issues related to the burgeoning legalized marijuana industry.

“As we move forward with our ambitious projects, I knew we needed an intrepid reporter — someone who has been around long enough to know how the capital works, but hungry enough to thrive in a new media environment — leading our coverage of the most interesting political state in the country,” said Peter Schorsch, president of Extensive Enterprises. “The moment James became available, I did everything I could to make him part of our team.”

Call joins a diverse roster of journalists and new mediaists powering SaintPetersBlog, Sunburn, and Context Florida’s coverage of Florida politics. Last month, environmental reporter Bruce Ritchie joined Context Florida as a contributor, while award-winning editorial cartoonist Bill Day also recently joined the opinion network shepherded by veteran (there’s that word again) journos Thomas O’Hara and Richard Bard.

Call, 58, has covered state government and North Florida for more than 20 years.

Call was managing editor of the Apalachee Tortoise, a Tallahassee community newspaper that encouraged citizen involvement in public policy decisions. Before that, he was a section editor with Research in Review Magazine, which explained scientific research for a mass audience.

Call also had stints as associate editor at Florida Wildlife Magazine and executive producer at WTXL-TV in Tallahassee, according to this profile of Call in the Tampa Bay Times.

“Extensive Enterprises Media is providing me with what may be the most significant opportunity of my career,” said Call. “The chance to dig into a significant change in public policy, such as represented by medicinal marijuana, and to participate in the development of makes me feel tremendously blessed.”  

Call’s work has won awards from The Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

APPOINTED: Samuel Carr, Gil Hidalgo, Peggy Mathews, and Roberto Diaz de Villegas to the Florida Greenways & Trails Council.

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Academic research on voting behavior doesn’t get most people salivating. Except for the participants in the most recent such study, who had to offer up spit samples in the process. What on earth for, you ask? To find out if certain hormones are related to a person’s likelihood of turning out to the polls. And indeed, they are. If your mind already went where most did, you’re probably thinking this relates to sex or gender. But, no. The hormone of interest isn’t testosterone or estrogen, but rather their adrenal cousin, cortisol. Researchers at the University of Nebraska at Omaha hypothesized that perhaps cortisol — the chemical that builds from and moderates physiological stress — could have something to do with voting behavior.

In both self-reported and experimental participation in political activities, people with lower baseline salivary cortisol are substantially more likely to have voted in six national elections. Translation: the lower your baseline levels of stress hormone, the more likely you are to be politically active.


Partisan affiliation among Cubans has shifted dramatically over the past 12 years. In 2002, at least 64 percent of Cubans identified as Republicans and only 22 percent as Democrats, while today’s polls reveal a fairly even split: 47 percent Republican, 44 percent Democrat, and 9 percent without affiliation.

Pew Research Center has tracked these trends, noting that Cubans in the U.S. have long identified as, or leaned toward, the Republican Party even as American Hispanics have tilted to the left. To explain the shift in Cuban partisanship, Pew points to the “coming of age of “U.S.-born Cubans” who have different political experiences and contexts than their parents. About half of Cubans in the U.S. are native born today, compared with 11 percent of Cubans who are at least 50 years old. About 56 percent of Cubans between the ages of 18 and 49 lean toward the Democratic party, while just 39 percent lean toward the Republican Party. Considering the high levels of political activity among Cubans in the U.S., these trends matter. About 70 percent of the 2 million Cuban Americans live in Florida.


Today’s Throwback Thursday commemorates three major Supreme Court decisions, all of which were levied on June 26 in years past. The first of these decisions came down on June 26, 1997. In this, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Decency Act violated the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. The CDA — also known by some as Congress’s response to the “great cyberporn panic of 1995” — was an attempt to regulate internet porn by stiffening regulations about indecency that could be available to children and obscenity.

Then, on June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Lawrence v. Texas that gender-based sodomy laws are unconstitutional. In this case, a 6-3 ruling meant that same-sex sodomy prohibitions in Texas, and by extension, those in 13 other states, were quashed.

Finally, just one year ago, on June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The case at hand, United States v. Windsor, concluded that DOMA was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment.

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In the World Cup tournament, the first round consists of eight groups of four teams each. If a team wins a game, they get three points and the losing team gets nothing. If the teams tie, they both get one point. The two teams with the highest number of points go on to the next round.

So, if the U.S. and Germany draw, both teams will have five points, and neither Ghana nor Portugal can have any more than four points. This would mean that both the U.S. and Germany would advance into the knockout round of the tournament.

If the U.S. wins (which FiveThirtyEight only gives a 14% chance of happening), they will advance, and Germany will very likely also still advance, barring something very strange happening in the game between Ghana and Portugal leading to a blowout for one team or the other.

If Germany wins then they advance, but things get rather complicated for the U.S. and their chances. … This makes a win not particularly important for Germany. They should be perfectly happy to take the draw, and a draw is the best reasonably expectable outcome for the United States.

This situation is actually an example of a classic problem in game theory: the stag hunt. The problem, originally formulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, involves two hunters who can choose between hunting stags or hunting rabbits. If the hunters team up, they can take down a stag, and eat like kings. If only one hunter tries to hunt a stag, and the other just goes for rabbits, the stag hunter is out of luck and goes home hungry, and the rabbit hunter gets a rabbit. If both hunters go for rabbits, they both get rabbits.

Both hunters going for a stag will get more meat, but a hunter going for rabbits is guaranteed to get a rabbit.

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.