Sunburn for 6/3 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

***Sunburn is sponsored by Tucker/Hall – one of Florida’s leading public affairs and public relations firms.***

THE OBAMA PARADOX via Carrie Budoff Brown and Jennifer Epstein for POLITICO

In interviews with more than 60 people who have had close dealings with Obama – his aides, lawmakers, friends, historians, critics and outside advisers – the portrait emerges of a president shadowed by a deepening awareness that his time and power are finite, and that two-thirds of his presidency is already in the past tense. … Often stymied at home and abroad, Obama recognizes that he is less in control of the Washington agenda than ever in his presidency – a reality that has left him deeply frustrated at times. …

Yet his newfound realism has also given him a palpable sense of liberation. The president, finally, is much freer to talk about things that matter to him. He discusses issues of race in a far more personal way, more frequently, than he ever did in his first term. He is more prone to speak his mind on contentious social issues, to the point of volunteering that, in his younger days, ‘I got high’ – an unusually blunt [!] take on his past that aides say they would have prevented before his reelection …

[H]e’s become more deliberate in finding ways to break out, particularly as he suffers the early onset of empty nest syndrome. With his daughters around less, the Obamas are taking fuller advantage of the perquisites of the office, such as squeezing ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ on Broadway into a recent Manhattan fundraising trip. …

Obama has been hosting star-studded dinners that sometimes go on well past midnight and inviting a few newcomers such as former NBA star Alonzo Mourning into his social sphere. He’s playing golf more than any other year, replacing basketball as his go-to sport, partly because of concerns about getting injured. … Obama is giving more thought to his post-presidency than his aides like to suggest. He has spoken privately of his intention to establish a foundation with the reach and influence of the Clinton Global Initiative, the international fundraising juggernaut started by former President Bill Clinton. And despite his deep connections to Chicago, he has told friends he would like to live in New York City. …

At one dinner, … the Obamas hosted U2’s Bono, Gen. Colin Powell, Apple CEO Tim Cook, investor Warren Buffett and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Another drew actors Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson, along with journalist Gayle King. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, attended a dinner with fashion industry insiders. … Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser and longtime confidant of the Obamas who organizes the dinners, appears to be the only regular from the West Wing. … The protocol is that Obama has to leave first, participants say, but he seems to never want them to end. The bull sessions satisfy the president’s intellectual curiosity as he indulges in nuanced conversations about life, ideas and art.

2016 WATCH – SPOTTED: Sen. Marco Rubio campaigning for Iowa Senate Joni Ernst at her campaign HQ in Urbandale. Ernst is expected to win today’s GOP primary in the Hawkeye State.

EPA: FLORIDA MUST CUT CARBON EMISSIONS 38 PERCENT via Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press

The federal government is proposing that Florida cut its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 38 percent by the year 2030.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced specific targets for all states as part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants nationwide by nearly a third over the next 15 years.

Florida’s 2012 carbon emission rate was more than 1,200 pounds per megawatt hour of energy produced. The EPA is asking the state to develop a plan to lower that to about 740 pounds.

Last month, DEP officials said emissions of key industrial pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone and fine particulate matter continued to decline in the state, and that power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides decreased 83 percent over the last decade.

Florida will choose how to meet the EPA’s goal for carbon dioxide and could work with other states to comply with the proposed rule. Initially, President Barack Obama wanted each state to submit their plans by June 2016. However, the draft proposal shows states could have until 2017 – and 2018, if they join with other states to tackle the problem.

This spring, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature passed a nonbinding resolution urging Congress to allow the state to develop its own standards for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

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GOV. SCOTT SIGNS STATE BUDGET, VETOES JUST $69 MILLION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott signed a $77 billion state budget Monday, the largest in Florida history, packed with hundreds of millions of dollars in popular election-year projects championed by his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.

Scott’s use of the line-item veto was his most surgical yet. He trimmed only $69 million in spending as he approved money for parks, museums, festivals, elderly meals programs, water and sewer projects and a gun range for police officers.

“I went through it and tried to look at every one and say, ‘Was it a good use of taxpayer money? Do we get a good return on investment?’ ” Scott said at a campaign stop in Panama City, where he promoted a small screen printing business.

Scott, who in his first year axed $615 million of what he called “short-sighted, frivolous, wasteful spending,” was lavish in his praise of the 2014-15 budget. He emphasized $500 million in fee and tax cuts and more money for schools in a year when the state is flush with $1.2 billion in new revenue.

Even projects Scott vetoed last year won his support this time, such as $15 million for a coast-to-coast bicycle trail in Central Florida. Asked what role election-year politics played in his newfound generosity, Scott said: “My focus is on what’s good for taxpayers.”

… Democrats cited the fact that in his first year in office, Scott pushed for a $1.3 billion cut in public school spending, that he signed a second-year budget with $300 million in cuts to state universities and that the Bright Futures scholarship program serves fewer students today than it did seven years ago.

“Rick Scott is trying to run from his record of slashing education funding,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said. “No amount of poll-tested talking points can change the fact that per-pupil spending still remains below 2007 levels.”

The budget includes $18 million for the state to hire and train 270 additional front-line workers to reduce caseloads of employees who investigate cases of child abuse and neglect at the Department of Children and Families.

The budget, which takes effect July 1, contains no automatic statewide increase in tuition for universities and community colleges, which was a top Scott priority. Most state workers will not get an across-the-board pay raise, but they will be eligible for performance bonuses.

The budget sets aside $3 billion in rainy-day unspent reserves for emergencies such as hurricanes.

“It’s an election year,” said Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater. “Maybe we’re trying to make good on stuff we took away years ago.”

COMPILATION OF REACTIONS FROM FLA. POLS 7 ORGANIZATIONS here

EDITORIAL: SCOTT’S BUDGET VETOES REFLECT RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN, NOT CONSERVATIVE VALUES via the Tampa Bay Times

Turns out that in an election year, Gov. Scott doesn’t mind spending taxpayer money. The governor signed into law the largest state budget ever while vetoing the smallest amount of spending since taking office. That leaves in place hundreds of millions in legislative special projects, many of which never received a full public vetting. This is a budget grounded more in Scott’s re-election campaign than in his professed fiscal conservatism.

In a departure from previous years, Scott offered no public explanation about why he vetoed 110 projects totaling just $69 million. He did not hold a public ceremony to sign the $77.1 billion budget — $3 billion bigger than just a year ago. His office instead churned out news releases trumpeting the “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget,” a reference to $500 million in tax cuts.

The silence leaves it for anyone to guess why Scott, who says he wants to increase Florida’s STEM economy, vetoed $750,000 for a proven program to teach algebra to middle school students started by SRI International in Pinellas County. It’s the third year in a row he has vetoed money for a program tailored to the state’s education and economic needs. Yet he left in place, among many other unvetted projects, $500,000 for kitchen renovations to the St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater. That is a nice return for Mahaffey operator and entrepreneur Bill Edwards, who contributed $1 million to Scott’s re-election campaign.

He also let slide $10 million for a new performing arts and convention center in Wesley Chapel that House Speaker Will Weatherford added at the last minute for his hometown. But Scott vetoed $1.6 million to fight poverty in south St. Petersburg as part of the 2020 Plan, which had bipartisan support.

A true fiscal conservative would have insisted lawmakers first adequately fund essentials like education before indulging in so much hometown cooking. Rather than use his veto pen to back up his rhetoric, Scott avoided making enemies as he hits the campaign trail.

EXCELLENT ANDY MARLETTE editorial cartoon here.

HOW THE BUDGET SIGNING PLAYED

Tampa Bay TimesFlorida Gov. Rick Scott signs state budget, vetoes just $69 million in spending – the largest in Florida history, packed with hundreds of millions of dollars in popular election-year projects championed by his fellow Republicans in the Legislature… Bay News 9, Gov. Rick Scott signs record $77 billion budget – signed the budget privately, which could be an indication that he’s worried about angering small-government conservatives who played a critical role in electing him four years ago… Bradenton Herald, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs $77 billion budget – Scott didn’t use a scalpel for vetoes, it was a pair of tweezers: $69 million in vetoed spending is less than half his previous low… Miami HeraldOnly $69M in vetoes as Gov. Rick Scott signs budget – It was Scott’s most delicate use of the veto pen since he took office in 2011. He vetoed $142 million from the budget in 2012, and $368 million last year…Miami Herald, Gov. Rick Scott vetoes speed limit bill, as he promised – made good on his promise to nix legislation that would have allowed state officials to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on highways… Sunshine State News – Rick Scott Signs State Budget – The new budget is the first in which the Legislature has enjoyed a fiscal surplus and will cover the fiscal year from July 1-June 30, 2015… The Ledger, Scott Signs $77 Billion Budget – and protected hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown projects… Sarasota Herald Tribune, Scott signs $77 billion budget, vetoes three Sarasota projects – included $1 million for the Circus Arts Conservatory, $250,000 for the Sarasota fairgrounds and $1.6 million in renovation and remodeling funding for the Hamilton student center and nearby plaza at New College of Florida… Orlando Sentinel, Scott inks $77 billion budget; spares the veto rod – etoed a total of $68.9 million in legislative spending, including $3.2 million for a Stetson University science center lab and offices, $2 million for a sea wall in Cocoa Beach, and $1.5 million for an amphitheater in Oviedo… Palm Beach PostScott signs state budget with a light touch on vetoes – Florida TaxWatch, the business-backed policy organization, recently highlighted almost $121 million in budget “turkeys” that it recommended the governor veto… Daytona Beach News-Journal, Local colleges feel sting of Scott’s veto pen – including $3.25 million for Stetson’s Sage Science Center and $850,000 for work on Daytona State’s Palm Coast campus.

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CROSS-STATE BIKE TRAIL SIGNED INTO LAW via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

Gov. Scott has signed into law a measure to ensure completion of the Coast to Coast Connector, a 275-mile bike and pedestrian trail across Florida.

Scott signed the bill (SB 2514) on Monday.

Lawmakers approved $15.5 million to finally begin stitching together a patchwork of trails into one continuous path from St. Petersburg to Merritt Island.

An additional $11.4 million is earmarked for the connector in the Transportation Department’s tentative work plan.

Trail advocates say the completed connector will prove a boon to the state economy, creating jobs and boosting tourism and outdoor activities, which will bring dollars to local communities.

ENVIROS GIVE BUDGET MIXED REVIEWS via Bruce Ritchie of FloridaEnvironments.com

(K)ey environmental programs that were cut during the budget hard times since 2009 have not been restored, leaving environmentalists feeling mixed about the budget.

The 2014-15 state budget includes, $172 million towards Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration (not including $60 million over the following two years), $17.5 million for land conservation plus $40 million from the possible sale of non-conservation lands, $50 million for Florida Keys wastewater improvements, $30 million for springs water quality improvements and $35.7 million for expanded agricultural water programs.

Water projects in the budget increased $32 million in this year’s budget to $88.5 million next year. While those projects have been the subjects of vetoes in the past, none were targeted by Scott on Monday.

… The budget has more spending for projects that will improve water quality than in recent years but land conservation was left on the sidelines, Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, told Florida Environments.

“Florida is growing and we still have 2 million acres we have the opportunity to preserve and keep from getting developed,” Draper said. “But we are going to start seeing some of that land converted very quickly.”

While Associated Industries of Florida said the budget helps families and businesses in a myriad of ways including water initiatives, the Florida Conservation Coalition issued a statement pointing out that the governor previously had cut funding to water management districts.

“Compared to previous budgets by this administration, this one shows modest increases in conservation funding,” the group said in a statement. “That said, it pales in comparison to the funding and commitments to Florida’s water and land resources of past administrations.”

SKYRISE MIAMI VETOED via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Gov. Scott’s modest list of budget vetoes included $2 million for the controversial SkyRise Miami observation tower that had been a top priority of the Miami-Dade delegation, but most of the locally-sought projects survived.

“When you see a veto it kind of hurts a little but overall, I think we did very well,” said Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, chairman of the Miami Dade County legislative delegation.

Miami-Dade lawmakers originally sought $10 million to contribute to the $430 million observation tower to be located behind Bayside Marketplace and rising 1,000 feet into the air. But amid resistance from other legislators, they eventually whittled it down to $2 million with the condition that it would only be used on public infrastructure, such as sidewalks and driveways. The money was also contingent on the project securing $400 million in private-sector funding.

“The governor felt it wasn’t deserving of the merits, that’s fine,’’ said Gonzalez, who is serving his final term but he said he expects legislators to return next year for state money, when construction on the project is expected to be underway. “Maybe we can sell it then,’’ he said.

MEANWHILE … AS PROMISED, GOV. SCOTT VETOES SPEED LIMIT BILL via Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott said last month that the death of a state highway trooper who was killed investigating an interstate accident convinced him a speed limit increase was wrong for Florida. Today, Scott made good on his promise to veto Senate Bill 392, which would have authorized state officials to raise the limit 5 mph to a maximum 75 mph if deemed safe.

“Although the bill does not mandate higher speed limits, allowing for the possibility of faster driving on Florida’s roads and highways could ultimately and unacceptably increase the risk of serious accidents for Florida citizens and visitors,” Scott wrote in his veto letter.

Scott added that he rejected the bill after hearing from law enforcement officers who believe higher travel speeds increased the severity of accidents and led to more deaths and injuries.

The death of Florida Highway Patrol trooper Chelsea Renee Richard, whose funeral Scott attended, politicized the speed limit issue, bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes said today. Richard was killed while investigating an accident on Interstate 75 in Ocala; two others also died when struck by the passing pickup truck.

“Based on his veto letter I don’t think he could sign it in the future,” Brandes said.

FDP VIDEO TARGETS RICK SCOTT’S RECORD ON EDUCATION FUNDING

The Florida Democratic Party released a new web video highlighting what it describes as “the damage Rick Scott has done to Florida’s education system over the last three years. From cutting K-12 education funding by $1.3 billion to slashing Bright Futures, from cutting funding for colleges and universities by hundreds of millions to repeatedly raising tuition, Rick Scott’s failed record on education could not be clearer.”

“For three years, Floridians have witnessed the devastating effects Rick Scott has had on public education. Now, in addition to running for re-election, Rick Scott is trying to run from his record of slashing education funding while lining the pockets of special interests and top campaign contributors,” said FDP Chair Allison Tant. “But no amount of poll-tested talking points can change the fact that per-pupil spending still remains below 2007 levels, and that Bright Futures serves far fewer students than it did seven years ago.

APPOINTED: Alachua County Judge David P. Kreider to the Eighth Circuit Court.

APPOINTED: Iliana Forte and Robert Dietz as Judges of Compensation Claims.

REAPPOINTED: Linda Cinque and James Hegemier to the Manatee County Housing Authority.

REAPPOINTED: Maurice “Mo” Pearson to the Acquisition & Restoration Council.

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association LobbyistThey Cover Florida Like the Sun.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services Annual Awards Banquet will honor Attorney General Pam Bondi for her efforts in the fight to end human trafficking. The event is from 12-1:15 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. For questions about the event or the Florida Network, please contact Stacy Gromatski at (850) 544-6324 or stacy@floridanetwork.org.

>>>Worth a read is AG Bondi’s statement on the same sex lawsuit here.

BOUSQUET COLUMN: A GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE OF FLORIDA POLITICS — ADAM PUTNAM 

Republicans were enjoying breakfast at the quarterly meeting of the state party leadership at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. Despite the constant clanging of dishware and the rushing around of servers, nobody had trouble hearing the words of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The fifth-generation Floridian from Bartow’s citrus and cattle belt has a real feel for his state that can’t be memorized as a talking point.

He was partisan. The redheaded Putnam knows how to dish red meat, garnishing his one-liners with references to Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Charlie Crist, John Morgan and, of course, President Barack Obama.

Putnam reminded everyone how depressed Republicans felt after Obama carried the state a second time in 2012.

He confronted a seeming lack of enthusiasm about Scott by conjuring up images of Crist helping Hillary Clinton become the next president.

Putnam’s a big Republican asset because he can tell the Rick Scott story better than Scott can, as he cited the drop in the state’s violent crime rate, a surge in tourism numbers and a strong credit rating.

Putnam, 39, is in a good political place right now. He seems content to wait his turn to run for governor in 2018, which means he has the benefit of spending the next four years building a statewide political organization in case anyone else has notions of seeking the GOP nomination.

REPUBLICAN FIRM’S LAWYERS WITHRAW REQUEST TO U.S. SUPREME COURT via The Associated Press

An emergency petition to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is being withdrawn.

A Republican political consulting firm wanted Thomas to stop a Florida judge from hearing evidence in an ongoing trial. The trial centers on whether state legislators broke the law when drawing up new maps for Congress.

But the petition to Thomas was withdrawn Friday. That came a day after Circuit Judge Terry Lewis heard the evidence after the press and public were removed from the court.

The Florida Supreme Court previously ruled that up to 538 pages of evidence could be used in the trial as long as it was not disclosed in open court.

Data Targeting’s lawyers did say in court papers there’s a chance they could still appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

REP. CORRINE BROWN RIPS INTO REDISTRICTING TRIAL Full blog post here

As Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s Congressional district remains effectively on trial, she took the time to rip into the legal challenge brought by a coalition of voting-rights groups against the state’s redistricting effort.

Brown’s expansive district became the heart of the argument against political maps drawn in 2012 by the Legislature. She appeared in the Leon County courtroom as the trial entered its tenth day.

The challenges to the congressional districts ratified two years ago say the maps violate the “Fair Districts” amendments approved by voters in 2010, which ban the Legislature from using the redistricting process mandated every ten years to create political boundaries to the advantage of one political party or candidate.

Brown’s 5th Congressional District, which snakes through eight counties from Duval to Orange, incorporates pockets of black to create an area likely to elect candidates favorable to African-Americans.

In 2012, lawmakers increased the African-American voter population to more than 50 percent of the district. Map-drawers testified that it strengthened protections extended be the Voting Rights Act.

Opponents contend that it also results in the surrounding districts becoming responsive to Republicans by segregating Democratic-leaning voters to Brown’s district.

Brown is one of the few African-Americans elected in Florida to Congress since Reconstruction and she rejected the plaintiff argument that districts with a lower concentration of black voters would still choose candidates preferred by African Americans. She also brought up efforts to mark the approaching 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

HD 84 HOPEFUL ROB SIEDLECKI RAISES OVER $13,000 IN 10 DAYS

Republican Rob Siedlecki has raised over $13,000 since filing on May 22.

“I am thrilled to have raised so much in so short a time,” said Siedlecki. “With only 10 days that included a holiday weekend to raise funds in the May filing period, I am grateful to the many people who have supported our cause. I look forward to building on our momentum in June.”

Siedlecki is currently a principal at RMS Consulting Solutions, a business development company based in Port St. Lucie. Prior to this, he served for over a decade in the public sector in positions in both the federal and state governments. For almost 6 years, he served in the federal government in Washington, D.C., at the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and at the Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Services in the U.S. Department of Justice. He then served for nearly 5 years in state government in Florida and Kansas as Secretary, Assistant Secretary, and Chief of Staff of health and human service departments.

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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Dave Ericks, Bryan Cherry, Adams Street Advocates: William LaRosa

Gary Rutledge, Jon Costello, Rutledge Ecenia PA: Sanctuary Cannabis LLC

Steve Schale, Sanctuary Cannabis LLC

LOBBYING ON MARIJUANA ISSUES ALREADY SHOWING GREEN SHOOTS

Marijuana lobbyists — a new strain of the same political species — in short time have become deep entrenched in states like Colorado and Washington. And for the first time, in any real sense, marijuana lobbyists have sprouted up in Florida, too. As marijuana takes an increasingly hot spotlight in Florida’s legislature, campaign trails, and on the November ballot, cannabis activists see a growing role for professional lobbyists in the advocacy bowl.

Take Jeff Sharkey, who along with Taylor Patrick Biehl, newly represents the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida (MMBAF). Sharkey, an accomplished entrepreneur, must have seen an opportunity to not only lobby for, but also to create, an organization that may come to represent the interests of the myriad industries who will benefit from the legalization of this cash crop: he and Biehl registered the MMBAF with the state on May 19.

A quick browse through Florida’s Division of Corporations website shows Sharkey wasn’t the only one to get this idea. About three dozen medical marijuana organizations have budded into existence over the past few months. Well-known lobbyists Ron Watson and Louis Rotunda are also new lobbyists for the Florida Medical Cannabis Association. This group knows well the level of interest lighting up over this newly passed law.

While SB 1030 is highly restrictive in which farms may grow Charlotte’s Web (only five throughout the state, all of which must meet strict guidelines on tenure and capacity), it is clear that many see this measure as a “gateway law” to far more permissive opportunities in the future. Even a small spark of such hope is enough to light that fire. The Florida Medical Cannabis Association’s phone rang off the hook following session with calls from vendors, distributors, and investors with green pastures in their sights.

POLITICAL, BUSINESS CONNECTIONS FUEL METZ, HUSBAND & DAUGHTON’S SUCCESS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

Nestled away in Tallahassee is Metz, Husband & Daughton. Since 1999, the lobbying group has established a reputation of providing, ranking them No. 10 on Sunshine State News’ Top Lobbying Firms in Florida.

Metz, Husband & Daughton is comprised of a nine-member team of both lawyers and non-lawyers.

Founder Jim Daughton’s work in lobbying seems to hardly come as a surprise to those who know him — when he was in college; he received the William Armory Underhill Award, which is given to students “likely to have a positive impact on government.”

Steve Metz has vast experience in both politics as well as law — he served as a legislative staff member as well as an assistant attorney general before he became a lobbyist. Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Metz to serve on the Florida Sports Foundation, where he served eight years.

Warren Husband served in the U.S. Air Force before making his way to law school and later to lobbying — Husband has significant trial experience through the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.

Jim Daughton told Sunshine State News that the firm’s understanding of clients’ needs is what sets them apart from other lobbying shops in Tallahassee.

Even though the legislative session lasts a mere 60 days, that doesn’t mean Metz, Husband & Daughton stops working. Daughton explained that spending time with clients is imperative, not only during session but all year round.

PREVIEW OF #9 ON SSN’S LISTCorcoran & Johnston’s practice spanned three cities, 59 clients and $2.4 million in legislative fees in 2013, ranking them No. 9 on Sunshine State News’ Top Lobbying Firms in Florida.

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BOB GRAHAM CENTER HOLDS ANNUAL AWARDS CEREMONY TONIGHT

Former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, along with The Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, cordially invite friends, supporters and guests to The Bob Graham Center Annual Gathering, “Citizen of the Year” and “Young Floridian” Award Presentations. The event is at 6 p.m. at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando. The cost is $200 per person or $2,000 per table.

CONTEXT FLORIDA: VOTING RIGHTS, DCF SCANDAL, INCOME INEQUALITY AND SOCIAL MEDIA VITRIOL

On Context Florida: Of all the Memorial Day tributes declaring Constitutional rights, Martin Dyckman noticed that few mention a “right to vote.” Of all the rights we take for granted, he says, voting is the most endangered. Gov. Rick Scott deserves some credit for being one of the loudest critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the scandal at the Veterans Administration, writes Peter Schorsch. However, one question remains: Will Scott be as vocal about the scandal at his Department of Children and Families (DCF) as he has been the scandal at the VA. Gary Stein says that income inequality hovers over our economy like the mother ship from “Independence Day.” It affects millions of individual Americans, and the country as a whole. The problems may be systemic, but there are solutions. Even with the anger and anonymity of blogs, online comments and Facebook posts, Ed Moore still believes the nation’s future is bright, especially if we move away from social media vitriol and embrace positive ideas.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

STEPHEN COLBERT’S CIVICS LESSON: OR, HOW A TV HUMORIST TAUGHT AMERICA ABOUT CAMPAIGN FINANCE via the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania

Score one for the “Colbert Nation.”

Viewers of “The Colbert Report” who watched faux-conservative TV host Stephen Colbert set up a super PAC and 501(c)(4) organization during the last presidential election cycle proved to be better informed about campaign financing and the role of money in politics than viewers of other news channels and shows, according to a new study.

“It’s the first study actually showing that Colbert is doing a better job than other news sources at teaching people about campaign financing,” said Bruce W. Hardy, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. “Consistently, we found that Colbert did better than every other news source we included in our model.

Watching “The Colbert Report” served as “an extended civics lesson,” the researchers said. The show not only increased people’s perceptions that they knew more about political financing, but significantly increased their actual knowledge, and did so at a greater rate than other news sources. Other activities that increased knowledge about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s to a lesser degree included reading a daily newspaper, listening to talk radio, and watching Fox News.

“Colbert did better than any other news source at teaching,” Hardy said. “There were two reasons. First was the narrative structure. He walked us through creating a super PAC and every episode was a continuation of that story. And second was the use of humor and satire.”

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EMAIL I CAN’T BELIEVE SOMEONE FORWARDED TO ME: “You and your family are NOT going to their liberal-Auschwitz, even if they can’t waitto push you through the door…”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to political consultant Mark Proctor.

TWEET, TWEET: @DwightDudleyFL: Approx. 6,500 Pinellas County high school seniors will receive their diplomas this week! Congratulations and good luck with future endeavors.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.