Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 7.11.17 – Phil Levine’s time; Bob White gets a look; Endorsements and finance reports galore; More Game of Thrones

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.


Unless Andrew Gillum quickly turns his fledgling campaign around, the race for the Democratic nomination for governor will soon be down to two candidates: Gwen Graham and Chris King.

Or maybe not.

Miami Beach mayor Phil Levine just announced that his political committee has $4 million in the bank. And on Monday, he launched a statewide, Sirius/XM radio-backed bus tour.

Nobody tours the state in a highly-publicized tour simply because they just want to hear what “alligator wranglers” and “NASA engineers” think (OK, how cool would it be if that were the same person?) and nobody raises the kind of money he has (in case you missed it, he is now the financial front-runner) unless that person is serious about running.

For months, many Democrats have dismissed Levine and his chances. We have heard the echoes — that he’s “too South Florida” (whatever that means) to win statewide.

C’mon people, the man is sitting on a cool four mil, has the capacity to write a check for a lot more, and is about to garner some serious press. Whether he runs as a Democrat or an independent, Levine could make a serious impact.

The days of poo-pooing Levine’s candidacy are over. The time to sit up and take notice is now.

Assignment editorsLevine continues his “A Day in the Sun” statewide bus tour beginning 9:45 a.m. at Chief Creole Café, 901 22nd St. S. in St. Petersburg; at 11:15 a.m., he will be at Service Source (Warrior Bridge Program), 2735 Whitney Road in Clearwater. Then, at 2 p.m. Levine will be at the Tarpon Sponge Company, 735 Dodecanese Blvd., #57 in Tarpon Springs. At 4 p.m., the mayor finishes the day at JC Newman Cigar Co., 2701 N. 16th St. in Tampa.

***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***


For Florida Republicans unsure who to support for governor in 2018, Bob White wants to give them a staunchly conservative alternative.

White, the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, said recently that Republican primary voters don’t want the “same old” type of candidates. And that desire for a different perspective, White believes, could make him a serious player in the 2018 GOP primary, reports Mitch Perry with Florida Politics.

“I’m predicting that somebody’s going to win the Republican primary with less than 30 percent of the vote,” he said Friday in Tampa. “And that means anything can happen. So we just gotta find a way to organize the grassroots to get them motivated to get out there and help us.”

Bob White speaks to the Liberty Caucus of South Florida in June.

Rock-solid conservative on issues like abortion, Medicaid expansion, and the escalating national debt, his platform is serious about campaign finance reform. That’s not something you’re likely to hear from political insiders Adam Putnam, Jack Latvala or Richard Corcoran.

“I’m not going to be one of the big money candidates in this race, and that’s intentional,” he said. White is focusing on running against dark money and special interest contributions that he believes are fundamentally destroying the voice of the people in Florida’s legislative process.

“We’ve got to find a way to make that message, to get that message out because it resonates everywhere we go, every person we talk to about that issue agrees with us 100 percent and they become very fast supporters of ours,” he said.


Eye on governor bid, Richard Corcoran hires former Trump, Scott pollster” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaAs in 2010, the GOP movers and shakers in Tallahassee are rallying around a gubernatorial candidate … Adam Putnam who has about $10 million in the bank between his campaign and his Florida Grown political committee. And as happened seven years ago, Fabrizio said the establishment favorite could have trouble with his right flank. … Fabrizio is being paid through Corcoran’s new Watchdog PAC — an indication that the Speaker we’ll run for the state’s highest office in 2018. “It’s great to have someone of Tony’s experience in helping us push forward an agenda that helps Floridians,” Corcoran said.

– “Why shouldn’t Matt Gaetz run for Attorney General?” via Peter Schorsch

Naples Democrat David Holden says he’ll challenge Francis Rooney” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily NewsHolden, 58, has backing from local Democrats and liberal activists who have been more organized lately in the Republican-heavy district Donald Trump won handily. A financial adviser through Wells Fargo, Holden has a degree from Harvard and a record from New York of helping flip a few city council seats from red to blue. And he hopes to repeat that feat in Florida’s blood-red congressional District 19. “We are planning for a robust, serious campaign,” said Holden, describing himself as a “capitalistic” Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton and who wants to make Trump’s presidency a campaign issue. “Rooney is stuck with his terrible administration.”

Former Doral Councilmember may run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Amy Sherman of the Miami HeraldBettina Rodriguez Aguilera, a former Doral City Council member and Republican, said she is seriously considering a bid for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in 2018. Rodriguez Aguilera was a council member from 2012 to 2014 when she lost to former councilman Pete Cabrera. She previously worked as the city’s economic development director. Rodriguez Aguilera owns Bettinara Enterprises, a company that assists people in understanding how government works. She also created a women’s leadership certificate program which she teaches at Miami Dade College. … “I am a Republican — I had to look at the choices,” she said. “I voted for who I believed at that point was the person that I needed to vote for but I would like to consider the issues and problems that the community has. Money and economic development do not have a Republican or Democratic stamp on it.”

Miami Senate district forum will be skipped by at least one major Republican candidate” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, one of the Republican rivals in the race to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, will not appear at a candidate forum at Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus Wednesday night. “I spend my time with my voters not with elites,” he told the Miami Herald in a text confirming that he won’t attend. State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said he will try to attend part of the forum, but it is scheduled the same evening when he will appear at a Univision event about the condo reform bill that he shepherded through this session along with a few other Miami-Dade lawmakers. Diaz and Portilla didn’t appear at a forum June 1 due to scheduling conflicts. The forums provide the rare opportunity for voters to hear multiple candidates at once before the July 25 primary in District 40.

More legislative hopefuls file for 2018 LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Democrat Olysha Eva Magruder has filed to challenge Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, in Senate District 8. Magruder has a Ph.D in education from the University of Florida and has held teaching positions at Alachua public schools, Santa Fe College, and the University of Florida. Republican Bibiana “Bibi” Potestad has filed to run in the race to replace Rep. Jeanette Nunez in House District 119. Potestad attended Barry University, where she studied political science and Spanish. She went to Ave Maria School of Law and worked for the 20th Judicial Circuit public defender’s office as a certified legal intern. Republican Enrique Lopez has also filed to run for the seat. Nunez can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Save the date: Matt Caldwell will hold a fundraiser for his Agriculture Commissioner bid at 5 p.m. on July 24 at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, 2235 1st Street in Fort Myers.

Save the date: House Majority will hold a fundraiser for Rep. Mel Ponder at 6:30 p.m. on July 27 at Emerald Grande, 10 Harbor Blvd. in Destin. The fundraiser is hosted by Speaker Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.


Randolph Bracy backs Andrew Gillum — State Sen. Bracy is endorsing the Tallahassee mayor for governor. “Orlando and Central Floridians can trust that Mayor Gillum will fight fiercely for the issues that matter most to us, from rebuilding our economy, fighting for healthcare as a right, standing up for public school students and teachers, and confronting our climate change crisis,” said Bracy in a statement. “He’s a true champion for all of us, and I’m excited to campaign with him this fall all the way through next year!” 

Clovis Watson backs Gwen Graham  — State Rep. Watson is endorsing the former U.S. Representative for governor. “Gwen Graham knows what’s at stake in this election. I’m inspired by her heart, passion, and dedication to defending our shared principles. Gwen is working to build a Florida that educates the young, cares for the sick, and embraces the persecuted,” he said in a statement. “And Gwen Graham is the best candidate in this race to bring together the broad collation necessary to win in Florida.” 

Bernie McCabe backs Ashley Moody in AG race — The Pinellas-Pasco state attorney is endorsing Republican Ashley Moody in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018. “Having spent decades prosecuting criminals in court, I know firsthand how important it is we have an Attorney General who knows how to prosecute criminals to keep their community safe,” said McCabe in a statement. “Ashley Moody’s experience as a federal prosecutor and a circuit court judge makes her the most qualified candidate to keep us safe.  Her knowledge and expertise in the law will be an asset to each and every Floridian.  I’m confident in her ability to use her impressive background to continue to strengthen our criminal justice system for generations to come.”

Chris Nocco backs Ed Hooper in SD 16 — The Pasco County Sheriff is endorsing Republican Ed Hooper in the race to replace Sen. Jack Latvala in Senate District 16. “I have known Ed Hooper both as a member of our community and when I worked as the Deputy Chief to Speaker Marco Rubio over ten years ago.  Ed Hooper will do an outstanding job representing all Pasco residents,” said Nocco in a statement. “As a career first responder, Ed clearly understands the need to protect our community. As I have seen firsthand in the past, Ed will ensure public safety will be a top priority in Tallahassee. His service and record demonstrate he will be an effective leader in the Senate.”

Sheriff Chris Nocco, one of the most popular politicians in the Tampa Bay region, is endorsing former state Rep. Ed Hooper for Senate District 16. Here, Nocco speaks at a March 2016 press conference.

Bob White backs Bill Gunter in HD 37 — Former Pasco County Sheriff Bob White is endorsing Republican Bill Gunter in the race to replace House Speaker Richard Corcoran in House District 37. “My friend Bill Gunter is an honorable man. He is an inspirational leader with the kind of conservative wisdom we need in Tallahassee. I know he will passionately protect our 2nd Amendment rights,” said White in a statement. “Bill understands the struggles families face every day. He will work to lower our taxes, reduce government regulations to help small businesses thrive, and defend our borders.” Gunter is one of three Republicans vying to replace Corcoran, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits. He’ll face George Agovino and Elle Rudisill.

John Newstreet gets Central Florida hotel group backing in HD 44 raceJohn Newstreet has received another major business association endorsement in the special election race for the open seat in Florida’s House District 44, with nods from two political committees representing the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. Both the CFHLA political action committee and the CFHL political committee gave unanimous endorsements to Newstreet, president and chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, his campaign announced Monday. “Throughout this campaign, I have been consistently humbled by the outpouring of support given to my campaign,” he said in a statement. “I determined to go to Tallahassee and focus on growing our economy and look forward to working with the leaders of CFHLA and the other groups who have also endorsed this campaign.”

Retailers backs Jose Mallea in HD 116 — The Florida Retail Federation PAC is endorsing Jose Mallea in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. “As a brewer, accomplished small business owner, and someone who has signed the front of a paycheck, Jose is familiar with the changes that need to be made in order to strengthen and enhance Florida’s business community,” said R. Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “We’re eager to see the impact Jose will make as the representative of House District 116, as we work with him on supporting Sunshine State businesses and retailers.”


Florida Democrats report $3.5M haul, likely raised much less” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – FDP would not comment on the funding breakdown, but almost certainly including $607,000 in contributions from political committees run by the party’s highest priority campaigns, which is money not raised by the party and is generally spent on the specific campaign that raised the money. Each campaign’s aligned political committee is giving money to the party. That money, though, quickly flows through the party and is in turn spent on the campaigns, not other races or FDP expenses. It’s a common practice for campaigns, especially at the statewide level, to send money through the party to fund things like staff. Because statewide party’s have human resources departments, they are better positioned to be the entity to actually fund staffers for a campaign. If that money is removed, the party raised roughly $2.9 million, which is slightly more than the $2.6 million raised during the first six months of 2013. That’s the most comparable timeframe because it was a non-election year headed into a gubernatorial — not presidential — election cycle.

Jack Latvala committee posts more than $410K” – “Florida Leadership Committee” raised $410,649 during June, with nearly $3.55 million cash-on-hand. Latvala has been considering a bid to replace term-limited Gov. Scott. June contributions include $40,000 from Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer, $25,000 each from Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City and TECO Energy.

– “Matt Caldwell raises $160K in June” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

– “After winning Speaker’s race, a quiet month of fundraising for Paul Renner” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

Big June haul for Clay Yarborough’s re-election campaign” via Florida PoliticsYarborough was not the establishment choice in the 2016 GOP primary in House District 12, as an incumbent the former Jacksonville City Council President continues to find traction with the donor class. The latest evidence for that claim: the June campaign finance report, which shows Yarborough bringing in $22,375 — by far, his biggest haul since filing for re-election months back. Some reliable Northeast Florida donors ponied up: among them, names like Robert Shircliff, J.B. Coxwell, Ty Petway, 4th Circuit Public Defender Charles Cofer, and Mac McGehee. Yarborough, defending a safe, deep-red seat on Jacksonville’s Southside, entered July with roughly $35,000 on hand.

Jason Fischer hauls in nearly $55K in June for re-election bid” via Florida Politics – Between Fischer’s campaign account and the account for his political committee, “Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville,” Fischer brought in almost $55,000 for his 2018 re-election effort. Of that new money, a full $32,700 went into Fischer’s campaign account — pushing it over $51,000 on hand. Among the donors to the campaign account: some familiar campaign committees, including Sen. Travis Hutson‘s “Sunshine State Conservatives,” Rep. Travis Cummings‘ “First Coast Conservatives” and Rep. Paul Renner‘s “Florida Foundation for Liberty.” As well, the “JAXBIZ” committee of the Jax Chamber ponied up. Also on board: Peter Rummell and Michael Munz, via “RummellMunz Partners.” And the Gary Chartrand Trust.


Rick Scott on GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare: ‘They can’t stop’” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Gov. Rick Scott said federal lawmakers need to keep their word, and continue their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. “They can’t stop,” said Scott following a stop in Fort Myers on Monday. “They all promised they were going to repeal and replace Obamacare, and they got to do it. … Scott has been vocal in his opposition to the current health care law, and has made several trips to Washington, D.C. to talk with federal lawmakers about repealing and replacing the law. He was last in the nation’s capital to talk with lawmakers about health care on June 27, the same day McConnell announced he would be delaying a vote on the bill. “The way I always look at it is … until you get results, you’re just working hard every day,” said Scott when asked whether he thought his discussions with federal lawmakers were productive. “It’s like the legislative process this session. We worked hard to get the money for Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida, the money for schools. You work every day. Until it’s all done, you always wonder.”

At ease: Rick Scott, shown here in Fort Myers, talks state employee pay raises with law enforcement and correctional officers.

DSCC spokesman David Bergstein reacts: “First Scott bragged that he helped craft the toxic GOP healthcare plan that pikes costs by 20 percent, imposes an age tax on older Floridians and strips coverage for pre-existing conditions — all to give himself a big tax break. Now he’s demanding to ram this unpopular plan through Congress, even though the consequences for middle class Floridians would be expensive and horrific. It’s just another reminder that Scott is only ever looking out for himself — while Floridians who actually work for a living are paying the price.”

New York boots Armor Correctional; In Florida, Armor boss named to powerful commission” via Dan Christiansen of the Florida Bulldog – Armor Correctional Health Services paid $350,000 in penalties and agreed not to bid on or enter into any contract to provide jail health services in New York state for three years, settling formal charges brought in July 2016 by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The lawsuit was filed after a dozen inmates died since Armor was hired, including five found to have received inadequate medical care, Schneiderman’s office said. Five months later, however, Florida Gov. Scott appointed Armor Correctional founder and president Dr. Jose “Pepe” Armas to a coveted seat on the powerful Constitution Revision Commission that will recommend changes next year to the Florida Constitution. Armas and companies he controls have contributed nearly $300,000 to Scott’s election campaigns, his Let’s Get to Work political committees and to the Republican Partyof Florida.

“Pam Bondi ordered to respond to lawsuit over unregistered charities” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi on Monday was ordered to file a written response to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to donate millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, sitting in Tallahassee, also granted a request from Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith to seek “discovery” in the case—that is, to get information from Bondi’s office in preparation for a possible trial. Smith filed a petition for a “writ of quo warranto,” which demand government officials to prove their authority to perform a certain action. He did not attend Monday’s hearing. Russell Kent, Bondi’s special counsel for litigation, … also said he intends to ask the court for summary judgment in the case, allowing Bondi to win without a trial.

FPL installs first of 1 million new Treasure Coast solar panels as part of major statewide solar expansion” – Florida Power & Light Company installed the first of nearly 1 million new solar panels along the Treasure Coast at the future FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center in Indian River County. In all, FPL is installing more than 2.5 million solar panels across eight new 74.5-megawatt solar power plants by early 2018 – one of the largest solar expansions ever in the eastern U.S. Combined, the new solar power plants are comprised of more than 2.5 million solar panels with nearly 600 megawatts of solar capacity – enough energy to power 120,000 homes.

The first solar panel is lifted into place by (clockwise, from top right) Air Force Col. Martin Zickert (ret.), State Rep. Larry Lee, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy and Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss at the future FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center, under construction in Indian River County, Fla., July 10, 2017. FPL is installing a total of more than 2.5 million solar panels across eight new solar power plants this year. Looking on are (from left) Peter D. O’Bryan, vice-chairman of the Indian River County Commission; Rev. David Newhart, pastor of St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Sebastian, Fla.; Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida; and Travis Baukol, senior project manager for FPL.


Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will hold a ceremonial bill signing for a bill (HB 477) that created new penalties and enhanced existing penalties relating to synthetic opioid drugs, including fentanyl at 1 p.m. at the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center, 6050 Porter Way in Sarasota. He will hold a similar event at 3:45 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, 3228 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach.

“Now cancer-free, Dorothy Hukill says, ‘I’m back’ ” via Florida PoliticsAfter being pronounced cancer-free earlier this year, the state senator says she “feel(s) great” and already is “excited” to return to Tallahassee for next year’s Legislative Session. She’s also back in the saddle in her district. The Port Orange Republican’s schedule is packed this week: There’s a grand-opening event for a Titusville space-supplies firm, a speech at the Titusville Chamber of Commerce, and post-Legislative Session round-ups before the Lake Helen City Commission and at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce … “I am back,” she said Monday. “Through the grace of God, friends and family, a great medical team, and a great Senate family, I am feeling wonderful.”

Lawmakers blast Brevard move to oppose Puerto Rican statehood” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Republican Reps. Bob Cortes and Rene “Coach” Plasencia and Democrats John Cortes and Shevrin Jones … all four identify themselves as being of Puerto Rican descent and say the county’s proposal is unnecessary, improper and counter-productive. “Your constituents elected you to tend to county matters,” their letter reads. “Not only is the issue of Puerto Rican statehood outside your jurisdiction, but it is improper for you to attempt interference in the democratic process in Puerto Rico. Ninety-seven percent of the island’s voters supported statehood. You should be focusing on Brevard County issues, not attempting to thwart the will of the Puerto Rican electorate.” The resolution, to be voted by the county board, is sponsored by a former Republican state legislator, John Tobia of Melbourne Beach, who’s one of five Brevard commissioners. His resolution says the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico faces $123 billion in debt that is “in large part a result of socializing private industry,” and that making the island the nation’s 51st state would shift much of that financial burden to American taxpayers.

Hate late report cards? New Florida law could make them later next spring” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – One of the delays in the area and across Florida was the delivery of state test results, which factor in to several marks. The end-of-course exams for Algebra II, geometry, U.S. history and biology, for instance, count for 30 percent of the course grades. Once districts get the data, they have to run it through their systems and then create the report cards, either online or printed. This year, the statutory deadline for the state to deliver that information was the week of June 8. Beginning next year, that deadline moves back three weeks. As part of HB 7069, lawmakers heeded educators’ call to push the state testing window closer to the end of the school year. By pushing back the tests, though, the state also pushed back their scoring. The law now gives the Department of Education until June 30 to deliver the test results, with the exception of third-grade language arts, which has a May 31deadline. That change in turn will postpone the completion of report cards

Tampa Bay officials criticize Legislature for failing to tackle opioid epidemic” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – A health official in Tampa said he hopes lawmakers don’t cut state funding just because the feds kicked in $1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic gripping the country. Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act during its lame duck session, which includes the billion dollars toward anti-opioid efforts. In the state budget that started July 1, “Florida actually reduced by $11 million for what is spent on mental health and substance abuse funding,” said Joseph Rutherford, the CEO of Gracepoint, a nonprofit behavioral health organization in the Tampa Bay-area. Rutherford was one of more than a dozen local health care officials who met with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor at the offices of DACCO (Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office) in East Tampa. “We fought hard on a bipartisan basis in Washington thru the 21st Century Cures Law to provide extra dollars for states and communities to fight the opioid epidemic,” the Tampa Democrat told reporters. “It never would have crossed my mind that the state of Florida, that is last in funding substance abuse and mental health, would take that as a cue to reduce their state commitment, so we need to look for ways to make sure that doesn’t happen when the federal dollars flow back home.”

New College of Florida to request $3.6M from state as part of three-year growth plan” via Florida Politics — The New College of Florida board of trustees on Monday voted to approve its fiscal 2018-19 legislative budget request. The 2018 request includes a single item — more than $3.63 million to fund the second year of a three-year plan to grow enrollment to 1,200 and increase four-year graduation rates. Founded in 1960, the Sarasota college had a total enrollment of 861 students in the fall of 2015. While the school is recognized as one of the nation’s leading liberal arts schools, New College officials have said the school’s small size could be hampering its success. “Outside the Claremont consortium, ever liberal arts college ranked in the top 40 has at least 1,200 students,” according to a staff report to the school’s board of trustees. “With fewer students, it becomes difficult to sustain the broad range of academic disciplines common to high-quality to sustain the institutions and the activities to student development.” The requested funding, according to a staff analysis, will “support strategic initiatives in three key areas: academic excellence, student development and infrastructure. … The Legislature approved $5.4 million as part of the fiscal 2017-18 budget to implement the first year of the growth plan. The first year of the three-year growth plan was unanimously approved by the Board of Governors as a system-wide priority last year, and school officials said Monday they are hopeful the second year of funding will be a system-wide priority this year.


Florida lawmakers must submit an annual financial disclosure report; this year, those reports were due July 3. Among the highlights from the reports.

– Although the state pays them less than $30,000 a year, lawmakers have an average net worth of $2.14 million, with at least 45 millionaires.

– More than 100 lawmakers got richer this year, and 22 decreased in net worth.

– Of the 35 reports yet to be filed, nine are from members worth more than $1.5 million as of last year, led by Michael Bileca, one of the founders of Towncare Dental Partnership, who reported a net worth of about $18.4 million.

– Last year, a dozen members of both chambers reported negative finances, with Zephyrhills Republican Rep. Danny Burgess topping the list with a negative $253,100, mostly in student loans.

– Of reports already turned in, eight lawmakers are underwater.

– Several lawmakers turned their finances around, including St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton, who went from a negative $17,473 to a positive $24,445. Newton is a professional photographer.


Thank our Legislature and Governor for putting students first” via Collier County School Board Vice Chair Erica Donalds for the Naples Daily News – Here are a few questions for readers to ask themselves to determine their own opinion on HB 7069. Are you in favor of fully funding the parent-lauded Gardiner Scholarship so that Florida students with special needs and serious, rare diseases can continue to have access to a customized education? How about expanding access to virtual education to all students, saving taxpayers more than $300,000 by letting students continue participating in Florida Virtual School? Do you want teachers to have more time to teach by pushing back testing to the last few weeks of the school year? How about getting students off the screens and going back to paper and pencil testing in elementary schools? The governor has taken advantage of a great opportunity in HB 7069 by expanding educational opportunities for students, rewarding hardworking teachers and ensuring parents have the tools they need to help their children succeed.

New sober-house laws are good, but we need bigger plan” via the Palm Beach Post – The new law is a great step forward: Sober-home telemarketers have to register with the state — a curb against patient brokering. There’s a clearer legal definition of kickbacks. Owners, directors and clinical supervisors of treatment centers must undergo background checks. This is not a time for officials to take a bow, however. It’s time to use these fresh tools and crack down. And it’s time to ask, what do we tackle next? Because this plague is getting worse. Opioids, mainly fentanyl and heroin, have killed 2,664 people in Florida in the first six months of this year – an average of 14 people per day. At this rate, fatal overdoses will outpace last year’s count by 36 percent. In Palm Beach County alone, overdoses spiked to 311 in the first five months of this year, 20 percent more than the first five months of 2016. That’s more American lives than were lost in the Vietnam War. It’s five times more Americans than are killed each year in gun homicides. The pace of destruction is stepping up. And so must our response.

Legislative pre-emptions give more power to the powerful” via Rich Templin for the Tallahassee Democrat Wage theft has become an epidemic nationally and the numbers are especially high in Florida. The Legislature refused to act on this crisis so local governments have stepped in, establishing wage recovery programs all over the state. For years now, the Florida Retail Federation have tried, and failed, to have the Legislature ban these local programs. What some local governments have done is enact living wage ordinances for themselves and their contractors who perform public services with the public’s money. These ordinances are part of local economic development strategies that pump dollars into local cash registers, ensuring that the taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck for publicly funded projects and services … That’s what these pre-emptions are about, shifting power away from the government that is closest to the people to the geographically and psychologically remote halls of the Capitol. This situation is becoming increasingly dire as legislation was filed this year that would remove all authority from local governments to regulate businesses. The voices pushing back on these pre-emptions are vital and should be encouraged.


New and renewed lobby registrations

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Florida Juvenile Justice Association; TelePharm, LLC.; Crown Castle USA Inc.

Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: Estate of Eric Tenner;

Colleen Castille, Colleen Castille, Inc.: Village of Key Biscayne

Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Crown Castle USA, Inc.

Rosanna Manuela Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Marsy’s Law for All

Chris Hansen, Ballard Partners: TelePharm, LLC.

Danny Jordan, Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Telaforce

Jon Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Florida Electric Cooperatives Association

Personnel note – Nabilah Islam, one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, got called up to the majors last week. The FDP Finance Director resigned her post on Friday and those in the know said she was taking a new position at the Democratic National Committee. FDP hasn’t announced whether it will bring in new blood to replace Islam or turn to someone already in their ranks.

“Personnel note: Ken Kahn named to EFI board” via Florida PoliticsKahn was appointed to the Enterprise Florida (EFI) Board of Directors, Senate President Joe Negron announced Monday. The appointment begins immediately and expires July 5, 2021. “Ken understands firsthand the opportunities available to businesses seeking to locate or expand here in Florida,” Negron said.

Personnel note – Lewis, Longman & Walker announced that attorney Fredrick Aschauer, Jr. will join the firm’s Tallahassee office as Of Counsel next week. LLW said Aschauer will bring expertise in matters governed by Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Clean Water Act. Aschauer, an FSU law school alumnus, previously served as General Counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Education.

Personnel note – Republican Mary Thomas, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress against freshman U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn last year, has picked up a job in the Office of Justice Programs. Thomas was appointed to the position last month according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Before running in the new CD 2, the FSU law school alumna held a pair of positions in the Scott administration, including serving as general counsel for the Department of Elder Affairs.


New state-themed cans and bottles pays tribute to the 12 Budweiser breweries across the country. Packaging is specific to Florida, California (with two Budweiser breweries), Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.

On shelves from July to September 2017, each of the 11 states will enjoy custom packaging, with custom copy changes such as: “Budweiser” on cans and bottles being replaced with each state name; the center medallion “AB” monogram updated with state initials; “King of Beers” swapped to include each individual state motto and “Anheuser-Busch Inc.” replaced with each state nickname.

In addition to packaging, local Budweiser breweries will celebrate with a variety of events including: Host brewery open houses – inviting homegrown communities to experience the brand firsthand alongside local food, music and custom merchandise. The World-Famous Budweiser Clydesdales will also be making appearances at each brewery open house throughout the summer. Radio spots in each market, will featuring local Budweiser brewmasters and/or brewery general managers.

— ALOE —

Disney dropping controversial bride auction scene from Pirates of the Caribbean ride” via Sarah Rumpf of the Orlando Political Observer – The scene involves animatronic female characters who are tied up in front of a banner that says “Auction: Take a Wench for a Bride.” A redheaded woman who is taking her turn on the auction block smiles and twirls back and forth in a brightly colored dress as a pirate calls out “We want the redhead!” The scene was designed to play on pirate tropes but has long been criticized for being sexist. Another scene that showed pirates chasing after women was changed a few years ago to have the women carrying trays of food, implying that the pirates were just hungry, instead of the original rape-and-pillage context, and some of the women chasing the men … the scene will be redesigned with the redheaded woman taking the role of auctioneer instead of chattel to be sold, inviting the townspeople to “surrender yer loot” At   a more traditional auction.

Disney’s newest timeshare opens with a rustic railroad theme” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The theme pays homage to Walt Disney’s passion for trains. Copper Creek Villas & Cabins open July 17 as the 14th Disney Vacation Club option and the second at the Wilderness Lodge. The “rustically elegant accommodations” include lakeside cabins with hot tubs and 2,400-square-foot grand villas that sleep 12. The 26 cabins sleep up to eight and feature two bedrooms, two baths, stone fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Bay Lake. The 1,300-square-foot cabins have wrap-around screened porches and hot tubs with views of the Electrical Water Pageant. Decorations include reclaimed glass and reconstructed art pieces from Carolwood Pacific Railroad, the train that Walt Disney had in his California backyard. Beamed ceilings and distressed wooden floors, which were hand-scraped to look like they came from a sawmill, give that pioneer feel in the three-bedroom grand villas. Deluxe studios and one- and two-bedroom villas round out the five accommodation options.

Happy birthday to Rep. Cynthia Stafford and our friends Brett Cyphers and James Harris.


– “I have waited 20 years for this season of Game of Thrones” via Alex Cranz of Gizmodo

Why Jon Snow’s Season 5 fate still matters going forward” via Josh Wigler of the Hollywood Reporter – The King in the North cheated death once before, and here’s why we think he’ll face it again in the next season of ‘Thrones.’ It’s even unclear what form Jon will take when Martin’s next novel, The Winds of Winter, eventually comes to light. There are those who believe Jon transferred his consciousness into his direwolf Ghost shortly before succumbing to that fourth knife from his traitorous brothers in black; earlier in the same novel, someone observes that Snow’s gifts as a warg are far more powerful than Jon understands. Clearly, the show went a different way, with Melisandre (Carice van Houten) responsible for breathing fire back into Jon’s lungs. But even if we assume that the book’s Jon will return in his same mortal vessel, it won’t be without some serious scars. The show’s version of the character has more or less moved on from his visit to the great beyond. The book’s version stands to be a bit more physically traumatized by the experience, certainly, and potentially on an existential level as well — and right now, the show has a way of getting the two Jon Snows on the same page.

Game of Thrones costume designer reveals two game-changing meetings in Season 7” via Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair – According to costumer Michele Clapton, the game in Westeros is about to significantly change. Everyone is dressing like their ancestors, whether it’s Cersei giving a nod to Tywin, Daenerys finally donning the Targaryen colors of red and black, or Jon Snow looking more like Ned Stark than ever. “That’s a big, heavy cape,” she says, referring to Jon’s new fur-lined Season 7 look. “And yes, it is him as Ned, but he’s actually not Ned.” The newly crowned King in the North is taking his more practical, cozy fashion cues from “over-the-Wall” Wildling style as well. After all, winter is here. Intriguingly, Clapton also says that Jon won’t always be wearing furs and capes this season. Jon will be meeting not one queen, but two this season—and the second time, he’ll be wearing that regal Northern cape. “When he went to see Cersei,” Clapton says, “we put it on.”

Fans created an animated Game of Thrones prequel to get HBO’s attention” via Kwame Opam of The Verge – “Doom of Valyria” is an animated pilot specifically created to get HBO’s attention. It follows characters in the Freehold of Valyria, the ancient civilization where Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestors hail from, right before its collapse. Taking place centuries before Game of Thrones, we get to see what life among the dragonlords was like. (It turns out, it was just as dramatic and incestuous as anything in the TV show!) The pilot is the work of YouTube’s Patrick McCarthy, the animator behind the Family Guy parody series “Stewie Potter.” “Doom of Valyria” took two years to complete, and it shows, from the style to the research pulled from A Song of Ice and Fire and The World of Ice and Fire. It’s hard to imagine HBO going out of its way to buy this effort, but it’s pretty clear that the period around the Doom is rich and full of potential stories. It would honestly be great to see something like this adapted into a live-action series.

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