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Sunburn for 7.24.17 – The Trump effect on Fla.; Matt Gaetz draws an opponent; Alex DLP’s big loan; Fausto Gomez’ big payday; New ‘Justice League’ trailer

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Extensive Enterprises Media and its media, including, earned three statewide journalism awards Saturday night from the the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter, during ceremonies held in Coral Gables.

EEM’s magazine INFLUENCE took second-place for best magazine single issue, for the Winter 2016 edition. That category was won by City & Shore Magazine, published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, for its August 2016 issue. The Mirror Magazine took third place.

EEM’s SaintPetersBlog took second-place in best blog writing. Again, the winner was from the Sun Sentinel, for food critic Michael Mayo and his The Eat Beat Blog. The Tampa Bay Times’ political blog, The Buzz, placed third.

Scott Powers took a third-place award for best in-depth blog entry, for a post he wrote for and on the Pulse nightclub massacre, headlined, “The Soul of Orlando to America: Give us a moment.” Both the first- and second-place winners in that category were written by Eric Barton of Florida Bulldog, one on the medical examiner, and one on Florida education.

The big winner in the awards ceremony was the Sarasota Herald Tribune, which won nine-first place awards in various newspaper and special categories, including the Gene Miller Award for Investigative Reporting, and the First Amendment Foundation Freedom of Information Award.

Among other major awards, won the James Batten Award for Public Service. The Florida Times-Union and Tia Mitchell won the Diversity Award. The Times-Union also won the Integrity Florida Award for Public Corruption Reporting.

Pat Beall of The Palm Beach Post was named Journalist of the Year in Florida. Lisa Peakes of WUSF Public Media was named Anchor of the Year in Florida.


The start of the Pew Research Center’s story on its latest poll caught our eye: “Following an election that had one of the largest gender gaps in history, women are more likely than men to say they are paying increased attention to politics.”

Overall, the center’s latest national survey says 52 percent of Americans say they’re paying more attention to politics since President Donald Trump’s election; 33 percent say they are paying about the same amount of attention, and 13 percent say they’re paying less attention to politics.

“Nearly six in ten women (58 percent) say they are paying increased attention to politics since Trump’s election, compared with 46 percent of men,” the Pew report says.

“…There are similarly wide gender gaps in heightened interest to politics among members of both parties: 63 percent of Democratic women say they are more attentive to politics, compared with 51 percent of Democratic men. Among Republicans, 54 percent of women and 43 percent of men say the same.”

In Florida, we asked Jacksonville-based political guru Susie Wiles to weigh in. She’s credited as the “architect” of Trump’s win in the Sunshine State:

Q: Is there a “gender gap” in politics?

A: I generally agree that there is a gender gap in politics, though increasingly economic issues and health care are critically important, and impact both men and women and therefore narrow the gap in interest in issues.

Q: Are women in particular “paying more attention to politics,” in your view?

A: Everyone is paying more attention to politics—and not because they approve.

The Pew survey shows that women are paying closer attention, This may be because we care about issues that have been traditionally “female” issues, plus issues like crime and the economy. The 24/7 news environment may also contribute to the focus on politics.

Q: What would you tell people about the need to “get more involved” in politics?  

A: The best way to address a concern in the political sphere is to get involved.  

This involvement is far more than being elected: it can be Homeowners Associations, PTA, volunteering for a candidate of a political party, attending City Council and County Commission meetings and being heard. Our system works best when it is participatory, not merely spectating.

Since the election, 15% say they have attended a political event or protest

How Florida explains our polarized politics” via Reid Wilson of The Hill – The national trends that have divided the country almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans are on display in microcosm in Florida, where convergent tides of migration sweep from the Panhandle to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts and down to South Beach. The demographic trends help explain why American politics has become so tribal and so focused on pitting one party’s core voters against the others … waves of migrants, internal and external, rarely commingle. Midwesterners are most likely to move to Florida’s Gulf Coast, to Fort Myers or Tampa or Pensacola. Northeasterners are more likely to flock to the Atlantic Coast, to West Palm Beach or Daytona Beach or Jacksonville. Cubans have long played a major role in Miami politics, while Puerto Ricans disproportionately flock to Orlando. If population trends continue, each passing year will increase the importance of both the northern voters flocking south, and the southern immigrants flocking north. It presents Republicans with the opportunity to rely on conservative whites from the Midwest — and it could force Democrats to alter their strategy, to speak more to voters they have lost in Iowa and Michigan and Wisconsin.

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Andrew Gillum hopes email controversy won’t be further ‘politicized’” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – After offering a “no comment” about the Leon County Sheriff turning over its investigation into his email software purchase to the State Attorney … Andrew Gillum issued a statement … “I am pleased that the Sheriff’s department has completed its work. I am looking forward to a speedy conclusion from the state attorney. It is my sincere hope that this does not become politicized any further.” Gillum has had a standing policy to not comment on the ongoing investigation, but after discussing it with staff at the end of a 10-hour marathon of back to back meetings, Gillum decided it was OK to comment because the sheriff’s part of the investigation was over. Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, called the mayor’s statement an insult to taxpayers. “He attempts to belittle a serious criminal matter by saying he hopes the issue is not politicized any further,” Power said. “The only person who politicized anything was the mayor when he took taxpayer dollars and used them to fundraise (sic) for the Democratic Party and help the get out the vote efforts of federal candidates.”

Chris King issues bold, forward-thinking statement on climate change” via Florida Politics – In a lengthy statement placed as a blog post on his campaign website, King outlined his concerns for weather, sea level rise, and economic impacts to Florida under projections for the next couple of generations, declaring, “fighting climate change could be the smartest investment Florida makes this century.” The Winter Park developer of affordable housing touted his business successes and decried that Republicans always accuse Democrats of not understanding business or the economy. “As someone who has built a business from the ground up during the biggest economic recession of our lifetime, I will tell any Republican opponent that I know how to grow Florida’s economy — and it’s not by ignoring climate change. In fact, fighting climate change could be the smartest investment Florida makes this century,” King stated.

Chris King cited a recent article in The Atlantic summed it up this way: “Across the country’s southern half — and especially in states that border the Gulf of Mexico — climate change could impose the equivalent of a 20-percent tax on county-level income.”

“Oops, I just edited Scott Powers puff piece about Chris King” via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist

Jack Latvala has added $225,000 of committee cash so far in July” via Florida Politics – The Senate Appropriations Chair has raised $225,000 so far in July through his political committee, “Florida Leadership Committee,” with the single largest contribution clocking in at $50,000 from Destin-based Sterling Diversified, LLC. Donors at the $25,000 level included The Vestcor Companies and the FTBA Transportation PAC, while another seven groups chipped in $10,000 apiece. The unofficial tally, which runs through July 20, also shows just shy of $60,000 in expenditures this month. The top costs for FLC were a $10,000 payment to the Whitson Group for research, $8,300 to Champion Consultants for strategy consulting and $6,400 for event tickets through Orlando Event Center Enterprises. FLC finished June with about $3.55 million on hand according to its most recent finance report, and through the first three weeks of July that total has grown to about $3.7 million.

— “Ryan Torrens, political outsider running for Attorney General, says he’s what Florida Democrats need” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Matt Gaetz gets early Democratic challenge” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily NewsPhil Ehr, a retired Navy pilot who answers to Mustang, formally announced he will run as a Democrat to unseat Gaetz in 2018. The announcement was made at a small ceremony in Pensacola’s Veterans Memorial Park. A previously registered Republican, Ehr said he no longer can stand on the sidelines and watch what the current administration, and his own elected representative, are doing to the country. “The generation that gave us victory in World War II had a vision of the future that has served America well, that of a world order that serves human rights,” he said. “I don’t see that in the current Republican Party. I don’t see that in our administration or our representative.” He said his focus will be on low- and middle-income people, and not on providing health care plans that give tax beaks to people who can afford good insurance in the misguided hope that this will somehow help those less affluent.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla loans himself $443K in special Miami Senate campaign” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami HeraldDiaz de la Portilla … loaned himself $393,500 since June 9 to campaign for Senate District 40 ahead of the special primary election, according to a campaign-finance report … That brings the total amount Diaz de la Portilla has put into his campaign to $443,500. Diaz de la Portilla … poured his money into the race “to fight against the $3 million nasty defamation campaign waged by my opponent with dirty special interest money”

— “Jose Felix Diaz now at $51K raised for SD 40 special election” via Florida Politics

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Bobby Olszewski gets our nod in GOP primary for state House District 44” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board – Olszewski runs a management consulting group, teaches business courses as an adjunct professor and has served numerous civic and community organizations. But as a former city commissioner, he especially understands the importance of home rule. That, along with his deep roots in the district, might explain why he’s earned endorsements from a long list of current and former local officials throughout District 44, including Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, the president of the Florida League of Mayors and an outspoken advocate for protecting home rule. Bruhn was named the Florida League of Cities’ Home Rule Hero this year. Olszewski has wisely sharpened his focus to three priorities: low taxes, policies that broadly promote economic development and improvements in education. These positions, whether one agrees or disagrees with them, are on issues that fall firmly within the bailiwick of state legislators.

– “Barbara Cady bringing Democratic, feminist connections to HD 42 run” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

HD 47 hopeful Anna Eskamani opens political committee” via Florida PoliticsEskamani sent in the paperwork to open “People Power for Florida” in June and the Florida Division of Elections acknowledged the committee and added it to its database July 13. The Orlando Democrat is currently the only candidate running for HD 47, as current Republican Rep. Mike Miller announced in late June that he will leave the seat to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Though her campaign has not yet released its first campaign finance report, it should see a nice boost in August. The Planned Parenthood director of external affairs announced a fundraiser Thursday with many top Florida Democrats on the guest list, including Alan Grayson, Alex Sink, Bob Poe and Steve Schale.

First in Sunburn – Former Miami Beach Commissioner Deede Weithorn to run for HD 113 – Weithorn, a lifelong resident of Miami Beach, CPA and mother of two, will be vying to replace outgoing Rep. David Richardson in 2018. Richardson is vacating the seat in a bid for US Congress. Weithorn, a Democrat, stated: “The people of our district need a Democratic champion on the issues most important to our everyday lives. Here in South Florida, these issues aren’t just traffic and over-development — they’re also the very real threats of climate change and sea-level rise, as well as confronting the opioid epidemic and improving access to high-quality public education. I was a no-nonsense commissioner and I will be a get things done representative in Tallahassee. For me it’s all about delivering results.” Under her tenure as finance chair, Miami Beach’s bond score rose from A to AA.

Jose Mallea at $120K raised for Tuesday’s special election in HD 116” via Florida PoliticsMallea brought in $97,600 in contributions and loaned his campaign $24,000 for $262,256 so far. The Doral Republican also spent nearly $194,000, leaving him with $16,600 in the bank ahead of the Tuesday primary election. The bulk of the money was spent on media buys and mailers, though Front Line Strategies also picked up $24,443 for consulting work. Daniel Perez also posted a decent haul during the six-week reporting period, with just shy of $85,000 raised and $117,000 in spending. Like Mallea, most of the money was spent on a flurry of media buys and mailers over the past few weeks. Thus far, the Miami Republican has raised $168,200 and spent $165,434, leaving him with less than $3,000 four days out from the election.


Richard Corcoran proud of Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Pasco County Republican, still very much contemplating a run for governor next year, issued a statement in response to comments made earlier this week by Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who said that illegal border crossings have dropped by almost 70 percent this year, allowing ICE agents to now target the more than 300-plus sanctuary cities and counties that have ignored ICE requests that they detail criminal undocumented immigrants for ICE arrest and deportation proceedings. “The idea that a city decides what laws it will follow and what laws it will ignore should offend every American,” Corcoran said. “Politicians who believe they are above the law by adopting ‘sanctuary’ policies are violating their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.” Corcoran notes that the Florida House passed Larry Metz’ “Rule of Law Adherence Act in the past legislative session. That bill would have required state and local governments and law enforcement agencies to assist and cooperate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rick Scott veto in rearview, Joe Negron promotes Bright Futures expansion, higher ed changes” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Negron gave his fellow senators a quick update on a few of his chamber’s higher education priorities, saying Florida is largely on the right track in terms of educational progress … tens of thousands of students returning to the state’s colleges and universities will rest easy with a higher level of financial security — that, Negron told senators, will lead to a domino effect in graduation rates, increasing the likelihood students will graduate on time. Nestled in the state’s $82 billion budget is adequate funding to send 43,000 university students and 2,000 college students back to school with a 100 percent Bright Futures scholarship, which pays for tuition and fees for the fall semester. On top of those numbers, 17,000 more students will be able to attend summer classes using the Bright Futures scholarship program. Negron told senators he felt personally compelled to fight for the Bright Futures program as a result of his own experience as a college undergrad.

Local officials say a more generous homestead exemption could reduce government services” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Local government officials bemoaned the likely effect of a voter-approved increase in the homestead tax exemption — even a Florida TaxWatch spokesman opposed it — in a Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum … One of the panelists, Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen, said he doesn’t typically hear constituents complaining about their property taxes, though he said that may change now that Mayor Bob Buckhornhas proposed a budget with a tax increase. He said the proposed increase in the homestead exemption would cost the city $5 million to $6 million a year and would impact “sidewalk construction, potholes, stormwater work, parks and recreation … the nuts and bolts of government that you all expect us to provide.” Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said the measure would cost the county about $30 million a year. He raised the specter of user fees in county parks if it passes.

Must read –Miami lobbyist’s business made $1 million profit on state anti-hazing contract” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Educational Management Services, paid $1.7 million by Florida Polytechnic University to run the statewide program, provided an anti-hazing course at the same time a similar course was being offered by the University of Central Florida to students in state colleges. Fausto Gomez, the Miami lobbyist who once owned part of EMS, said the company now run by his wife, Alina, met all the terms of its contract despite the fact that only 95 students at one university completed the Hazing Solutions course online over two years. The UCF program trained more than 41,000 students at 11 of the 12 state universities over three years for less than $1 million, records show. Alina Gomez, who said state universities were to blame for not requiring students to use the course, compared the EMS effort to the Legislature hiring the company to provide a custom-built car. “It wasn’t EMS’s fault the state didn’t want to drive the car,” Gomez said. “What was delivered was a fully functioning car.”

State revenue to analyzed earlier — The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet Aug. 15 to update estimates on how much money the state will bring into its general revenue fund. General revenue is the preferred funding source for many projects, and the state economists’ analysis will give lawmakers and the governor an idea of how much money they have to play around with when crafting the state budget. Officials will have less time to craft the 2018-2019 budget, as lawmakers will convene for the 2018 Legislative Session on Jan. 9 instead of their usual early March start date.

Scoop – “Jose Oliva taps Jason Rojas for key staff position, putting him on track for chief of staff” via Florida Politics Rojas, recently a staff director in the Florida House, will start Aug. 1 at the Republican Party of Florida, where he will serve in a policy development role that is a steppingstone to eventually leading the Speaker’s Office. Oliva said he has tasked Rojas with “building a strong conservative agenda” while at the Florida GOP. It’s only natural, Oliva said, that after building that agenda, Rojas would be tapped to be the top staffer to implement it. Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, will succeed Richard Corcoran as House Speaker, assuming the GOP maintains its majority in the chamber.

Scoop –Florida Lottery confirms resignation of three high-level employees” via Florida Politics – … but wouldn’t say why. Secretary Jim Poppell “is committed to the Lottery fulfilling its mission of funding education for Florida’s students,” spokeswoman Connie Barnes said in an email. But one insider told that the resignations are part of a “housecleaning” by Poppell … Michael Manley had been Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Legislative Affairs, with a listed salary of $80,000. Josefina “Josie” Tamayo, a former circuit judge in Tallahassee, was General Counsel with a salary of $109,074 a year.


Concern raised in Florida over proposed policy regarding civil forfeiture” via Jake Stofan of News 4 Jax – There’s concern in Florida after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessionsannounced he would be expanding circumstances in which law enforcement agencies can use civil forfeiture. There’s a fear the proposed policy would allow law enforcement agencies to sidestep state laws restricting the practice. Criminal defense attorney Richard Greenberg is concerned the new policy would create scenarios where people’s assets could be taken in way not allowed under Florida law. “An innocent owner can have their property seized, and then they have to fight to try and get that property back,” Greenberg said. State Sen. Jeff Brandes sponsored unanimously-approved legislation in 2016, which created the restrictions on civil forfeiture in Florida. “This, I think, highlights property rights exist,” Brandes said. Now he fears Sessions’ proposal would damage the state’s control over the practice.

What Florence Snyder is reading –Appeals court limits Florida law against secret recordings” via The Associated Press – A man who secretly recorded a meeting with a Florida police chief is celebrating victory in a federal case with free-speech and privacy implications. Homestead’s police chief had invited James McDonough to a meeting in 2014 after the man complained about an officer who arrested him on minor charges that were later dismissed. A friend of McDonough’s and a detective also attended. McDonough used his cellphone to secretly record some of the discussion, and published some of it online. Police Chief Alexander Rolle Jr. later said he didn’t know the conversation was being recorded, and the local state attorney sent McDonough a letter, warning that if he did it again, he’d be charged with violating a Florida law she said requires participants in private conversations to be notified and give consent before being recorded. McDonough sued State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in Miami federal court, alleging that the threat of prosecution violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The judge ruled that the warning didn’t violate his constitutional rights because it’s reasonable to prohibit recordings in police stations, given their law enforcement responsibilities. An 11th Circuit of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 this week that the Florida law “does not apply to the recording of all oral communications,” and is “expressly limited to communications ‘uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception.'”

Lots of questions but few answers on how to make state’s new education policy work” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The sweeping, 274-page, $419 million measure that reforms Florida’s public K-12 schools spans dozens of changes in statute … So, what goes into implementing something like that? The Florida Department of Education doesn’t want to answer questions about it and hasn’t offered much detail publicly three weeks after HB 7069 became law July 1. The department had published only three points of guidance to school district superintendents …  A brief memo clarifies the new requirement for daily recess in traditional public schools … Details explain the testing schedule for 2017-18 and 2018-19 because HB 7069 pushed statewide exams to the end of the school year … Information was issued on new mandates and resources for failing schools — such as financial aid some of the state’s worst-performing traditional public schools can now apply for through the “Schools of Hope” program. However, the DOE has yet to reveal other key information on failing schools: How it will select those “hope” schools or how it will choose the specialized operators to whom HB 7069 provides tens of millions of dollars in incentives to set up privately managed charter schools that will compete with the existing schools.

Home education once again on the rise in Florida” via Travis Pillow of redefinED – The number of home education students in Florida keeps rising. It reached 87,462 during the 2017-16 school year, according to fresh state data. This year, home education grew by more than 4,000 students, or just shy of 5 percent. Once again, however, the number of home schoolers in Miami-Dade declined — this time by nearly 11 percent. Homeschooling declined in other counties, including tiny Jefferson and midsized Brevard. Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, it grew by nearly 15 percent. Duval County surpassed Palm Beach County as home to the largest number of homeschool students, with 6,772.

The number of home education student in Florida continues to grow. Graph: Florida Department of Education.

“Medical marijuana grower wants in on challenge to pot law” via Florida PoliticsA medical marijuana nursery is asking a Tallahassee judge to allow it to get involved with a case over the state’s new law governing the drug. Canadian-based DFMMJ Investments, which inked a deal to take over operations of Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, filed a “motion to intervene” earlier this week with Circuit Judge Karen Gievers. Sarasota’s TropiFlora is asking the courts to delay the issuance of one of 10 “medical marijuana treatment center” (MMTC) licenses. The nursery has said the department “wrongfully refused” to consider its license application. When the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use in the Department of Health approves the transfer of Chestnut Hill’s growing and operating license to DFMMJ, it will then “take over full ownership,” its filing explains. DFMMJ is partly owned by Aphria, a Canadian “producer of medical cannabis products,” according to its website.

FIU out of anti-AIRBNB, hotel association research project via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Florida International University has dropped from a controversial research contract proposed by the American Hotel & Lodging Association that had been criticized as potentially unethical by the national watchdog group Checks & Balances Project … it has been notified that it is not receiving the AH&LA $68,209 grant for sponsored research into the emerging home-sharing industry. The university did not indicate why it was not receiving the grant …  Checks & Balances Project held a national telephone news conference criticizing FIU and two other universities for research projects sponsored by the hotel association, which Checks & Balances said appeared to be “pay to play” contracts, to sponsor research to support the AH&LA’s lobbying efforts to oppose Airbnb and other vacation rental home-sharing companies. FIU had bid for an AH&LA grant to sponsor research “to determine if there are any safety/security issues that could/should be addressed in order to be sure that consumers have a consistently safe product” with home-sharing lodging.

Schools boost nursing plans” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel – Addressing a critical shortage, students will soon be able to earn their bachelor’s degrees at four Central Florida state colleges, as part of a regional effort to increase the number of nurses with higher academic training. State colleges also say they plan to increase the number of students in two-year, associate degree programs by admitting several hundred more each year. At Valencia College and Seminole State College, the number of associate-level students is expected to grow from about 870 to 1,700. The colleges will be able to start admitting students into the bachelor’s programs, which will target working registered nurses with associate degrees, as early as next year.

State approves ending dog races at Miami track” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – The Magic City decision is rooted in a 1980 Florida law that allows Miami-Dade and Broward pari-mutuels that have the lowest betting handle for two consecutive years to convert to summer jai alai permits. But if those pari-mutuels do not seek conversion, other facilities can seek the permits. The Miami dog track’s lawyer, John Lockwood, first sought the summer jai alai permit for Magic City in 2011. In a declaratory statement … state regulators said Florida law gives the track the green light to do away with dog races, as long as the jai alai matches take place at the same facility where the current greyhound permit is operated. “The jai alai fronton is going to take up significantly less space than the greyhound track, so this frees up West Flagler to develop its property to the highest and best use,” Lockwood said.

Politics prop up greyhound racing in Florida” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – The state’s 12 dog tracks took in $240 million in bets during the year that ended in June 2016, half the amount wagered a decade before. The state says it now spends more money regulating the greyhound industry than it receives in tax revenue from the races. But dogs still race in Florida because the tracks must exist if pari-mutuel companies want to keep open their more-lucrative poker rooms. Under state law, only pari-mutuel facilities like horse tracks, jai alai frontons and greyhound kennel clubs can operate card rooms. If greyhound tracks stop their races, the card rooms would have to close. There have been many attempts in the Legislature to change the laws that tie the operation of card rooms and casinos with pari-mutuel activity. All of these attempts at “decoupling” have failed for a variety of economic and political reasons. Lawmakers said they will continue to try. Greyhound owners, breeders and trainers are a powerful force in Tallahassee. They have argued that decoupling with kill their industry and thousands of related jobs. They also make the argument that Florida voters should have a say in whether standalone card rooms and casinos should be allowed to replace longstanding pari-mutuel facilities.

Triumph chairman: BP settlement money ‘game changer’ For Florida Panhandle” via WKRG – Many leaders believe the $1.5 billion from the Triumph Gulf Coast legislation could transform the Panhandle for generations to come. “We have $300 million in our checking account, which is neat,” said Allan Bense, Triumph Gulf Coast chairman. In the two years Bense has been the chairman, the organization has been anticipating the initial funding. The first $300 million check is the first of many the organization will receive over the next 12 to 13 years. “If we are bad stewards of this first $300 million, we need to be careful,” Bense said. “That’s why I’m so, so focused on making sure we do the right thing with this first tranche of money … Statutes say that $120 million of this $300 million goes equally into the eight counties, so each county gets $15 million guaranteed,” Bense said. “Now that leaves us with what $180 million, and that just goes to whomever.”

Manatee couple joins lawsuit against Florida’s ban on smoking marijuana” via Isabel Mascareñas of WTSPKathy Jordan says smoking is the most effective and only method for patients like her. Her husband, Bob Jordan, rolls and lights a joint for her. The ALS doesn’t keeps her from doing it herself. As Bob holds a marijuana cigarette to Kathy’s lips he says, “This isn’t something we want to do. We have to do. This is life or death for Kathy.” She has been living with ALS for 31 years. “She’s the longest living patient we know of in the U.S., maybe the world, without a feeding tube or respirator,” says Bob. What’s kept her alive? “Cannabis!” Kathy replies.

Worst story you’ll read today –Three arrested for negligence in hanging death of child” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News – Young Esau Jamison was found hanging from a belt in a bedroom closet by the grandfather, who had gone into the room where the child was discovered to smoke crack cocaine. Three adults who lived in the filthy home on Farmer’s Street in Crestview where 9-year-old Esau Jamison died last Nov. 10 have been charged with six counts of felony child neglect. Charges against Esau’s mother, Jentry Smith, 37, her husband Robert Earl Smith, 56, and Esau’s grandfather, John E. Jamison, 67, were filed by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office after “extensive consultation” with the State Attorney’s Office … One end of the belt was wrapped around the victim’s neck a red will be there nd the other around the clothes bar in the closet. The child was believed to have been hanging for about an hour when authorities arrived on scene. Investigators found a double barrel shotgun, ammunition and a rock of crack cocaine in the room where Esau’s body was discovered. Esau was one of six children between 3 and 14 years old who shared the home with the three adults.


Brad Swanson: Free-market principles needed for net neutrality in Florida” via the Tallahassee Democrat – In less than 25 years, private-sector internet companies and their innovations have improved millions of people’s online experiences, moving from a snail’s pace dial-up connection to high-speed, unlimited, 24/7 access available everywhere …

Only recently under the Obama administration did the FCC’s regulatory approach change. Citing concerns over protecting net neutrality, the FCC unilaterally applied antiquated, utility-style regulations to broadband internet companies known as Title II. Unlike utility-style Title II regulations, which promote only one choice for every consumer similar to your local water or power company, Title I regulations created an environment where customers can choose the providers and products that best suit their needs. Further, the utility-style regulations have slowed the deployment of sophisticated high-speed networks, which Florida’s families and businesses increasingly depend upon every day. Florida’s broadband companies continue to support net neutrality and agree that rules prohibiting anyone from blocking, throttling or unfairly discriminating against internet traffic should be in place. This core principle of an open internet experience for everyone is not controversial to the industry; it is the standard.

— ALOE — 

Ernest Hemingway lookalikes gather in Key West for annual contest” via The Associated Press – About 160 stocky, white-bearded men resembling Ernest Hemingway have gathered in Key West to compete in the island city’s annual Hemingway Look-Alike Contest. Judged by former winners, the three-night contest is a highlight of the Hemingway Days festival honoring the late author’s literary prowess and colorful lifestyle. Entrants include repeat contender Michael Groover, of Savannah, Georgia, husband of celebrity chef Paula Deen. Deen cheered from the audience as her husband made the semifinal round …The 2017 look-alike winner was chosen Saturday night.

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Comic-Con trailer for Justice League reveals their true enemy” via Kwame Opam of The Verge – For the latest trailer for Justice League, the world is still in mourning after the death of Superman. Now, it’s up to the newly formed League to face Steppenwolf (Game of Thrones alum Ciarán Hinds) and his armies of Parademons. Justice League is the superhero team-up Warner Bros. has been promising since the inception of the DCEU. This trailer also makes the movie look like a whole lot of fun, with plenty of action and humor (especially from Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and The Flash). But that doesn’t mean the film will necessarily be another feather in the studio’s cap. There’s still skepticism as to whether or not it will be an Avengers-style landmark and if it will be yet another black mark on Warner’s slate. At least there’s enough here to keep fans more than invested.

Virtual line technology at Volcano Bay causing long waits” via The Associated Press – Customers are keeping Universal Orlando’s new Volcano Bay water park filled to capacity most days, but not all visitors are pleased with the experience. Much of the frustration stems from the new virtual lines technology that is keeping patrons waiting for hours to ride a single ride. With the use of the TapuTapu bracelets, visitors can reserve their place in line virtually and then do other things around the park. But the problem is the technology only allows visitors to tap into one of the 16 slides at a time. The wait can be up to three hours, and visitors cannot choose another experience until their wait time is up. This leaves them to spend most of their time on one of the two river experiences or on the beach. Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said the complaints have been heard but insisted things have improved since the May 25 official opening of Volcano Bay. “Absolutely we know that we have frustrated some of our guests,” Schroder said.

What Lenny Curry is reading –Jaguars look beyond Duval for loyal fans” via John Reid of the Florida Times-Union – When the Jaguars play their home opener on Sept. 17 against the Tennessee Titans, 90 percent of their season-ticket holders occupying seats at EverBank Field will be residents of Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Nassau, Baker and Putnam counties. The Jaguars say 66 percent of the season-ticket holders and 61 percent of the single-game buyers come from Jacksonville. St. Johns has the second-highest concentration of Jaguars’ season-ticket holders at 13 percent, followed by Clay’s 8 percent and Nassau’s 3 percent. The Jaguars are also targeting Gainesville, Tallahassee, Brunswick, Georgia, and some of the suburbs extending northeast of Orlando, which includes Oviedo, quarterback Blake Bortles’ hometown. Only 10 percent of the team’s season-ticket base comes from outside the six-county region, so there are opportunities there. The franchise draws 30 percent of its single-game buyers beyond 75 miles, its highest percentage other than Duval County. Many of those are fans of the visiting teams.

Happy birthday to Mike Fernandez. He hasn’t made any news lately 🙂

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.

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