Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 7.28.17 – It’s already budget season; Latest on DWS scandal; Adam Putnam’s nice endorsement; Emily’s List’s Fla. targets; Steph Smith rocks!

in Peter 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.

Believe it or not, we try to keep Sunburn to a digestible length. 5,000 words are the Goldilocks amount. Because of this limitation, we often don’t get to include some of the winding and windy blog posts we publish. But these think pieces are worth reading, so please click on the links below to read them:

— “An inmate’s story highlights need for mandatory minimum drug sentencing reform

— “How the Jacksonville City Council effort to scuttle term limits went wrong

— “Mary Barzee Flores shakes up CD 27 primary

— “Naples Daily News pops lobbyist, gives state universities free pass

— “New Lake O algae blooms reported, so why are environmentalists silent?


Is it really budget time again?

With the 2018 Legislative Session starting in January rather than March, Magic 8-ball says: “It is decidedly so.”

Gov. Rick Scott’s office earlier in July released its game plan for state agencies to turn in their funding plans, known in The Process as legislative budget requests, or just “LBRs.”

According to our friends at LobbyTools, the “instructions tell state officials how to form required comprehensive lists of what they want funded and why. Agencies are also required to produce a list of programs and issues that could be reduced in the event of a revenue shortfall.”

In other words, the Naples Republican wants to know how agencies can do their job for less.

For the fiscal year 2018-19, “agencies must show what a potential 10 percent cut from recurring state General Revenue and recurring state trust fund money would look like,” LobbyTools explained.

The requests are due Sept. 15 — also the “deadline of the important Long-Range Financial Outlook, which compares the state’s costs and revenue and shows whether it has a surplus or a deficit.”

Expect a lot of appropriations lobbyists with clenched, er, jaws at the Joint Legislative Budget Commission meeting where that’s presented. In 2016, state economists told lawmakers to start expecting budget shortfalls in the coming years.

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Rick Scott ceremonially signs legislation to fight opioid abuse” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Gov. Scott joined local law enforcement and legislative officials Thursday to ceremonially sign a bill that brings stiffer penalties for dealers of synthetic opioid drugs and fentanyl. The bill cuts through the bureaucracy and allows state officials to immediately draw more than $27 million in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Opioid State Targeted Response Grant, awarded to Florida April 21. … “This is the most damning public safety crisis in Central Florida,” said  Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks, Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent in charge. “This has affected more families than any other violent crime we’ve ever seen.”

Rick Scott, with Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, City of Orlando Police Chief John Mina and others, hosted a ceremonial bill signing at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for a bill cracking down on opioid abuse.

American Bridge hits Scott over ceremonial bill signing — American Bridge 21st Century is targeting Scott for his response to the state’s opioid crisis. The progressive organization targeted Scott for holding a ceremonial bill signing in Orlando on Thursday, calling it the “second taxpayer-funded fake bill-signing Scott has done” for the legislation, which increases penalties. The group also said Scott has been “dangerously negligent, under-funding, and ignoring measures” to deal with the increasing opioid crisis. “Rick Scott hopes he looks like he’s fighting Florida’s opioid crisis, but for the last 6 years he’s sat on his hands while Floridians are suffering and dying,” said Joshua Karp, a spokesman for the organization, in a statement. Instead of dedicating resources to fight addiction and fund treatment, Scott has cut taxes to benefit big corporations. Rick Scott’s photo-op … is nothing more than a political campaign event paid for with taxpayer dollars — money that should be going to fight Florida’s opioid crisis. But Rick Scott always puts his political career ahead of Floridians.”

On Venezuela, Scott suggests a ban on what the state is already not doing” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald Scott will ask the Florida Cabinet next month to prohibit the state’s investment managers from doing something they already do not do: invest in companies or securities owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government. The proposed resolution released by the governor’s office … stops short of advancing a bolder threat Scott had been making at public appearances as recently as last week when he vowed to boycott companies that “do business” with the Nicolás Maduro regime. Instead, the vote on the resolution — scheduled for the Aug. 16 meeting of the State Board of Administration — will be a mostly-symbolic gesture aimed at sending the message that Florida will not tolerate any business sympathetic to the Maduro regime going forward. The SBA oversees the Florida Retirement System and its $150 billion in assets.

– “Pulp Non-fiction; Pete Antonacci is Gov. Rick Scott’s ‘Wolfe.’” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post


White House wants ‘thorough investigation’ into fired IT staffer who worked for Debbie Wasserman Schultz” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – During the press briefing … Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if President Donald Trump was aware of the case and if he was satisfied with the pace of the investigation. “I haven’t had a conversation with him specifically about that but I do think it is something we should fully look into and there should be a thorough investigation,” she said. On Thursday morning, Trump retweeted a story by Town Hall headlined “ABC, NBC, and CBS pretty much bury IT Scandal engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s office.” Imran Awan worked for many Democratic House members since 2004. But while other members fired him in February when news surfaced that he was under investigation, Wasserman Schultz waited to fire him until Tuesday. Awan was arrested for bank fraud while at Dulles International Airport en route to Pakistan.

“Bob Milligan vying to replace Jimmy Patronis on PSC” via Florida PoliticsFormer state Comptroller Milligan has applied for the now-empty seat on the Public Service Commission vacated when Patronis stepped down to become the state’s new CFO. Milligan’s name is among 18 applicants so far for the seat, which will be vetted by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council and appointed by Gov. Scott. The deadline to apply is Friday; a working list was released Thursday. The five-member commission regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. In a phone interview, Milligan said he’s only interested in serving out Patronis’ current term, which is up at the end of 2018. Though he doesn’t have any utility experience, he said his background in finance and economics qualify him. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, he got an MBA from the University of Rochester and studied economics at the University of Maryland. “I think I can jump in there easily and do what needs to be done, but I’m not interested in making a career of it,” the 84-year-old said.

Florida’s cost for losing lawsuits keeps growing” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – A review of records by The Associated Press shows that since Scott took office in 2011 the state has paid at least $19 million to cover expenses and fees for lawyers who have sued the state. Many of those lawsuits took aim at policies put in place by Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Scott administration has defended the legal expenses in the past, saying the governor will “vigorously defend” Florida’s laws. In the last six years, the state has agreed to pay attorney fees of lawyers who have sued the state over everything from employee discrimination to drug testing of welfare recipients. The total includes $12 million paid to attorneys who represented pediatricians in a more than 10-year legal battle over whether Florida violated federal mandates by failing to deliver critical health services to 2 million children on Medicaid.

Florida drops sponsorship of British football club” via the News Service of Florida – VISIT FLORIDA’s logo won’t adorn the jerseys of the Fulham Football Club in the next season of the British Championship league. The London-based team, owned by Naples resident and Jacksonville Jaguar’s owner Shahid “Shad” Khan, announced that will take over as the team’s main sponsor for the next two years. The deal was announced in advance of the club’s preseason home match this Saturday. The deal with Florida’s tourism agency, worth $1.25 million for the second-tier club in the prior season, was a critical component in state House leadership’s criticism of VISIT FLORIDA’s spending.

Florida schools to see slight bump in enrollment” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida – Florida public schools are expected to grow by 27,000 students in the next year, under an estimate approved by state forecasters … The 0.9 percent growth rate for the 2018-19 academic year is in line with an estimate showing the number of students in Florida K-12 classrooms will average less than 1 percent growth over the four subsequent years. K-12 enrollment is projected to rise from 2.83 million students this year to 2.86 million next fall, an increase of 26,764 full-time students in the 67 school districts and the Florida Virtual School.

Judge rules against charter schools in Florida funding case” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – An administrative judge has determined that the Florida Board of Education did not overstep its bounds by barring charter schools with poor state grades from receiving state capital outlay funding. The board had both the authority and the duty to adopt its rule, based upon legislative intent, judge Darren Schwartz wrote in his recently released order. Schwartz rejected the contention that the board went beyond the scope of the enabling legislation by defining the term “satisfactory student achievement” to equate to school grades. In the rule, the board states that charter schools receiving two consecutive D grades, or one F grade, from receiving money for construction, maintenance and related expenses.

Doctors with multiple malpractice settlements face little discipline in Florida” via Carol Gentry of WUSF – There were 14 times since 2000 malpractice insurers paid to settle complaints against Dr. Ernest Rehnke, according to a state database of claims. The settlements include six patients who died during or after surgery. Yet Rehnke is still operating with a clear Florida medical license. He had only one disciplinary case 10 years ago, in which he paid a fine. And Rehnke is not alone. He is one of 29 doctors in Florida with at least six malpractice complaints that resulted in insurance payments since 2000. A review of state records shows that most continue to practice without discipline from the state system that oversees them. This means that either insurers pay to settle cases that have no merit, or the state hasn’t always followed up. Critics say Florida’s system is broken and it’s putting people’s lives at risk.

“Once a quick lube shop, now a marijuana dispensary” via Florida PoliticsArising from the shell of a former Super-Lube, Miami-based Knox Medical Thursday opened its first medical marijuana dispensary in the state’s capital. When asked why he opened on a busy Midtown Tallahassee corner, sandwiched between two older residential neighborhoods, co-founder Bruce Knox mentioned the site’s “access and visibility.” “This is a great location to serve the residents of Tallahassee,” he said during a media preview of the new dispensary. Lesson one: Even in the retail medical marijuana business, it’s all about location, location, location … Other stores are in Gainesville and Orlando, with more planned for Lake Worth, Jacksonville and St. Petersburg. Knox’s Tallahassee store is far removed from the grease and grime of its predecessor, with an all-white exterior and wood-accented walls in the patient areas. Mark Batievsky, the retail operations director, said they’re aiming for the “best retail customer experience.” That translates down to the staff uniforms, including identical black polos and Vans shoes.

Outrage over shark-dragging video deepens as new pictures surface” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – More than 2,000 people signed a petition by late Thursday calling for Florida wildlife officials to revoke the men’s fishing licenses and order them to perform community service. Facebook and other online posts also continued to draw hundreds of angry comments, with the latest images showing two of the men pouring beer into the gaping mouth of a protected Goliath grouper, over the gills of a hammerhead shark and shooting what appears to be a tarpon. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has declined to release the men’s names, in keeping with past policy … However, local news and online commenters have identified the four as west coast anglers they’ve repeatedly complained about, including Michael Wenzel and Robert Lee “Bo” Benac, whose mother is chairwoman of the Manatee County commission.

Story you won’t read in Sunburn because hell hath no fury: “Ex-Dolphins cheerleader announces ‘Trump divorce’ from Dave Aronberg” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post

Tallahassee hires former U.S. Attorney at $380 an hour to help with FBI probe” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – The city has hired Ausley McMullen, one of Florida’s oldest law firms, to provide guidance during an FBI investigation into local redevelopment deals. The city contracted with the law firm July 10, agreeing to pay up to $35,000 to “consult with and advise” the city attorney’s office during the investigation. The funding limitation can be increased, however, by written notice from the city attorney’s office, according to the contract. The contract was signed by City Attorney Lew Shelley and new Ausley attorney Pamela Marsh, who served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida from 2010 until her resignation in September 2015. Marsh became a shareholder in the firm this month, according to her LinkedIn page. During Marsh’s more than five-year tenure, she supervised assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Kunz, who is overseeing the federal investigation involving the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency.


“Adam Putnam downplays past immigration policies” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Under fire for being weak on immigration, Republican frontrunner for governor Adam Putnam downplayed his support for legislation he once co-sponsored that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to work in the United States and receive a pathway to legal residency. Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner, was adamant: A pathway to residency is not a pathway to citizenship. ‘Citizenship has never been something that I have supported,’ said Putnam, of Bartow. “Citizenship is amnesty. And I’ve never supported amnesty. Referring to Putnam as ‘#AmnestyAdam’ in a text message Thursday to the Naples Daily News, [pollster for potential opponent, House Speaker Richard Corcoran] Tony Fabrizio said the candidate was using ‘convenient amnesia and weasel words to try and hide his clear and irrefutable support for amnesty for illegal immigrants … Putnam is going to experience the hard lesson learned numerous times before in primaries, that when GOP voters hear the phrases ‘pathway to residency’ or ‘pathway to citizenship’ for illegal immigrants, they see it for what it is – Washington-speak for amnesty – and they punish those who support it.

“Putnam lands a nice endorsement as rivals circle” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, representing more than 2,600 companies across the state, is not waiting for the likes of Ron DeSantis, Jack Latvala, and Richard Corcoran to decide on mounting campaigns for governor. ABC of Florida announced its endorsement Adam Putnam for governor tonight at its state convention in Marco Island. “There’s no question that Adam Putnam is the right choice for Governor of Florida. His conservative values and free market approach will ensure that every individual and every business has the opportunity to compete on a level playing field,” said Mary Tappouni, President of Breaking Ground Contracting and State Chair of ABC of Florida.

— “Putnam calls on Air Force to bring F-35 squadron to Jacksonville” via Florida Politics

Editorial: Putnam aims to be Florida’s gun governor” via the Tampa Bay Times Putnam sounded more like an NRA mouthpiece than a statewide elected official last week as he endorsed changing state law to allow firearms on university and college campuses and the open-carry of guns on the streets … he also criticized protesters in Tampa for objecting to an unsettling NRA ad that attacks gun control advocates and argues the “only way we stop this … is to fight this violence of lies with a clinched fist of truth.” In fact, Putnam’s Facebook page last week included several posts about guns, including one listing five reasons why he is the best candidate for governor for gun owners. If he wants to move into the Governor’s Mansion, Putnam should expand his horizons. He should listen to the presidents of the state’s public universities, who all have opposed changing state law to allow guns on campuses. He should walk up the street from his Capitol office and talk to Florida State University president John Thrasher, who could remind him of how much worse a 2014 shooting incident at FSU might have been if police had been unable to quickly identify the shooter because everybody else also had guns. He could reach out to police officials and college administrators in other states where shootings have occurred and ask them how those situations could have been made worse with more guns.

Emily’s List to target Carlos Curbelo, Brian Mast and Ron DeSantis” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – All three lawmakers will be listed in Emily’s List “On Notice” group of 50 national Republicans the organization says “have amassed appallingly anti-woman, anti-family records.” Chief among Emily’s List concerns: the legislators’ support to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Curbelo voted for the Republican health care bill that would kick 23 million Americans — including thousands of Floridians — off their insurance,” Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. “He has repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthood and to undermine equal pay protections for women.” Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who lost a state Senate race last year, is expected to soon challenge Curbelo, likely with Emily’s List backing.

Save the date: Rep. Bob Cortes will host a campaign kick-off event at his residence at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1. The host committee includes Speaker Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, Rep. Chris Sprowls, and Rep. Paul Renner.

That was fast: Two Republicans may run for Dan Raulerson’s seat” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – One prominent Plant City Republican, businesswoman and civic activist Yvonne Fry, has announced she’ll run for the seat. Another, businessman and county Farm Bureau board member Lawrence McClure, is seriously considering a run. Both represent longtime Plant City families and already have linked up with campaign consultants. Both have been thinking about seeking the Plant City-based House seat after Raulerson reached his term limit in 2020 but are moving up their plans in light of Raulerson’s resignation this week, effective Aug. 15. They’re likely to face a tightly compressed schedule for raising money and campaigning.

Plant City commissioners back Yvonne Fry in HD 58 — All five members of the Plant City Commission and one former member announced Thursday they were throwing their support behind Fry. “I am proud to endorse Yvonne Fry as our next State Representative. Yvonne is the personification of what Plant City is all about,” said Plant City Mayor Rick Lott. “Her involvement and leadership in causes and projects benefitting Plant City are extensive. The people of Plant City will be well-served in Tallahassee by Yvonne, and I urge them to join me in supporting her.” In addition to Lott, Plant City Vice Mayor William Dodson, Commissioners Nate Kilton, Mary Mathis, and Mike Sparkman, and former Commissioner Billy Keel endorsed Fry. 


Another Florida man tapped for Trump administrative job” via Andrew Dunn of the Tampa Bay Times – On July 19, the White House announced J. Steven Dowd of Florida as its choice to represent the United States for the African Development Bank, a multilateral development and finance institution. Dowd owns property in Seminole County and has worked for two businesses incorporated in Florida. Dowd co-founded Ag Source, LLC in 2009 in Seminole County. The company is involved in global agriculture logistics … He also helped start Marcona Ocean Industries, a shipping and mining company started in Longwood in 1995.

“Steph Smith selected for MavPac’s Future 40via Florida PoliticsMaverick PAC, the “premier conservative young professionals network,” has selected Smith for inclusion in its “Future 40” Class of 2017. Smith is currently Manager of Florida Public Policy at Uber. Prior to joining Uber, she was Public Affairs Director for AT&T Florida & Georgia. “The Future 40 is our opportunity to recognize young professionals across the country that best represent the next generation of leadership in the public or private sector,” the group said in a press release. Other “Future 40” Floridians include Vance Aloupis, the CEO of the Children’s Movement of Florida who is running for the seat being vacated next year by term-limited Miami Republican state Rep. Mike Bileca. Also on the list: Kevin Hernandez, a James Madison Institute fellow who works for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Keith Fernandez, previously a SaintPetersblog “30 Under 30” rising star in Florida politics.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Dean Cannon, Jessica Love, Kirk Pepper, Gray Robinson: Alliance for Safety and Justice, a project of the Tides Center

— ALOE —

Apple discontinues iPod nano and iPod shuffle” via Shane Savitsky of Axios – The iPod nano, last updated in 2012, and iPod shuffle, last updated in 2010, were Apple’s last music devices to lack internet connectivity. They join the beloved iPod classic, which was discontinued in 2014, in the dustbin … The memory of the iPod touch was doubled while retaining the same price as it becomes the flagship — and sole surviving member — of Apple’s iPod line.

Those bright slot machines? It’s Orion” via Nick Sortal of the Miami Herald – The games are made by AGS and packaged in cabinets with 498 LED lights. AGS calls the flashy cabinets Orion. (You see, Orion was a hunter in Greek mythology, and a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. They say these slots are like that.) Popular titles include Fu Nan Fu Nu, River Dragons, Wolf Queen and Winter of the Dragons. Officials say Orion has already surpassed performance and sales expectations with more than 350 units currently installed and nearly 700 more installations scheduled. That includes in South Florida, where Hialeah Park, Calder Casino and Seminole Classic began offering games in Orion cabinets earlier this month.

Bright “Orion” cabinets for slot machines manufactured by Las Vegas-based AGS have recently been installed at Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood and other venues.

Happy birthday to the great Bill Cotterell. Celebrating this weekend are Sarah Busk, Tre Evers, Buzz Jacobs, Rhett O’Doski, Rich Reidy, Debbie Ressler, Crystal Stickle.

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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