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Sunburn for 7.3.17 — Celebrating Independence Day

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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.

Like most of you, we’re taking off Tuesday, so we decided to send our Independence Day-themed edition of Sunburn today.


As you celebrate July Fourth, keep in mind, it was July 2 which got the shaft.

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress of the 13 American colonies voted to formally separate from Great Britain (New York abstained). On that occasion, John Adams, a future president of the renegade United States, wrote to his wife, Abigail, “The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

Continued Adams, “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

It was not to be.

A bunch of troublemakers, led by some showoff named Thomas Jefferson.

Two days later, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence written by a showoff named Jefferson. (Psst! Look over here!) Ahem … The rest is history.

So Happy Independence Day, otherwise known as the Fourth of July. Just remember, it’s Adams who eventually got the HBO miniseries.

“Getting the facts straight about the Founding Fathers” via PolitiFact

Invoking the Founding Fathers on Independence Day to celebrate our nation’s birth is a fine thing to do.

Invoking them to score political points? Watch out.

Take, for example, a Facebook post about Benjamin Franklin that circulated in May, a post that was actually aimed at making fun of tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. The meme quotes Bachmann as saying, “This country could use a president like Benjamin Franklin again.” Of course, Franklin was never president. And we think Bachmann knows that, as well, because she never actually said the quote. We rated the fabricated Facebook meme Pants on Fire.

It’s not just claims on social media. Pundits and politicians get things wrong time and time again when they use the Founding Fathers to support their political views. Over the years, PolitiFact has found numerous errors about what the Founding Fathers supposedly said or did, especially when it comes to constitutional issues and civil rights.

— “Fathers in chief via Tevi Troy of the Weekly Standard

— “The 7 most badass Founding Fathers” via Dave Forsmark of

— “5 forgotten Founding Fathers” via Daniel Holzel of Mental Floss

— “4 more forgotten Founding Fathers” via Erik Johnson of Mental Floss

The truth about Paul Revere’s ride brought to you by the Florida Medical Association — “The FMA wishes Sunburn readers a happy Independence Day! We hope you’ll celebrate safely.  We also encourage all Floridians to thank our nation’s Veterans and their families for protecting the freedoms upon which our country was founded.” — FMA Executive Vice President Timothy J. Stapleton

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out this fascinating Paul Revere factoid involving a doctor (on message!) — a young physician was most likely the only Patriot who reached Concord during the famous “midnight ride” of Paul Revere.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow got a lot wrong in the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

The History Channel tells us that “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1861 poem about Paul Revere’s ride got many of the facts wrong. For one thing, Revere was not alone on his mission to warn John Hancock, Samuel Adams and other patriots that the British were approaching Lexington on the evening of April 18, 1775. Two other men, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, rode alongside him, and by the end of the night as many as 40 men on horseback were spreading the word across Boston’s Middlesex County. Revere also never reached Concord, as the poem inaccurately recounts. Overtaken by the British, the three riders split up and headed in different directions. Revere was temporarily detained by the British at Lexington and Dawes lost his way after falling off his horse, leaving Prescott—a young physician who is believed to have died in the war several years later—the task of alerting Concord’s residents.”

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10 U.S. historical facts to rain on any July 4 party Full blog post here

Every party has a pooper, that’s why some people go to Fourth of July parties armed with  trivia that casts doubt on conventional wisdom — especially in American history.

When partygoers are lighting fireworks, exclaiming “Isn’t America beautiful?” these historical fact checkers rain the truth on their parade.

Here are 10 “truth firecrackers” to liven up (or put a quick end to) any Independence Day festivities: 1. Baseball, the “All-American” sport, likely came from England; 2. Apple pie is British, too; 3. The melody of the American national anthem comes from an old English drinking song; 4. The Pledge of Allegiance was created for one reason — to sell more flags; 5. Canadians own the Mall of America; 6. Bald eagle screeches are much weaker than the iconic sound, which is actually from the red-tailed hawk; 7. Settlers didn’t tame the American frontier, it was already pretty tame; 8. Hot dogs on the Fourth? Lewis, Clark and the “Corps of Discovery” ate over 200 dogs during the trip; 9. Speaking of wieners … President Lyndon Johnson would frequently pull his out his own “Johnson”; and 10. Independence Day is actually July 2 (see above).

Not the same dogs Lewis and Clark ate.

The Statue of Liberty via Miss Cellania of — The story of the statue begins with the American Civil War. When fighting broke out in 1861, the rest of the world watched with rapt attention: Could the grand experiment in democracy survive? The United States had been an inspiration to the French, who were locked in a cycle of extremism, swinging between bloody democratic revolutions and imperial autocracy. When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated April 15, 1865, the French were crushed. More than 40,000 grieving citizens contributed to a fund to award Lincoln’s widow a gold medal … It was in this climate, in the summer of 1865, that a group of prominent Frenchmen were discussing politics at a dinner party given by Edouard René de Laboulaye, a prominent historian and law professor … He proposed that France give America a monument to liberty and independence in honor of her upcoming centennial. After all, tens of thousands of Frenchmen had just contributed to a medal for Mary Todd Lincoln-how much harder could it be to pony up for a statue? Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, an up-and-coming sculptor … wanted his monument to be just as inspiring, and his sketches leaned on the popular imagery of the time-broken chains, upheld torches, crowns meant to represent the rising sun … Bartholdi didn’t want “Liberty Enlightening the World” to be just a tribute to American freedom. The statue had to send a pointed message to France that democracy works. It didn’t take long for Bartholdi to perfect his vision for the sculpture. Getting the statue actually built, however, was another matter … Given the statue’s message, backing from the French government seemed unlikely … Laboulaye had an idea: What if he and Bartholdi pitched the project as a joint venture between the two countries? As a show of their shared friendship, France could provide the statue and America the pedestal …  Bartholdi’s workmen started by creating a 4-foot model. Then they doubled the size. Then they quadrupled it to create a 38-foot-tall plaster model. The workmen then broke down the structure into 300 sections, taking each piece and enlarging it to precisely four times its size. The result? A full-scale model of the final statue — in pieces! On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was finally ready. New York held its first-ever ticker tape parade for her unveiling. And while hundreds of thousands cheered from Manhattan, only 2,000 people were on the island when she was finally opened to the public — a “tidy, quiet crowd,” an officer on duty told The New York Times.

“Florida was off center stage in American Revolution despite some important events via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — As the nation celebrates the 240th anniversary of independence this Fourth of July … Floridians can look back at the strange and almost entirely forgotten role their state played in the American Revolution. A Spanish colony for almost 200 years, the English gained Florida at the Treaty of Paris in 1763, which ended the Seven Years War. People in the U.S. call it the French and Indian War. Dividing the peninsula into East Florida and West Florida, the British attempted to develop plantations in their new holdings, but generally used the Floridas for military purposes. The strong military presence helped ensure that the Floridas would not join the 13 colonies to the north in rebelling against George III. … rebellious Americans looked at the Floridas as a threat since the British could launch attacks into Georgia and South Carolina from the south. Colonists loyal to the British crown fled to the Floridas and helped form military units, like the East Florida Rangers, to fight against the American forces. While they did not play a leading part in the American Revolution, Florida and Floridians provided some dramatic moments. James Grant, who served as governor of East Florida from 1764 until 1771, played a crucial part in British successes in capturing New York, and would capture St. Lucia from the French later in the war. American prisoners were held in St. Augustine — including Arthur Middleton and Edmund Rutledge, two South Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Independence. One recent Florida politician with a keen interest in his state’s role in the American Revolution was longtime U.S. Rep. Charles E. Bennett … Who represented the First Coast in Congress from 1949 until retiring in 1993. Bennett wrote a number of books on the Revolution, including a book on battles as well as a biography of Robert Howe with Donald Lennon.


Fireworks! The Science and Psychology of Fireworks via PBS — NOVA presents the colorful history of pyrotechnics and reveals how high-tech firing systems are transforming public displays into a dazzling, split-second science. Here’s what you’ll find online: Name That Shell … Watch video clips of fireworks bursting in air and find out how well you know your chrysanthemums from your peonies, your roman candles from your palm trees. Anatomy of a Firework … Where you see brilliant light and vivid color, a pyrotechnician sees a successful lift charge, black powder mix, time-delay fuse, bursting charge and other essential ingredients. Pyrotechnically Speaking … Dr. John Conkling, adjunct professor of chemistry at Washington College and former executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, describes what it is about fireworks that gets him, well, all fired up. On Fire (Hot Science) … This virtual laboratory lets you explore the basics of combustion, including how a fire ignites, what a flame is made of, and how burning molecules rearrange themselves.

Florida’s bizarre fireworks law still in place via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Although you can buy fireworks in the state, they’re not actually legal here … Retail sales are allowed only because of a 60-year-old loophole in the law, the only known one of its kind in the country. That allows “fireworks … to be used solely and exclusively in frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.” Indeed, anyone who’s bought fireworks from a roadside tent over the years may remember signing a form acknowledging that the buyer falls under an agricultural, fisheries or other exemption. For the record, fireworks can also be used for “signal purposes or illumination” of a railroad or quarry, “for signal or ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports, or for use by military organizations.” Enforcement is up to local police and fire agencies, and case law says fireworks vendors aren’t responsible for verifying that buyers actually intend to chase off egrets or light up a track meet. Every so often, lawmakers file bills either to remove or tighten certain exemptions, or to just legalize retail sales of fireworks. None have made it into law.

Apparently, a lot of birds and animals need to be frightened away on the Fourth of July.

A wink, a nod and a boom” via Michael Bates of the Citrus County Chronicle — Most people know buying fireworks is a wink-wink, nod-nod proposition. The seller agrees to use the explosives for arcane applications like scaring birds on their farm or signaling railroad trains. The seller has the purchaser sign a “restricted fireworks verification” agreement, absolving themselves of any legal ramifications, and the latter goes on his or her way. The vendors know not all — in fact, almost none — will follow the law, and the customer knows they know it. Don’t look for the legal loophole permitting the sale of Florida fireworks to go away anytime soon. Most people seem happy with the way things are. While the county prohibits most tent sales, such as the ones automobile dealers used to set up in parking lots, it has an exception for seasonal sales for July 4 and New Year’s Eve fireworks, as well as Christmas trees. The county has issued eight temporary permits, at $190 each, to fireworks vendors this month.

— “Months of planning, effort go into city’s annual July Fourth extravaganza” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record

Get smart fast — “Hold my beer and watch this! July 4 fireworks light up ER via Andrew Bryant for Florida Politics — The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) … uses a sample of hospitals across the U.S. to estimate nationwide totals for ER visits involving an injury associated with consumer products. Based on these data, a whopping 179,730 Americans have visited the ER for fireworks-related injuries since 1997 … a shocking two-thirds of these visits occur on or just after one day of the year: July Fourth. Comparatively, Independence Day sees nearly seven times as many fireworks-related injuries as New Year’s Eve each year … based on the data, we can infer that most injuries involve lighting mistakes. Over 20 percent of all hospital visits due to fireworks include an injury to the hand, and another 12 percent involve an injury of the fingers. The head also sees as a fair amount of action with 20 percent of all fireworks-related ER visits relating to the eyes, 12 percent to the face area, 3 percent to the ear, and 2 percent to the head. Less than 1 percent of reported injuries involve the “pubic region,” though this stat may not be of much comfort to the estimated 319 men who experience such an injury each year. The age distribution of these injuries is a lot younger than this title would imply: two-thirds of fireworks injuries occur in those under the legal drinking age of 21, with a peak age of 13. While it is unclear whether the victim was the firework-setter or an innocent bystander, men make up about 72 percent of all ER visits for fireworks injuries. This trend generally holds across all age and demographic groups.

10 fire safety tips for the Fourth of July via the Florida Forest Service — Individuals should always check local laws before using fireworks. Local fire and police departments and the State Fire Marshal’s Office can also provide guidance. Floridians celebrating with fireworks or campfires should follow these safety tips: Light fireworks in a cleared area free of vegetation or dry debris. Clear debris from around campfires, grills and all fire sources. Remove debris from any location where fireworks could land. Always have a water source available. Aim fireworks away from people, homes and wooded areas. Never use homemade fireworks. Discard used fireworks in a bucket of water. Store unused fireworks, matches and lighters out of the sight and reach of children. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure it is completely out before leaving it. Report any fires immediately to 9-1-1.

Fire safety is essential during July Fourth.

Flashback — “Man loses hand to fireworks in early July 4 celebration” via The Associated Press — … it happened Thursday night at a Leesburg home. The firework was attached to a wooden stake designed to be planted in the ground and had a foil-covered ball inside that explodes after launch. Witnesses told police that Brett Demascio lit the fuse, but the spark went out. He then picked up the foil-covered ball in his left hand, lit the shortened fuse and attempted to throw it. An incident report says the firework exploded early, tearing off most of the man’s hand. Demascio was airlifted to an Ocala hospital. No criminal charges were immediately filed.


“Fresh from Florida” recipe for your July 4 spread via — Ag Commish Adam Putnam is sharing a (very) simple “Fresh from Florida” recipe … Florida Watermelon Salad with Blueberries … Ingredients: ½ Florida watermelon, peeled; 1 pint Florida blueberries, rinsed. Directions: Cut peeled watermelon into 1-inch cubes. Place cubed watermelon on a platter and garnish with blueberries. Serve chilled.

DCF reminds families to stay safe while celebrating Independence Day” via Florida Politics — DCF offers a few family safety tips to keep in mind … Use good judgment when going boating. Make sure every passenger uses flotation devices and children are always secured by an adult while on a vessel. There should always be an unimpaired adult actively watching children playing around or swimming in pools. Be sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying and always follow all safety instructions. When lighting fireworks, including sparklers, always have water handy, such as a hose or bucket. Use your grill well away from your home and deck, and out from under branches or overhangs. If you attend a large event, plan ahead by determining a safe place to meet in case your family gets separated.

Florida wildlife officials urge safety, beacons for July Fourth weekend boating” via Florida Politics — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) urges boaters to use caution while boating on this busy holiday. Inattentiveness or improper lookout cause many boating accidents. During this weekend, boaters can expect to see an enhanced law enforcement presence and increased messaging about safe boating practices. Beginning July 1, Floridians have another great reason to buy and register an emergency locator beacon. Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature have instituted discounted vessel registration fees for anyone who owns a recreational vessel equipped with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or a Personal Locator Beacon.

How to be July 4 ‘beach hero,’ give space to nesting shorebirds, sea turtles” via Florida Politics — Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding the public to help protect beach-nesting shorebirds and sea turtles by giving them space and keeping personal fireworks off the beach. Please respect shorebird and sea turtle areas that are posted to protect these vulnerable species, but remember not all nests are posted. July is also a busy time for sea turtle nesting on Florida beaches, and female sea turtles can become disoriented and fail to lay their eggs if disturbed by bright lights, loud noises and people getting too close to them. Sea turtle hatchlings, also vulnerable to disturbance, are beginning to emerge this month.


Rick Scott coy, but Dems, GOP already acting like he’ll oppose Bill Nelson in ‘18” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a George Soros-funded liberal PAC have been attacking Scott as if he were a full-fledged candidate for months. Republicans from President Donald Trump on down have urged Scott to run, and potential GOP Senate candidates have steered clear of the race in deference to the governor. The DSCC, tasked with helping Nelson and nine other Senate Democrats win re-election next year in states that voted for Trump, recently launched an online anti-Scott ad campaign depicting a father selling his car and a mother selling her wedding ring to pay for their sick daughter’s health care. “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” says the ad, linking Scott’s views to unpopular Republican health care legislation. Trump put in a plug for a Scott Senate bid when he visited Miami’s Little Havana June 16 to outline trade and travel restrictions on Cuba. “He’s doing a great job. I hope he runs for the Senate,” Trump said of Scott, who was seated onstage near the president. “I know I’m not supposed to say that. I hope he runs for the Senate. Rick, are you running?” The crowd cheered and Scott smiled.

Lorenzo Palomares is willing to represent Steve St. Felix (above) pro bono, the man charged with leaving a threatening comment on José Felix Diaz’s Facebook page.

Rival candidate offers to represent man who threatened to kill Miami GOP lawmaker” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Lorenzo Palomares said he’s willing to represent Steve St. Felix, who was charged Monday after he left a threatening comment on José Felix Diaz’s Facebook page, at no charge. “It will be an honor to represent him pro bono,” said Palomares, who like Diaz is running in the July 25 primary for Senate District 40. Although Palomares lists two years of criminal law experience, St. Felix already has an attorney … Palomares accused Rep. Diaz of using the incident to score free publicity ahead of the July 25 primary. “He is certainly the one who caused this issue to happen,” Palomares said of the St. Felix incident. “This man is not a violent man. I’ve seen him. I’ve dealt with him.”

— “OR conversations: John Newstreet talks small businesses, veterans, failing schools, shared bathroom” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising


Advocates disappointed with some Florida Democrats on illegal immigration vote” via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO — The Florida Immigrant Coalition expressed disappointment with Florida’s congressional delegation, specifically Democratic representatives Charlie CristStephanie Murphy and Val Demings, for voting in favor of a bill that would toughen penalties for deported immigrants who attempt to re-enter the U.S. without authorization. The bill, H.R. 3004, dubbed “Kate’s Law,” was named after a San Francisco woman, Kate Steinle, who was murdered, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant. It passed 257-167, with 24 Democrats in favor, including the three Florida lawmakers. Florida Republicans voted to approve it. Another measure, H.R. 3003, also passed largely along party lines, 228-195. It targets so-called sanctuary cities and would force them to comply with federal immigration laws, including requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants for 48 hours beyond their scheduled release. Florida Democrats all voted against it; Florida Republicans voted in favor. Both measures face long odds of passage in the U.S. Senate.

Rick Scott worth nearly $150 million” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — Scott filed financial information with the state that listed his net worth at nearly $149 million, or a jump of nearly 25 percent from 2015. The Republican governor is a former health care executive who relies on income earned from a blind trust that is controlled by a longtime business associate. Scott’s latest financial disclosure form shows that the governor received $4.35 million from his trust as income during 2016. Scott also owns two homes: A beachside mansion in Naples worth $15 million and a vacation home in Montana worth nearly $1.5 million.

Rick Scott listed his net worth at nearly $149 million, up nearly 25 percent from 2015.

“Jimmy Patronis sworn in as Chief Financial Officer” via Florida Politics — Former state Rep. and Public Service Commissioner Patronis was sworn in Friday morning as the state’s fourth Chief Financial Officer. “I look forward to keeping up the same standards and values that CFO (JeffAtwater has brought to the job,” the Panama City Republican said. Patronis was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to replace the departing Atwater, who’s leaving government to become chief financial officer of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton … As CFO, Patronis—a Scott loyalist—will be one vote on the Florida Cabinet, in addition to Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

House Speaker race favors Joe Gruters” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Gruters’ freshman class of Republican lawmakers gathered last week to select one of their members to serve as House speaker during their final two years in office … Paul Renner received the most votes to assume the speaker post in 2022. That’s good for Gruters because he publicly backed Renner in the weeks leading up to the vote and wrangled support for him, helping to decide the race in his favor. The expectation is that Renner will reward his top supporters with prime committee chairmanships. Serving as a committee chair would be a far cry from Gruters’ current standing in the House. His influence and ability to pass legislation took a blow when he sided against House Speaker Richard Corcoran on the speaker’s top priority, legislation repealing certain economic incentives. None of Gruters’ more high-profile bills advanced this year. Now, Gruters could be positioned to have more sway over the legislative process going forward.

Paul Renner’s speakership could be very, very good for Joe Gruters.

Lawmaker wants to model flood insurance reform after Citizens takeout program” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State Sen. Jeff Brandes is calling for reducing the size of the government-run insurance program by allowing private insurers to take over bundles of National Flood Insurance Program policies. The concept would be modeled after Florida’s depopulation program that reduced the size of state-run Citizens from about 1.5 million policies in 2012 to fewer than 500,000 today. Under the so-called takeout program, private insurers obtain state approval to take batches of policies away from Citizens, then notify policyholders they’ve been transferred. Customers can opt-out if they choose, but only after receiving a takeout notice. Government-run insurers, he said, “shouldn’t be in the market if the private market can get involved.”

“Matt Caldwell wants inquiry into DEP’s handling of Dunbar toxic sludge site” via Patricia Borns of the — Dissatisfied with environmental authorities’ answers about a toxic sludge site sitting in the midst of families without their knowledge for 50 years, Dunbar community activists and political candidates called on legislators to get answers for them in an investigation of the local Department of Environmental Protection. A letter emailed by attorney Ralf Brookes asked the Florida House Government Oversight Committee to find out why the Fort Myers DEP office: Never gave notice to residents on wells when arsenic was first detected in groundwater on the site … Allowed children to play on the site even after contaminated soil was discovered … Didn’t  obtain a remedial action plan from the city for almost two years, and then didn’t require follow-through on the plan. “From the first time I read it [The News-Press report], it raised a lot of questions in my mind about missed opportunities to address the issue. Why was that the case?” said Rep. Matt Caldwell who chairs the oversight committee. Caldwell, who will call for an inquiry, said he was especially struck by the DEP’s decision to let children be exposed to the site, despite 2007 soil samples exceeding residential safety standards for arsenic.

VISIT FLORIDA girds for change, industry headwinds, despite budget win” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — A drop in international tourists, turnover of its top executives and new rules regarding transparency and how it spends money have board members of the state’s public-private tourism promotion group questioning whether they can meet this year’s goal of 120 million tourists. “If we can hit it, it’s spectacular, but I think it’s quite optimistic,” Gene Prescott, VISIT FLORIDA Board member and treasurer of the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, said during a recent board meeting. VISIT FLORIDA has boasted about five straight years of record tourism numbers, including 112.3 million in 2016. But a brutal legislative battle between House Speaker Corcoran who initially wanted to abolish the agency, and Gov. Scott, led to losing momentum in drawing in tourists, Prescott said. The cumulative effect of the tourism headwinds has led VISIT FLORIDA officials to be cautious about their 120 million visitors goal. If they don’t reach it, the failure could be “used against us in next year’s budget” said VISIT FLORIDA vice chair Maryann Ferenc, president and CEO of Mise en Place, a Tampa restaurant.

Broward school district may sue state over education bill” via Caitlin McGlade of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — At issue: whether to sue the Florida Department of Education over the law’s requirement that districts share property tax revenue with charter schools and welcome charters into neighborhoods with struggling traditional schools. A decision is expected next week. The suit would argue: The new law funds “nondistrict” projects by funding charter school activity the district may not necessarily approve of. Existing state law prohibits funding of “unbudgeted and nondistrict” projects … by requiring district schools to share property tax revenue, violates existing law that does not grant permission for charter schools to collect such tax. Existing law calls for bills in the legislature to contain one subject … the 278-page legislation tackles more than one subject. Districts are supposed to have the power to approve charter schools to open, but the new law would require them to accept applicants under a “Schools of Hope” program.

Scott Maddox finds himself in the cross-hairs of an FBI investigation.

Scott Maddox’s deals intersect FBI investigation” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The relationship between Tallahassee City Commissioner Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith, friends since their days at Leon High School, has been intertwined with real estate and political dealings going back more than 20 years. And when Maddox decided to run for agricultural commissioner in 2010, Carter-Smith bought his Governance Inc. consulting firm to avoid any potential ethical conflicts. The $100,000 purchase was inked on a hand-scrawled piece of company letterhead. Now the names of Maddox’s former firm and Carter-Smith appear on two FBI subpoenas served on the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency two weeks ago. Maddox and Carter-Smith’s mutual real estate dealings are further connected to John “J.T.” Burnette and Chad Kittrell, longtime business partners involved in high-profile projects downtown, including the renovation of the DoubleTree hotels and construction of the Gateway Center. Both projects received CRA money, and Burnette and Kittrell — and companies they own — are among those named in the subpoenas.

“Personnel note: Christopher Constance named FAC President” via Florida Politics — Charlotte County Commissioner Constance has been named president of the Florida Association of Counties (FAC), the association announced Friday. Constance was sworn in during the celebration dinner at the 2017 FAC Annual Conference and Educational Exposition in Palm Beach County. “Home rule and self-determination starts at home,” he said in a statement. “It is our citizens who are at the heart of our communities and we must increase civic engagement and volunteerism in public service. Stopping Tallahassee mandates and preemptions must come from our entire communities and not just our county commissions.”


American Dignity on the Fourth of July via David Remnick of The New Yorker —Frederick Douglass ended his Independence Day jeremiad in Rochester with steadfast optimism (“I do not despair of this country”). Read his closing lines, and what despair you might feel when listening to a President who abets ignorance, isolation and cynicism is eased, at least somewhat. The “mental darkness” of earlier times is done, Douglass reminded his audience. “Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe.” There is yet hope for the “great principles” of the Declaration of Independence and “the genius of American Institutions.” There was reason for optimism then, as there is now. Donald Trump is not forever. Sometimes it just seems that way.

‘Spirit of ’76’ alive and well in Port St. Joe” via Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat — It is probably the most famous painting in American history: “The Spirit of ’76.” … For more than a century, it’s been a wildly popular image, emblazoned on posters, products and patriotic pastimes. During the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, it was used on a U.S. stamp. It ranks with the flag-raising at Iwo Jima during World War II as the most iconic American images. And for nearly 40 years, Jay Stevens kept his “Spirit of ‘76” painting in a closet — thinking it was just a copy and unaware it was an original painting possibly worth more than $1 million. “We’ve seen as many ‘[artist ArchibaldWillards’ as anyone and we really believe it’s the real deal,” said Scott Markel, a trustee of the Spirit of ’76 Museum in Wellington, Ohio. “We hope Jay gets a chance to tell the world his story.”

A Tallahassee man may have had an original “Spirit of ’76” in his closet for years.

Classic column — “All fired up for the Fourth” via Dave Barry — This year, why not hold an old-fashioned Fourth of July Picnic? Food poisoning is one good reason. After a few hours in the sun, ordinary potato salad can develop bacteria the size of raccoons. But don’t let the threat of agonizingly painful death prevent you from celebrating the birth of our nation, just as Americans have been doing ever since that historic first July Fourth when our Founding Fathers — George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Bob Dole and Tony Bennett — landed on Plymouth Rock. Step one in planning your picnic is to decide on a menu. Martha Stewart has loads of innovative suggestions for unique, imaginative and tasty summer meals. So you can forget about her. “If Martha Stewart comes anywhere near my picnic, she’s risking a barbecue fork to the eyeball” should be your patriotic motto. Because you’re having a traditional Fourth of July picnic, and that means a menu of hot dogs charred into cylinders of industrial-grade carbon, and hamburgers so undercooked that when people try to eat them, they leap off the plate and frolic on the lawn like otters. Dad should be in charge of the cooking, because only Dad, being a male of the masculine gender, has the mechanical “know-how” to operate a piece of technology as complex as a barbecue grill. To be truly traditional, the grill should be constructed of the following materials: 4 percent “rust-resistant” steel; 58 percent rust; 23 percent hardened black grill scunge from food cooked as far back as 1987 (the scunge should never be scraped off, because it is what is actually holding the grill together); 15 percent spiders …  After the traditional visit to the hospital emergency room, it’s time to gather ’round and watch Uncle Bill set off the fireworks that he purchased from a roadside stand operated by people who spend way more on tattoos than dental hygiene.

— ALOE —

Increased food spending, lower gas prices give Florida retailers boost for Independence Day” via Florida Politics — The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) predicts Americans will spend more than $7.1 billion for Independence Day weekend on food items for picnics, barbecues and other celebrations. That’s an increase of about $2 in per-person spending over 2016. Numbers from the National Retail Federation annual survey note that as many as 88 percent of those surveyed (an estimated 219 million Americans) will be celebrating Independence Day weekend, with 162 million of them — 66 percent — taking part in a cookout or picnic, spending an average of $73.42 per person, up from $71.34 last year. Americans will be showing their patriotic spirit with flags and clothing. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers — 65 percent — own an American flag, while more than half (53 percent) will wear some sort of patriotic themed clothing like T-shirts, bathing suits or shoes.

Beach reading for a summer of scandal via Darren Samuelsohn of POLITICO — Feeling overwhelmed by nonstop news about the Russia probe and desperate for some historical context? Do you work or live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? If you answered yes to either of those questions, POLITICO has some summer reading recommendations for you. “A Timeline: Russia and President Trump,’ by Steven Harper … ‘All the King’s Men,’ by Robert Penn Warren … ‘The Breach,’ by Peter Baker … “Blood Sport: The President and His Adversaries” by James B. Stewart … “Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the Presidency of George W. Bush” by House Committee on Judiciary Majority Staff, final report to Chairman John Conyers … “Stonewall, the Real Story of the Watergate Prosecution” by Richard Ben-Veniste and George Frampton Jr. … “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton v. Starr” by Ken Gormley.

A classic summer read for people who just can’t get enough of political scandals.

“Independence Days from across the multiverse” via Katharine Trendacosta of — Where there’s society, there’s a foundation story. And where there’s government, there’s a holiday to instill patriotism and pride. So here are the ways fiction has commemorated independence from an oppressor, the end of a Civil War, or just the day certain documents were signed and the current government came into existence: First Contact Day, Star Trek … First Contact Day is (will be? Stupid time travel.) April 5, 2063. On that day, Zefram Cochrane pilots Earth’s first warp-capable ship, drawing the attention of a Vulcan ship. Colonial Day, Battlestar Galactica … OK, so this one is a celebration of the conclusion of what were surely long diplomatic talks. Empire Day and Republic Day, Star Wars … What the galaxy far, far away lacks in creative naming, it makes up for in quantity. If you are Empirically inclined, there’s Empire Day. If you’re a fan of the Republic, there’s Republic Day. Unification Day, Firefly … The Unification Day marks the day the Alliance defeated the Browncoats in the Unification War. Freedom Day, Futurama … Now, it’s never explicitly stated that Freedom Day marks some sort of founding, but it’s pretty heavily based on the Fourth of July, is celebrated by/on Earth, and is particularly celebrated in the Earth’s capital of Washington D.C. Honorable Mentions … Creator’s Day, Discworld … Skynet Becomes Self-Aware, Terminator.

Happy birthday belatedly to Ashley Carr, Southern Strategy Group’s James McFaddin, and Sandi Poreda. Special wishes to our friend, James Kotas.

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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