Sunburn for 7/1 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: Bienvenue! Happy “Canada Day,” eh. Today commemorates the day in 1867 the British North America Act created the Canadian Federal Government. Visit Florida estimates that last year 3.7 million Canadian visitors came to the Sunshine State.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Email newsletters, an old-school artifact of the web that was supposed to die along with dial-up connections, are not only still around, but very much on the march. In addition to the long-running morning must-haves like Mike Allen’s political tip sheet Playbook, other topics and approaches are gaining momentum across publishing. Quartz, Atlantic Media’s smart business site, has an increasingly popular daily newsletter.

The revamped Newsweek has done well with Today in Tabs, a cheeky look at content that is so bad it’s good. … Bloomberg, Fast Company, The New York Times, Politico and many other news organizations are finding that they can grab attention – and readers – in the inbox.

How can that be? With social media, mobile apps and dynamic websites that practically stalk the reader, how can something that sometimes gets caught in a spam filter really be taking off? Newsletters are clicking because readers have grown tired of the endless stream of information on the Internet, and having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos.


Americans are losing confidence in all three branches of government, as confidence in the Supreme Court and Congress has dropped to record lows and the White House has hit a six-year dip, according to a new poll.

In a Gallup poll released Monday, 30 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the Supreme Court, 7 percent in Congress and 29 percent in the presidency.

The numbers represent the lowest levels of confidence that Gallup has recorded for both the legislative and judicial branch since the poll question began being asked regularly in 1991. The executive branch experienced the largest decrease in confidence level, down 8 percentage points since 2013, compared to the 7-percentage-point drop for the Supreme Court and a 7-point dip for Congress.

Confidence in the president is now at its lowest since President Barack Obama has been in the White House. According to Gallup, when Obama took office, all three branches experienced a confidence boost.

The poll was conducted from June 5 to June 8 among 1,027 American adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.


The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

The justices’ 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies’ health insurance plans.

Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that President Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.

Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama’s campaign for re-election.

Dealing with a small sliver of the law, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. The court’s four liberal justices dissented.

The court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners.

COURT: PUBLIC UNION CAN’T MAKE NONMEMBERS PAY FEES via Sam Hananel of the Associated Press

The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union’s costs of collective bargaining.

In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

The ruling is a setback for labor unions that have bolstered their ranks — and bank accounts — in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don’t have to share the burden of union costs.

But the ruling was limited to this particular segment of workers and it stopped short of overturning decades of practice that has generally allowed public sector unions of teachers, firefighters and other government workers to pass through their representation costs to nonmembers.

The case involves about 26,000 Illinois workers who provide home care for disabled people and are paid with Medicaid funds administered by the state. In 2003, the state passed a measure deeming the workers state employees eligible for collective bargaining.

A majority of the workers then selected the Service Employees International Union to negotiate with the state to increase wages, improve health benefits and set up training programs. Those workers who chose not to join the union had to pay proportional “fair share” fees to cover collective bargaining and other administration costs.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at the American School Counselor Association annual conference and discuss the role of counselors in helping students and families pursue higher education. Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel, Orlando. 11:45 a.m.

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Crist should still be up about five or six points on Scott. And he would be if he had not made so many of the unforced errors.

The problem in Cristworld, however, begins with Crist’s staffing decisions. Crist is like a middle-age woman who resists updating her hair and wardrobe because of a nostalgic attachment to a period in her life when she looked good, damnit! Like the woman you see with the Kim Cattrall haircut and the shoulder pads from the 80s, Crist is still hanging on to 2006 when he was at the apex of his power.

Crist is still running as if social media has yet to be invented and a barrage of television ads can save any candidate. He’s still cheap. He’s still unwilling to trust staff. He’s still his own press shop.

All of this is why he’s now trailing Scott by two points.

In any other campaign where the candidate goes from leading by 12 to trailing by two, heads would roll. Someone would be fired. Or at least someone with enough self-respect would quietly resign during a holiday weekend (like, say, the upcoming Fourth of July weekend).

The problem for the Crist campaign is that Charlie can’t fire anyone.

Crist can’t fire his two main advisers because he’s married to one of them and son to the other.

He can’t fire Jim Messina or any of the Obama acolytes because they’re Crist’s way of ingratiating himself with President Obama.

He can’t fire Steve Schale because Schale doesn’t deserve to be fired. Schale’s job has been to navigate Crist through a Democratic primary and, despite Crist trailing Scott, he’s defeated Florida Democrats. Bill Nelson didn’t run. Nan Rich will be easily dispatched.

Crist can’t fire his campaign manager, Omar Khan, because, my Lord, would that pour blood into the water after the Bill Hyers debacle.

Crist can’t fire Jessica Clark or the fundraising team because they’re raising money hand over fist by traditional Democratic Party standards. It’s not their fault that Florida Republicans have more money than Croesus.

Crist can’t fire Kevin Cate because the press shop is small enough already. Cate and Co. are outnumbered seven-to-one by their counterparts in Scottworld.

All Crist really can do is bolster his staff, but since when has Crist a) listened to paid consultants or b) agreed to pay money for mid-level staff?

BOB MARTINEZ HITS CRIST ON WIFE’S TAX RETURNS via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

Former Gov. Bob Martinez went to bat for Gov. Scott on Monday, calling on Crist to release his wife’s tax returns.

“Florida has had a decades-long political tradition of openness and transparency, and I commend Gov. Scott for keeping this tradition,” Martinez said on Monday. “The governor’s spouse will likely require security and use of state assets. Charlie Crist needs to disclose not only his financial returns but those of his wife to make certain there are no conflicts of interest. Floridians have an expectation of full transparency from candidates that run for governor. Crist needs to follow the example of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic.”


Charlie Crist needs a course correction. Quick.

After a wasted week over his canceled Cuba trip and his wife’s tax returns, Crist needs to find a way to right his campaign ship. One way to do that is to change the subject. A candidate avoids the next bad headline by trumping it with a better story that the news media can’t resist.

This one is obvious: Crist should immediately reverse himself and agree to debate his Democratic primary opponent, former state Sen. Nan Rich of Broward County. Here are five reasons why debating Rich makes sense:

  • Smart politics. By dissing Rich, Crist shows a lack of respect to Rich’s supporters whose help he will need if, as expected, he wins the nomination.
  • Good practice. Crist hasn’t debated in four years and he’s probably rusty.
  • Create a buzz. As the dog days of summer close in, there’s always a palpable lethargy on the campaign trail in Florida.
  • Find the middle. For Crist, the only risk in debating Rich is that she may box him into saying something outlandish to appease the far left that could come back to haunt him with independents and conservative Democrats in the fall.
  • Close the deal. A live televised face-off could dispel any notions that Rich may be the better candidate against Scott. On television, Crist looks like a governor because he was one, and that’s a highly marketable asset that he should take advantage of at every opportunity. Trailing Scott in fundraising, Crist needs all the free publicity he can get.

Crist ignores Rich at his perilHe should agree to a debate, because poor excuses for ducking her don’t cut it.


Gov. Scott is getting some help from Americans for Prosperity, which has begun phone banking and canvassing across Florida. The door-hangers pictured here are an example.

“We’re going to use that field effort, like we’re already doing, to educate folks on his record. And it’s a pretty good one,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in an interview near the group’s headquarters in Arlington, Va.

AFP, which gets funding from the Koch brothers, has 10 field offices across Florida. Last year, AFP paid for TV ads attacking three Republican state senators — Charlie Dean of Inverness, Nancy Detert of Venice and Greg Evers of Baker — over pension and other issues.

AFP recently named Chris Hudson as Florida state director, replacing Slade O’Brien, who was promoted to a regional director.

Hudson had been Florida director for Strategic Advocacy, a public affairs firm, and the Foundation for Government Accountability, a free-market think tank, in addition to directing numerous campaigns throughout the state, according to a release.

“I am excited to lead this premier grassroots organization as we double down on our efforts to remind Florida’s elected officials of their obligation to protect the well-being of every Florida taxpayer,” he said in a statement.


Florida’s leading advocate for pro-medicine candidates statewide is endorsing Gov. Rick Scott and the entire Florida Cabinet for re-election in November.

On Monday, the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) announced it will support Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Florida leads the country in the caliber of elected leaders we enjoy at the statewide level,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo. “To have the leadership, commitment and vision in taking Florida to the next level not only in economic recovery, but also in championing our health care issues, is truly a path we must continue over the next four years.”

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159 NEW LAWS TAKE EFFECT TODAY via The Associated Press

Nearly 160 new state laws will go into effect today.

They include laws that will better track sexual offenders, allow children of immigrants in the country illegally to get in-state tuition at state universities, ban e-cigarette sales to minors, allow local school boards to choose which textbooks are used in their classrooms and redefine the state’s ban on late-term abortions.

The most important law taking effect will be the state’s $77 billion budget.

The budget includes more money for child welfare programs and projects to battle water pollution. It also boosted money for colleges and universities but without raising student tuition rates.

All but two of the 159 new laws were approved by the Legislature during the session that ended in May. The other two were bills approved in 2013.


The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet and discuss issues such as post-session financial outlooks and revised monthly estimates. 117 Knott Building, the Capitol. Tallahassee. 9:30 a.m.


Wellington’s Jorge Labarga was sworn-in as chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, becoming the first Cuban-American in state history to serve in that role.

With the high court’s hearing room packed with 200 friends, family members, lawmakers, past justices and lawyers from Palm Beach County and around the state, a ceremonial passing of the gavel marked the end of Chief Justice Ricky Polston’s two-year term.

Labarga said that a priority of his term as chief justice will be to help improve access to the legal system for thousands of low- and middle-income Floridians who can’t afford a lawyer or obtain free legal aid.

Labarga said he is joining with new Florida Bar President Gregory Coleman of West Palm Beach to lead the Bar’s “summit on access to justice.” The summit plans to combine business leaders, state officials and the legal community in finding a solution for those struggling to get help.

Coleman, who was among those who spoke at Labara’s swearing-in, said court access was “not just a legal problem, it is a societal problem.”


On this week’s “Florida NewsMakers” program produced by Sachs Media Group,  Marshall Criser III, Chancellor of Florida’s State University System  talks with Trimmel Gomes about efforts to boost accountability and make the state’s universities the highest achieving in the nation.

The Board of Governors recently approved a new performance funding plan that allocates $200 million among the state’s top universities. “The performance funding model really acknowledges that our state universities have an accountability to our students and to our taxpayers,” Criser tells Gomes. Each year, universities will have a chance to receive funds if they continue to do well or show improvements, for example by boosting degrees in science, technology engineering or math. Criser notes that the plan seamlessly connects with the Board’s overall goal of helping to close gaps in the state’s workforce needs. Criser also discusses how the university system is at the forefront of online education and what to expect from the state’s newest institution, Florida Polytechnic University, which is set to open its doors this fall.


Marco Pena wanted to do the right thing when he joined Orlando’s expressway authority board last summer, but he listened to the wrong people, he told investigators who spent nine months probing the agency.

Pena earlier this month pleaded guilty to breaking state public meeting laws and paid a $500 fine. He is cooperating with the office of State Attorney Jeff Ashton and could testify against former expressway board member Scott Batterson, former state representative-turned-lobbyist Chris Dorworth and Dorworth’s girlfriend, Rebekah Hammond.

Batterson is facing three bribery related charges and is free on $3,000 bond. Batterson also is charged with breaking public meeting laws, as are Dorworth and Hammond.

Pena, who initially declined to speak with investigators, eventually sat down with them twice, once in May and again in June.

The grand jury began looking into the board of the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority in September – shortly after agency Director Max Crumit quit. He claimed Batterson told him privately that Batterson had three votes to fire him.

Pena, who took a seat on the board in July, joined with Batterson and Noranne Downs in a 3-2 vote to seek Crumit’s successor during an August authority meeting.

According to a grand jury indictment, Dorworth and Hammond acted as “conduits,” or passed agency information between Batterson and Pena. The discussions were held from June to August 2013.

APPOINTED: Russell Buck to the Clay County Development Authority.

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Last week, Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner hit the links at the spectacular Pebble Beach Golf Course to help raise money for Senate Majority, campaign arm of the Florida GOP. No word on how Gardiner or the other state senators in attendance — Bill Galvano, Joe Negron, Anitere Flores, Tom Lee, and Garrett Richter — scored on the course, but if someone did end up in the bunker, it may have been Ellyn Bogdanoff.

While Bogdanoff was far from Pebble Beach, she was the topic of many conversations that took place there, according to those who made the trip out West. The question many were asking: “Will Gardiner commit to spending money on Bogdanoff’s bid to unseat Democrat Maria Sachs in Senate District 34?”

Reportedly (and surprisingly), the answer is unclear. Gardiner will not (yet) commit to spending any money out of the millions of dollars he and his fellow Republicans have banked away on Bogdanoff’s race. This despite SD 34 being the most competitive Senate seat in play this election cycle.

Why not? The answers are both personal and complicated.

First of all, we hear that Bogdanoff failed to check in with Gardiner one last time before pulling the trigger on challenging Sachs. No one will verify this slight, but it makes sense given the erratic pace of Bogdanoff’s entrance into the race. I mean, really, what was there to decide? Bogdanoff’s indecision almost forced her into a costly Republican primary against JB Bensmihen, who dropped out of the race last week, but only entered it — he says — because he was unclear about Bogdanoff’s intentions.

It’s doubtful Gardiner will not eventually come to Bogdanoff’s rescue. But Gardiner is staying on the sidelines for the time being — and that’s not good for Bogdanoff.

What may keep other Republicans from helping Bogdanoff is that she’s pledged to vote for Jack Latvala for Senate President.

Latvala has been outspoken about his belief that Bogdanoff is the tiebreaker in his race against Negron for the Senate Presidency in 2016-18. However, Negron’s supporters reached out to me last week to say that any report that the race is “deadlocked” is wrong. The race is not 13 to 13, Negron’s camp insists, because their guy is a few signed pledge cards ahead of Latvala.

Who’s telling the truth? Probably both sides. Negron is probably a pledge card ahead of Latvala, but if Negron had the race locked up, we’d hear about it. Latvala’s still alive because he’s not dead.


The stage is set. We now know the candidates who’ve qualified for the Aug. 26 primary ballot. And the summer campaign season is officially underway for county commissions, circuit and county judgeships, state offices and Congress.

Unfortunately, the process isn’t quite as democratic as it appears because of a kink that lets write-in candidates serve as spoilers in political districts dominated by one party.

And because two write-in candidates emerged at the last minute, Republican and independent voters may be shut out of two key Broward primary races. And that’s a shame.

State law says that if a primary candidate faces no challenger in November, the primary will be the general election and open to all registered voters. But if a write-in candidate appears, the candidate is considered to have opposition in November. So if your party didn’t field a candidate, you’re out of luck in the primary, which is where so many offices are decided.

First, let’s stipulate that what really disenfranchises voters is when a party fails to field a candidate in all races.

However, because so many political districts are drawn to favor one party or another, it can be tough for Republicans to find candidates in Broward, and tough for Democrats to find candidates in other parts of the state. This helps explain why when qualifying ended Aug. 20, eight Florida senators, 38 Florida representatives and four members of Florida’s 27-member congressional delegation were presumably re-elected, facing no credible threat from write-in candidates.

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A political committee backing the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida raised $143,366 during the first three weeks of June while spending nearly that much, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

The committee, known as “People United for Medical Marijuana,” had raised an overall total of about $3.45 million and received about $1.9 million in loans as of June 20.

Political committees faced a Friday deadline for filing campaign-finance information from June 1 through June 20.

People United for Medical Marijuana reported spending $123,188 during that period. Meanwhile, an opposing political committee, known as the “Drug Free Florida Committee,” raised $25,150 during the three-week period. That committee had raised an overall total of $2.74 million as of June 20.


Among the other top Senate fundraisers was Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican who collected $36,025 during the three-week period. As of June 20, Benacquisto had raised a total of $595,343 while spending $355,207. Benacquisto faces a challenge from Bokeelia Republican Michael Dreikorn in Senate District 30, which includes parts of Lee and Charlotte counties. Dreikorn, who opened a campaign account May 19, had raised a total of $5,851 through June 20, the reports show.


Though he wound up getting re-elected without opposition, state Sen. Rene Garcia raised $49,075 in mid-June to help fuel a potential campaign, newly filed reports show.

The contributions, dated June 16 and June 17 in the reports, increased Garcia’s overall contribution total to $256,775.

Candidates qualified for this year’s elections from June 16 to June 20, and Garcia did not draw a challenger in Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 38.


Jacksonville Republican Paul Renner collected $31,050 in campaign cash from June 1 to June 20, giving him a boost in a competitive race for an open state House seat, newly filed reports show. Renner reported an overall total of $209,845 as he seeks to replace Rep. Daniel Davis, a Jacksonville Republican who is not running for another term in Duval County’s House District 15. Renner is running against Jacksonville Republican Jay Fant, who collected only $1,210 during the three-week period but reported an overall contribution total of $204,463 and also had loaned $199,050 to his campaign.

In Central Florida, Winter Park Republican Mike Miller reported raising $18,210 between June 1 and June 20 as he seeks to unseat Rep. Linda Stewart in House District 47. Miller reported an overall contribution total of $65,335, nearly matching the $68,164 total raised by Stewart. Their totals both trail the $87,521 posted by another candidate in the race, Orlando Republican Maurice “Mo” Pearson.

Pinellas Park Republican Bill Young collected $17,358 during the first three weeks of June, giving him an overall total of $86,909. Young is trying to unseat Rep. Dwight Dudle  in House District 68. Dudley had raised $114,525 through June 20.


The Florida Family Policy Council will hold an event for the five Republicans seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Bryan Nelson in House District 31. Those candidates are Randy Glisson, Belita Grassel, Terri Seefeldt, Joseph Stephens and Jennifer Sullivan. Journey Christian Church, Student Center, 1965 South Orange Blossom Trail, Apopka. 7 p.m.

TEACHERS BACK SEAN SHAW IN HD 61 Full blog post here

Florida’s largest teachers union is endorsing Democrat Sean Shaw in his bid for House District 61.

The Florida Education Association represents nearly 150,000 teachers, education professionals and teaching students across the state. Shaw is running for the HD 61 seat now held by term-limited Rep. Betty Reed. The Tampa attorney faces Tatiana Denson, Sharon Carter and Ed Narain in the August Democratic primary.

“I’m a proud product of Florida public schools, and my parents were both public school kids,” Shaw said in a statement. “I am passionately committed to public education in Tampa and across Florida.”

TWEET, TWEET: @contlink: DYK? Cand @ChrisLatvala’s HD67 is where both Hooters & Wing House started. Hooters in Clearwater & Wing House in Largo. #CampaignLink


On Context Florida: Nearly 6 million Americans cannot vote for any office – Congress, state, or local — writes Martin Dyckman. That is the estimated number of people who forfeited civil rights under state laws or constitutions after felony convictions. Peter Schorsch says it has been extraordinarily frustrating to watch Crist’s double-digit lead evaporate — and not just because Rick Scott and the Republicans have hammered him with several million dollars’ worth of negative TV ads. Catherine Durkin Robinson gives 10 reasons to pry the husband away from the bathroom, the kids away from the World Cup, and read The Declaration of Independence together as a family. Every Fourth of July is stomach churning for Stephen Goldstein, who is fed up with hypocritical displays of patriotism from the overabundance of Americans who would not lift a finger to save our republic if we needed them.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to once-and-future Tampa City Council candidate Scott Strepina.

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.