Sunburn for 7/7 – 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: On this day in 1928, the first loaf of sliced bread was produced, changing commercial baking forever. When Cuban immigrants made their way to Florida, they brought the unique style of bread that helps define the Cuban sandwich – which, as restaurants from Ybor City to Calle Ocho know, is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

DRIVING THE NAT’L CONVERSATION

IN NSA-INTERCEPTED DATA, THOSE NOT TARGETED FAR OUTNUMBER THE FOREIGNERS WHO ARE via Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani, with Jennifer Jenkins and Carol D. Leonni of The Washington Post

The Post reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long … The material spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection. … Among [them] are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. …

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops. … In an interview, (NSA whistleblower Edward) Snowden said “primary documents” offered the only path to a concrete debate about the costs and benefits of … surveillance.

SENATE DEMOCRATS TRY TO PULL FOCUS FROM OBAMACARE via Charles Babington of the Associated Press

For Republicans, it’s all about tying Democrats to Obama — especially to a health care law that remains unpopular with many Americans. And for Democrats, the election is about just about anything else, especially if they can steer attention away from Washington and federal matters.

It’s a political strategy that sometimes gives the campaigns an inside-out feel, with veteran senators running as if they were first-timers without a Washington resume to defend or tout.

LAUNCHING TODAY – POLITICSOFPOT.COM

Today is the first day of a new era in state politics. It’s already being referred to the “Green Rush” and it refers to Florida’s embrace of medicinal marijuana.

Already the state has plans to hand out five licenses for operations that will grow and dispense a type of marijuana that supporters say will note get users high but will help patients such as children who have  severe form of epilepsy.

And that is only the beginning.

The Amendment 2 initiative would all legalize medical marijuana on a much more massive scale. In fact, critics of Amendment 2 say passage of the initiative would all but legalize pot in the Sunshine State.

These are just two of the issues which will be covered by Politics of Pot, a new media site offering the latest news, information and opinion about Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

Some of the other questions PoP will attempt to answer include:

1. What is the size of the market for Charlotte’s Web now and how much does the market expand if Amendment 2 passes?

2. Will Amendment 2 pass? If Amendment 2 passes and Charlie Crist is elected, will the Legislature call a special session to address Amendment 2 while Rick Scott is still Governor?

3. Will the Legislature limit to five the number of licensed dispensaries if Amendment 2 passes?

4. Will licensees be able to sell statewide or will they be limited to selling within regions? If they’re limited to regions and there is no competition within each region, how will prices be established?

5. Will Congress formalize a hands off approach to the legalization within the states? It’s already passed the House and speculation is that it will pass the Senate if Republicans take control in November.

6. How will the practical problems surrounding dispensaries be resolved in Florida? How will Florida get the plant stock to grow marijuana since it can’t legally be transported across state borders? Where will cash deposits from sales be held since banks are eschewing helping this industry? How will the state monitor the quality of medical marijuana?  Will the current prohibition against smoking marijuana be lifted if Amendment 2 passes?

7. Will the Florida model eventually become one that the rest of the states follow?

8. Can Florida really meet its ambitious timetable of dispensing Charlotte’s Web?  How is it possible to get licensed and get a product to market by January 1, 2015?

9. Who will emerge as the lead lobbyists and trade organizations for the marijuana industry?

10. Is legalization for recreational use inevitable in Florida?  How is that playing out in Colorado and Washington State?

Veteran reporter James Call will be directing much of PoP’s coverage, with the rest of the Extensive Enterprises Media team backing him up. Politics of Pot will also publish other leading voices from all sides of the medical marijuana debate.

Click here to visit PoliticsofPot.com or follow the site on Twitter @Politics_of_Pot.

We are very proud to be launching this exciting endeavor.

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BIG SURGE IN NO-PARTY VOTERS COULD RESHAPE FLORIDA POLITICS via Steve Bousquet, Malena Carollo and Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

Tired of Beltway bickering, turned off by labels, or not ready to be Republicans or Democrats, they are NPAs, voters with no party affiliation who are rejecting both parties in record numbers and fueling a national trend.

Since 2010, Florida’s voter roll has expanded by more than 500,000 voters, to 11.7 million, and nearly 90 percent of the growth is in unaffiliated voters. During the same period, the size of the two major parties has remained relatively stagnant.

Combined with voters who belong to minor parties, no-party voters now outnumber Republicans in the state’s big three counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, in addition to Orange, the heart of the I-4 corridor in Orlando.

They account for 3 million voters or one of every four voters in Florida, making them potentially decisive in a close 2014 race for governor — if they vote.

That’s the big question about Florida’s rapidly expanding pool of no-party voters: Will they vote? By refusing to join a party, they have made clear they are turned off by partisanship.

Many unaffiliated voters are young and registering for the first time. Of the 5,000 newly-registered NPA voters in Hillsborough County in the first four months of this year, nearly one-third are 25 or younger.

DEMOCRATS COURTING FLORIDA’S CHANGING CUBAN VOTERS via Michael J. Mishak of the Associated Press

When Charlie Crist went to Miami’s Little Havana recently, the Democratic candidate for governor stood before a crowd and said what few politicians have in decades of scrounging for votes in the Cuban-American neighborhood: End the trade embargo against Cuba.

“If you really care about people on the island, we need to get rid of the embargo and let freedom reign,” he said, shouting above a small band of protesters who responded with chants of “Shame on you!”

But Democrats now sense an opening with newer Cuban arrivals and second-generation Cuban-Americans who favor resuming diplomatic relations with the communist island.

The efforts represent the largest challenge to Cuban-American orthodoxy in decades and could help reshape American foreign policy.

Crist’s campaign will be the first statewide test of whether the trade restrictions are still a live wire for politicians in Florida, home to 70 percent of the nation’s Cubans.

Nationwide, the share of Cuban registered voters who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has doubled in the past decade, from 22 percent to 44 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Less than half of Cuban voters now affiliate with the Republican Party, down from 64 percent over the same time period.

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ICYMI: CRIST’S NAME REMOVED FROM CAR RACING AT DAYTONA via The Associated Press

Decals bearing the name of Crist were removed from a car competing in the Coke Zero 400 after Florida Republican officials complained.

Crist’s name was going to appear on Josh Wise’s No. 98 car, but the decals were removed Friday because of a complaint by the Republican Party of Florida alleging that the sponsorship violated campaign finance laws, according to the car’s owner, former NASCAR driver Phil Parsons and Mike Curb, the car’s entrant and associate sponsor.

Crist’s name appeared in six spots on the car and the phrase “Charlie Crist for Florida” was featured across the hood of the car before the decals were removed. Curb said he had reached an agreement with Parsons to make his company, Curb Records, the car’s primary sponsor instead.

Parsons told The Daytona Beach News-Journal that he removed Crist’s name after talking with Curb, who supports Gov. Scott.

“We just race, we try to keep the doors open and try to keep a competitive car on the race track,” Parsons said.

Curb said Parsons will return the money he received for Crist’s sponsorship.

WHERE THINGS STAND FOUR MONTHS BEFORE ELECTION DAY via Gary Fineout of The Fine Print

MONEY: It was reported back in 2013 that the Scott campaign planned to spend $100 million to get re-elected. Well, while that goal is still possible – it is not apparent that amount is a sure thing.

Crist for the most part has been waiting before tapping into his campaign warchest. The most recent reports indicate that Crist has at least $10 million in the bank.

POLLS: Much has been made of the tracking in the polls that have shown Scott erasing the lead Crist once had and in some cases leading Crist, although it is usually within the margin of error.

Well, the issue, of course, hinges on whether the turnout models used by the various polls will be accurate.

The point is this: The general trendlines suggest a tightening of the race, which actually should not have been unexpected. But we may be a tad too far out to have an accurate gauge on who will actually vote in this election. (See this previous post on whether Scott can count on the GOP base to show up like it has in past elections.)

ORGANIZATION: We don’t have to do much analysis here: Scott and the Republican Party of Florida have a bigger staff and a larger organization and it’s unlikely that will change.

They plan to use a microtargeting plan that will attempt to identify voters who can propel the incumbent governor to victory. Not that there hasn’t been a long line of missteps along the way, i.e., the entire episode with finance chair Mike Fernandez.

WHAT’S NEXT: For many Republicans there is an expectation, and hope, of victory that perhaps wasn’t there a year, or even 6 months ago. They see the fundraising numbers, the polls and the problems so far experienced by Crist’s team as proof that victory is within their grasp.

But it’s also true that Crist has not begun a sustained assault against Scott.

Bottom line: Four months out it is evident Scott is no longer losing. But it’s hard to argue anyone is winning either.

EXPECT BUDGET TALK IN GOVERNOR’S RACE via Lloyd Dunkelberger for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Voters can expect to hear a lot in the coming months about spending and the state budget as Gov. Scott and Crist face each other in an election.

A new “taxpayer’s pocket guide” from Florida TaxWatch on the 2014-15 state budget, which took effect on Tuesday, will provide fodder for both sides.

TaxWatch, a nonpartisan watchdog group with ties to Florida businesses, notes the $77 billion state budget is the largest in state history and reflects $2.8 billion increase, or 3.75 percent rise, over the previous year.

The growth in the budget is at odds with Scott’s original stance as a Tea Party governor skeptical of state spending.

Scott’s first budget in 2011-12 was austere, reflecting a 1.57 percent cut in spending. But state spending has since risen by more than 11 percent or $7.9 billion since Scott’s first $69.2 billion budget.

ST. JOE SHAREHOLDERS IRKED BOARD’S POLITICAL SUPPORT FOR CRIST WASN’T DISCLOSED via Matt Dixon of PoliticalFixFlorida.com

Information about St. Joe Co. board members’ past political support of Crist wasn’t disclosed when he was nominated to serve on the company’s board.

That lack of information irked some company shareholders, according to a now-dismissed federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit didn’t focus on Crist, but instead alleged board members made “false and/or misleading” statements about Florida’s declining real estate market that cost the company “hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.”

St. Joe is one of Florida’s largest land owners.

The suit was filed in September 2011 by shareholder David Shurkin and focused on a period between August 2009 and July 2011. Crist, along with 10 others, was a named defendant. He’s now running for governor as a Democrat.

The 92-page lawsuit includes claims that Crist’s political ties to board chairman Bruce Berkowitz, then-board member Charlie Fernandez and current member Tom Murphy helped Crist in his bid to secure a spot on the board.

Berkowitz, who was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to reach him, runs Fairholme Capital Management, a mutual fund firm that owns 30 percent of St. Joe’s stock. Crist said during his June interview that Berkowitz knew he “was probably getting ready to run for governor.”

WHO’S BEHIND PROGRESSIVE CHOICE? INTERVIEW WITH ORGANIZER REVEALS LITTLE ABOUT GROUP ATTACKING CHARLIE CRIST via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

As Crist and Scott argued over who is more transparent with tax returns, there’s one factor in the race for governor that is decidedly secretive: Progressive Choice.

That’s the group that has for months attacked former Republican Crist in mailers and a new, racially charged radio ad about his past support for prison chain gangs. No one knows much about Progressive Choice but there are plenty of theories, including that it’s a liberal-sounding group doing Scott’s dirty work.

Not true, says the group’s organizer.

“I definitely understand that in looking to make sense of an organization like this one, that folks would go in that direction,” Jamie Fontaine-Gansell said in an interview. “It’s just not the case.”

Fontaine-Gansell, whose bio lists work in Democratic circles outside Florida and LGBT activism, refused to name the donors and by law, she doesn’t have to.

“I’m not going to talk about the donors,” Fontaine-Gansell said.

The group is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. It’s a “social welfare” group that is permitted to engage in politics as long as politics is not the primary focus. In Washington, there’s a major ongoing debate over that. You’ve probably heard about the controversy over the IRS targeting tea party groups. (Liberal groups were also scrutinized.)

Tracking Progressive Choice is not simple. Fontaine-Gansell’s firm, Fontaine & Company, is based in Baltimore. Progressive Choice was incorporated in Delaware. Its mailers in Florida list a P.O. box in Washington, D.C.

Fontaine-Gansell acknowledged the group has no specific ties to Florida. “We were really just looking nationwide (and saying), ‘Where can we have an impact?’”

MEANWHILE … ADRIAN WYLLIE DEMANDS TO BE INCLUDED IN CANDIDATE FORUM — AT RISK OF GOING TO JAIL Full blog post here

Adrian Wyllie, the Libertarian candidate for Florida governor, insists he is eligible for a candidate forum next week – and is willing to go to jail to make his point.

Attempting to stay relevant in the increasingly heated gubernatorial race, Wylie posted on Facebook Saturday an open letter to the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of News Editors. He “refuses” to accept the rules set for the Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday, July 10.

The forum is part of the 2014 FPA/FSNE Annual Convention at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

Likely Democratic nominee Charlie Crist plans on attending. Fellow Democrat Nan Rich announced on her website that she “accepted an invitation to speak” at the event on the same day, but it was unclear if she would share the stage with Crist.

Gov. Rick Scott decided not to appear at the forum.

Wylie’s Facebook post rebutted his “lack of criteria” set by the FPA/FSNE for inclusion in the discussion, along with an angry warning; he will indeed show up at the event, insisting on taking the stage with the other candidates.

“Or you may have me arrested,” he adds. “Govern yourselves accordingly.”

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GOV. SCOTT TO HIGHLIGHT CRIME PROPOSALS via The Associated Press

Gov. Scott is touting his opposition to any changes to the state’s sentencing laws.

Scott is planning to do a campaign swing through the state this week where he will highlight law-enforcement and public safety proposals. The tour will start in Monday in Tampa and will also include stops in Miami and Orlando.

Scott says that if he is re-elected he will continue to oppose any change to a state law that requires prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Scott vetoed a bill in 2012 that would have cut sentences for non-violent criminals and placed them in drug treatment programs.

The Republican incumbent is also promising to make continued changes to the state’s juvenile justice system, although he is not advocating any specifics.

IS SCOTT TOO LATE OR JUST IN TIME ON INDIAN RIVER LAGOON ISSUES? via Isadora Rangel of PoliticalFixFlorida.com

Gov. Scott’s first visit to the epicenter of Lake Okeechobee discharges last year didn’t win him any points with local residents.

He met with federal officials behind locked gates at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam and ignored a crowd of angry protesters who demanded more action by his administration to protect the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

Scott’s second visit — an unannounced one in April to high-profile Martin County water advocates in their homes — left some with a different impression.

“The message I got from him was that he was trying to solve the problem,” said former Martin County commissioner and environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla, a Democrat and harsh critic of the state’s shortcomings in fixing water problems.

Crist’s state budgets — which were in the heart of the Great Recession — were much more lean, actually dropping to $70.26 billion in his last budget in 2010-11, down from $70.43 billion in his first budget. The budget dipped to a low of $66.25 billion in 2008-09. But the rise in state spending can help Scott make his case that he has boosted critical state programs, including education. TaxWatch notes the $22.59 billion education budget this year is the largest in state history. The report also notes that per-student funding under Scott has reached $6,937 — the second highest total in state history. Unfortunately for Scott, the highest total was achieved under Crist in the 2007-08 budget, when it hit $7,128.

Scott has reduced the scope of state government in one significant way: there are fewer state workers. The state workforce has dropped from 122,237 employees in 2011 to 114,445 this year. Under Crist, the workforce grew from 114,270 to 126,729 in his last year.

TEXTS AND EMAILS SHOW ADAM HOLLINGSWORTH SPENT MONTHS HELPING PAVE WAY FOR ALL ABOARD FLORIDA via Matt Dixon of NaplesNews.com

At the time of the 2010 primary, Adam Hollingsworth was making $189,000-per-year as chief of staff to then-Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. He took a leave of absence, recruited by both the Republican Party of Florida chair and Scott campaign manager Susie Wiles, to help fix the relationship between Scott and the party’s elite.

Hollingsworth became one of Scott’s most trusted advisers, a position he used to influence the administration’s rejection of billions in federal high-speed rail money, and then later lobby for a rail project that would benefit his employer, emails, text messages and administration documents obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau show.

After the November 2010 election, Hollingsworth was brought on to serve as a transportation adviser to Scott’s transition team.

His role was not ceremonial. As adviser, Hollingsworth penned a draft letter informing federal administrators Florida was rejecting $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa.

Hollingsworth’s letter included links to a study authored by the Libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation that found cost overruns could cost state taxpayers $3 billion, a number later cited by Scott.

After the state rejected the federal money, Hollingsworth became an executive at Parallel Infrastructure, a company owned by Florida East Coast Industries. That company also owns All Aboard Florida, now pushing a Miami to Orlando rail project.

After accepting a job with Parallel Infrastructure, Hollingsworth’s rail advice to Scott changed.

Almost immediately, he started lobbying the administration to support his employer’s new project, which now is being helped by millions in state taxpayer dollars and is expected to generate more than $170 million in revenue annually.

TWEET, TWEET: @noahpransky: Flashback Feb ’11 – Gov Scott refused to wait for taxpayer-funded study on high-speed rail b4 rejecting it: http://t.co/Nq93QPzDvb

WINNER OF THE WEEK IN FLA. POLITICS via Alex Leary: Pam Bondi – Even before she was elected Florida’s attorney general, Bondi was raising alarms about the state’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. She helped elevate the issue in Tallahassee and on Tuesday, a federal report said deaths had dropped by 23 percent from 2010 to 2012. The credit spreads far, but Bondi can share in it as she runs for re-election.

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FIRST WORKSHOP ON IMPLEMENTING CHARLOTTE’S WEB TODAY via James Call of Politics of Pot

The Department of Health has until Jan. 1 to implement regulations governing the use and manufacture of the Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana. The measure signed into law by Gov. Scott, SB 1030, allows doctors to treat patients with a cannabis extract for a specific set of ailments starting on the first day of 2015.

Monday, DOH will hold a daylong workshop to decide how the marijuana will be grown, processed and administered to patients. A 16-page draft of the rules was released last week. In addition to providing relief to the sick, the Charlotte Web law will also help an ailing Florida nursery industry recovering from the recession and a growing intrusion into the plant and seed market by national chains.

SB 1030 sets up a licensing process for growers with one license to cultivate, process and dispense a cannabis extract for each of five regions in the state.  Whoever is awarded a license will also have a head start on developing medical marijuana if voters in November approve an unrelated constitutional amendment allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana, not just an extract.

“All eyes are on the Department of Health to see what sort of rule-making they propose,” Ben Bolusky, chief executive officer of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association told the Orlando Sentinel in June.

SCOOP — LOOK FOR LINDA MCMULLEN TO BE NAMED DIRECTOR OF OFFICE OF COMPASSIONATE USE via James Call of Politics of Pot

Word is quietly spreading through the capital that Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong has decided on a director for the new Office of Compassionate Use, the Department of Health office that will be overseeing implementation and regulation of Charlotte’s Web.

Look for Linda McMullen, the Department’s Deputy General Counsel of the Medical Professional Prosecution Services Section, to be named the first director of the OCU.

SB 1030 calls for the creation of the office under the Deputy Secretary of Health to administer the law.

Among the Office’s responsibilities under the Charlotte’s Web law is a requirement to create a secure electronic and online registry of physicians and patients accessible by law enforcement and the dispensers.

The Office of Compassionate Use will create the administrative infrastructure to implement rules and regulations governing the use of medicinal marijuana. Concerning word that McMullen appears to be the person who will lead the office, one source said she is a savvy, well-like operator with a record dating to the Graham administration.

McMullen’s appointment is also seen as a surprisingly strong choice for a politically sensitive position by the Scott administration —  one that seems to often favor Tallahassee outsiders with little or no government experience.

CONTROVERSY SPREADS OVER EVERGLADES OIL DRILLING via William Gibson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Alarmed by the spread of oil drilling in the Everglades, environmental activists and some lawmakers are pressing for stricter regulation of the energy industry and a state ban on new fracking-like techniques that blast open oil deposits near Florida’s aquifers.

Critics in Collier County, the center of a mini-oil rush, warn that drilling leads to pipelines, refineries and hazardous-wastewater disposal — a domino effect that threatens a delicate ecosystem and water supplies. They say Florida is ill-equipped to control the search for oil and that Texas wildcatters are taking advantage of the state’s limited laws.

Low-volume drilling has quietly taken place near the Everglades since the 1940s. But new techniques — horizontal drilling and high-pressure injections of water and chemicals to fracture underground rock — have prompted energy companies to delve deeper into lands where panthers and wading birds roam.

The result is pressure to drill near or below the Big Cypress National Preserve, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge — all part of a watershed that stretches across the lower Florida peninsula.

Collier Resources Co., which controls much of the land in this lush corner of the world, is leasing mineral rights for oil exploration under hundreds of thousands of acres, and energy companies are lining up to take advantage.

The Burnett Oil Co. of Texas, for example, is seeking state approval to conduct seismic tests under almost 235,000 acres in Big Cypress. It plans to use vibrators to send sound waves that help pinpoint oil deposits.

Drilling proponents, eager to make Florida more energy-independent, say horizontal drilling underground is less intrusive than a field of vertical wells.

But others are aghast about drilling in a sensitive ecosystem full of threatened species, and they fear a major spill would poison the water.

FLORIDA’S TEXTING WHILE DRIVING BAN TURNS UP FEW CITATIONS via John Woodrow Cox of the Tampa Bay Times

As Gov. Scott grinned and uncapped his familiar blue Sharpie, a crowd of students at the Miami high school cheered.

At last, Florida drivers were banned from texting.

The law, however, made it a secondary offense, which means drivers can only be stopped if they commit another violation, like speeding or running a red light.

Now nine months since the ban took effect, a Tampa Bay Times review has found that the law is so difficult to enforce that it is rarely used.

Statewide, law enforcement officials are on pace to issue fewer than 1,800 citations through the ban’s first year.

To understand how meager a figure that is, consider: A federal study published last year found that at any given daylight hour, 660,000 drivers nationwide are using cellphones or other electronic devices. If those figures are proportional state-to-state and you’re reading this before sundown that means about 40,000 Florida drivers are at this moment distracted by technology.

Far more obscure infractions are cited at much higher rates, according to 2013 data: failure to dim lights (3,056 citations), improper parking (11,872), improper backing (21,376).

Those tasked with upholding the ban have found it especially frustrating because although they see drivers punching buttons on phones every day, the law gives them little authority to act.

“It’s almost unenforceable,” said Lt. Cleven Wyatt, a 26-year veteran of the St. Petersburg Police Department. “It sounds good to have a texting ban, but it’s not working.”

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JACK LATVALA RAISING MONEY FOR ELLYN BOGDANOFF IN TAMPA ON JULY 16

Not surprisingly, Sen. Jack Latvala is putting his money where his mouth is.

Latvala, the Clearwater Republican hoping to become Senate President, is raising money for Ellyn Bogdanoff, the former state senator turned Senate candidate who is key to Latvala’s presidential ambitions.

A fundraiser in Tampa is planned for July 16 benefiting Bogdanoff’s campaign. While the host committee is A-list (Senators Bill Galvano and Tom Lee, top-flight lobbyist Mike Corcoran, Nancy Watkins, etc.), the invitation for the event makes it clear that it is Latvala who is shaking the trees. The RSVP is to a Latvala campaign email account. Checks from those not able to attend are to be mailed to Latvala’s office.

Latvala has pledged to help Bogdanoff raise money for a battle some insiders estimate could cost between $2.5 million and $5 million for each side.

HD 77 WRITE-IN CANDIDATE SPEAKS UP via Bety Parker of News-Press.com

Jeremy Wood, the write-in candidate for Cape Coral’s state House District 77, said this week he’s a serious candidate for the seat now held by Rep. Dane Eagle but time and work restraints led him to choose the write-in path.

Wood, 22, lists Sanibel Harbour Resort as his employer, lives with his parents in Cape Coral, and is registered as a Democrat. If he’d run as a Democrat, he’d have to pay a $1,800 qualifying fee, but as a write-in, no fee was required.

His write-in status also closed the primary. Until Wood’s last-day entry in the race, four Republicans were running for the seat. If that has remained the case, the race would have been an open primary that allowed all registered voters to cast a ballot. But with Wood’s candidacy, the primary closed so only Republicans will vote for the GOP candidates and the winner will face Wood in November.

Wood has not reported any fund-raising and stayed low-profile so far, but he emailed a statement in response to questions.

It’s “reprehensible” that some people think he ran only to close the primary, he wrote, adding that he has a longstanding interest in politics. He said closed primaries are appropriate because a party’s members should pick their party’s nominee.

His decision to run as a write-in was based on timing and work issues, he said, indicating that cost was also a factor. Write-in candidates are legitimate and recognized by the state, he said, and he hopes to learn more about campaign and political processes as the race progresses.

Wood also said he and his family have been harassed by the media seeking information, and others, including calls from Democrats and aligned groups attacking him for closing the primary. He asked the public and media to “respect my privacy,” and said the way he’s been treated makes him skeptical of the process.

STATE HOUSE RACE HEADED FOR NASTY FINISH via Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com

The next six weeks of campaigning in Florida House District 96 Democratic primary is bound to turn nasty.

That is clear from a poll that was conducted earlier this week.

The poll tested the effectiveness of negative attacks that could be used in the August 26 primary against former state Rep. Steve Perman, a Coral Springs Democrat who is seeking to return to Tallahassee after serving one term 2010-2012.

But the attacks mirrored those that Jacobs has leveled at Perman in speeches across the Broward district, which includes Coconut Creek and portions of Margate, Parkland and Coral Springs.

Jacobs has savaged Perman for voting in 2011 to allow state money to be used by the poor to pay for private school tuition.

Perman noted that the money for the vouchers did not come from traditional public schools. Other Democrats voted for the bill, including the outgoing state Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, the termed out House District 96 occupant.

Another question bizarrely asked, “How do you feel about chiropractors?”

Perman is a chiropractor and a great deal of his campaign has been funded by other chiropractors. That has led Jacobs to contend that her opponent would be a “special interest representative” focused on issues that help chiropractors rather than all District 96 residents.

Although denying any roll in the poll, Jacobs reiterated in an interview her charge that Perman had supported Republicans while she was a “true Democrat.”

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly Ballas guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association LobbyistThey Cover Florida Like the Sun.***

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Oscar Anderson, Alex Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: Productivity Apex, Inc.

Kim Bertron: Franwell, Inc.

Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: GrowHealthy Holdings

Kurt Kelly, Natalie Kelly, Acclaim Strategies: Brookdale Senior Living

Charles Morris: Los Angeles Capital Management and Equity Research, Inc.

Roger Sims, Holland & Knight: City of West Palm Beach

SCOOPAGE — Chris Clark, chief of staff to Senate President Don Gaetz, will be announced as the new Vice President of Public Affairs for the Florida Medical Association.

SPOTTED: Former Bill Young chief of staff, now lobbyist, Harry Glenn in crowd for PBS’ Capitol Fourth.

SPOTTED: Mayor Rick Baker, lobbyist Laura Boehmer, Progress Florida’s Mark Ferrulo, state House candidates Chris Latvala and Bill Young, treasurers-to-the-political stars Robert and Nancy Watkins, World Partnerships Gary Springer and Mary Ellen Upton, among many others at the Schorsch All-American Housewarming Party.

YES, the Schorsch family did repeat as winners of the Old Northeast 4th of July Children’s Parade stroller/wagon decorating contest.

***CoreMessage is a full-service communications and issues advocacy firm with the experience, relationships and expertise to help you get your message out. Connected at the state capitol and throughout Florida, the CoreMessage team unites issues with advocates, messages with media and innovative solutions with traditional tactics to get results. Follow CoreMessage on Twitter and visit them on the Web at www.coremessage.com***

CONTEXT FLORIDA: ALABAMA AND OBAMACARE, BENEFITS, MEAN-SPIRITED ELECTIONS AND AMENDMENT 2

On Context Florida: After hearing an Alabama political candidate vow to oppose Obamacare if elected, Mark O’Brien notes that Alabama is No. 11 when it comes to total federal spending on the 50 states — salaries, contracts, Social Security, Medicare and numerous other direct payments to individuals and institutions. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court found that family-owned companies do not have to abide by the contraceptive provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act. But Julie Delegal says that we all missed one thing: In providing a benefits package that included birth control, aren’t actually paying for birth control per se. Elections do not have to be mean-spirited, writes Rick Outzen. He recounts a time when elections were not so cutthroat, when Outzen and his brothers helped their father in his first race for election commissioner for Washington County, Miss. As a mother and physician, it’s important for Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos, president of the Brevard County Medical Society, to shed light on Amendment 2 and how she feels it will hurt communities, neighbors and, most importantly, children — just like pill mills did in the all-too-recent past.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

STATE’S REPUTATION AS LIGHTNING CAPITAL WELL-DESERVED via Keith Morelli of the Tampa Tribune

Florida traditionally is the deadliest state in the country for lightning strikes, and 2014 is no exception. Florida currently leads the nation in people fatally struck so far this year, with four deaths — the same number as have died in the rest of the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

That number is the same as died from lightning strikes in Florida in all of 2013, but this year appears to be an anomaly. Overall, fatalities caused by lightning appear to be on the downswing in the past few years.

Summer is the peak season for lightning, though people are struck year-round. In the United States over the past 30 years, an average of 51 people were killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more suffered severe injuries. The National Weather Service says that over the 10-year period ending in 2012, an average of 35 lightning-strike victims died each year in the United States.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the number of fatalities is dropping at a steady rate. In 2012, there were 28 people struck and killed, compared with 23 — a record low — fatally struck last year.

Theories about why there are fewer fatal lightning strikes are split. Some credit prevailing weather patterns; others say people have become smarter about keeping out of harm’s way.

Weather Service meteorologists say Florida leads the nation with an average of 1.45 million lightning strikes a year. That calculates to just over 25 strikes a square mile in a state where summers feature a never-ending battle between sea breezes resulting in thunderheads brimming with lightning.

Insurance claims for damage caused by lightning across the nation reached a record high in 2008, with insurance companies paying out more than $1 billion in lightning damage claims, according to insurance industry statistics.

Last year, insurance paid $673 million on 114,740 claims, averaging nearly $5,900 each, which represented the lowest level in a decade because of a lull in thunderstorms across the nation, the Insurance Information Institute says on its website.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to our dear friend and the best county party chair in the state, Joe Gruters. Also celebrating on Sunday was lobbyist Brian Ballard. Celebrating today is great dad and FMA Executive VP Tim Stapleton.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.