Sunburn for 7/9 – 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 date in 1868, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified by Louisiana and South Carolina, exactly one month after the Florida Legislature voted to ratify. The original intent behind the amendment was to guarantee full citizenship to African Americans, but since then its Due Process and Equal Protection clauses have had major impact on American society. Anyone in Florida remember Bush v. Gore?

Now, on to the ‘burn…


A new Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters shows Democrats with a statistically-insignificant, two-point edge on the generic ballot, 41 percent to 39 percent – unchanged since Democrats surrendered their nine-point lead at the outset of last year’s government shutdown.

Voters have better impressions of the Democratic Party than the GOP, but they are just as likely to say they want Republicans to win the House and Senate (46 percent) than Democrats (44 percent). Results of the same poll, released last week, showed President Barack Obama’s approval rating at just 40 percent. 


Wouldn’t it be nice to easily be able to see who’s funding your congressperson? A new browser plugin for Safari, Google Chrome, and soon Firefox, promises to do just that.

The free plugin, called “Greenhouse,” was created by 16-year-old Nicholas Rubin, a self-taught programmer based in Seattle. Greenhouse was designed to expose the role that money plays in Congress by offering “detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including total amount received and breakdown by industry and by size of donation.”

It works simply: After you install the plugin, hovering over the name of a congressman will display the latest 2014 contribution data available on, as well as an option to see which campaign finance reform bills are supported by the congressman from

In Safari, users will also see a “$” button appear in the toolbar, which, when clicked, will allow you to search and browse through the financial profiles of any member of Congress.

Though Rubin can’t even vote yet, he said he created Greenhouse to provide “increased transparency around the amount and source of funding of our elected representatives [and] play a small role in educating citizens and promoting change.”


In the simplest terms, the Democrats control the White House (and, for now, the Senate) at a time when the country is struggling. Economic growth has been disappointing for almost 15 years now. Most Americans think this country is on the wrong track. Our foreign policy often seems messy and complex, at best.

To Americans in their 20s and early 30s — the so-called millennials — many of these problems have their roots in George W. Bush’s presidency. But think about people who were born in 1998, the youngest eligible voters in the next presidential election. They are too young to remember much about the Bush years or the excitement surrounding the first Obama presidential campaign. They instead are coming of age with a Democratic president who often seems unable to fix the world’s problems.

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An anti-commuter rail coalition from wealthy suburban communities in Palm Beach and Martin Counties are seeking a meeting with Gov. Scott.

Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, the newest effort to oppose passenger rail service on Florida’s East Coast, sent a letter to the governor on Monday requesting a meeting to address their concerns.

The group is questioning the funding for All Aboard Florida, and its potential impact on drivers, boaters and first responders, who will contend with up to 32 trains a day along Florida’s East Coast rails adjacent to waterfront communities.

According to the letter, “decreased property values and increased noise — both likely fallouts of these rail projects — are also concerns, and again cut to the heart and soul of our basic concern: quality of life.”

The letter comes one day after officials from All Aboard Florida announced a 2016 launch for the proposed Miami-to-Orlando service, the same time as a Miami-to-West Palm Beach rail corridor.

Touting the project as a private venture, Scott included $10 million in the state budget for train noise buffers and another $230 million for an Orlando International Airport rail terminal for use by All Aboard Florida.


Gardiner, in line to become president of the Florida Senate later this year, has begun to make key personnel decisions about the staff he’ll put in place once he takes over the Senate President’s Office.

As first reported on SaintPetersBlog, but now confirmed by Senate spokesperson Katie Betta, Reynold Meyer will serve as Gardiner’s Chief of Staff.

Tony Cortese will be overseeing education policy for the President’s Office, among other responsibilities. Cortese is essentially assuming the role of Dr. Frank Fuller, who was a longtime adviser to Senate President Don Gaetz. Fuller retired from his public work with education policy and returned home to Panama City at the end of June.

Also in the departure lounge is Dr. Rick Harper, who has returned full time to his responsibilities as the Director of the Office of Economic Development and Engagement at the University of West Florida. Andrew Mackintosh, who is currently the Deputy Staff Director for the Senate Majority Office, will be moving to the President’s Office to take over those policy areas.

Expect to see many familiar faces in the Senate President’s Office: Lisa Vickers, Carol Gormley, George Levesque, Debbie Brown, Carlecia Collins and are all staying in our current roles; however, President-Designate Gardiner will finalize responsibilities and titles for the staff as the transition continues over the summer, Betta said.

Oh, and about Betta, one of the most respected communication pros in the capital … she’s staying right where she is, too.

FEDERAL JUDGE WON’T DISMISS FLA. MEDICAID LAWSUIT via Kelli Kennedy of the Associated Press

A federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges Florida provides inadequate care to children in its Medicaid program, despite state claims that privatizing the program will resolve many of the problems.

The state argued that a massive statewide overhaul to privatize Medicaid will raise reimbursement rates, improve doctor participation and address allegations that children can’t get doctor appointments. Attorneys for the state said the lawsuit, which was filed nine years ago, has become moot because of the Medicaid privatization. Statewide enrollment for most children began in May and ends in August.

Under privatization, the state pays insurance companies a set fee to provide care and the companies must follow standards. However, Jordan said it will be some time before it’s clear whether insurers follow through.

The state has spent millions defending the class-action lawsuit that claims Florida is violating federal Medicaid requirements by providing inadequate medical and dental care for children on Medicaid. The initial complaint alleges 390,000 children did not get a medical checkup in 2007 and more than 750,000 received no dental care. Many doctors and dentists won’t accept Medicaid, as Florida’s reimbursement rates are among the country’s lowest. The lawsuit alleges children on Medicaid often must wait two to three months to see specialists, especially in rural counties.

Nearly 3 million Florida residents — more than half of them children — are shifting to privatized Medicaid this year. Insurance companies are required to spend 85 percent on patient care and must expand their network of doctors and hospitals, increase reimbursement rates and meet a host of stringent new standards.

FLORIDA FORCED TO STAGGER TIMING OF PAYMENTS via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Florida is being forced to stagger payments to schools and health care providers because of limits with its 30-year old computer-based accounting system.

State officials took the drastic actions because the current system can’t pay out $1 billion or more in a single 24-hour period. The state was forced to delay payments twice in June because it had gone over the daily limit.

Last week the Department of Financial Services, the agency that handles the accounting system, asked all state agencies to alert them ahead of time if they want to make a payment of $5 million or more.

Florida is planning on replacing the accounting system, but that’s still years away since putting in place a new system could cost anywhere from $200 million to $500 million according to a March study prepared for the state. This year legislators set aside $9 million in planning money for the project. The state tried to replace the accounting system a decade ago but the project was scuttled in 2007 after Florida taxpayers had paid roughly $100 million.

The limits of the existing system have become a problem as a result of changes to the Medicaid program. The state-federal health care program is undergoing a massive overhaul in which the state pays insurance companies a set fees to provide care. Cate said that the state used to spread out its payments but is now combining payments into one large sum.

The state’s response so far is to try to let agencies know ahead of time when large payments will be made. In late June, the state delayed payments to the state’s 67 school districts by one day.


The Florida Supreme Court expects to rule on the constitutionality of a contentious 2013 law to tighten standards for expert testimony in litigation.

Business groups, such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, have backed the law, which forces the state to use similar standards as in federal courts — known in legal terms as “Daubert” standards.

However, attorneys for a woman who filed suit after pregnancy complications resulted in premature birth is asking the Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of the 2013 law.

Maria Franco-Perez filed suit against her employer, BellSouth Telecommunications in Miami-Dade County, claiming that workplace stress resulted in a “placental abruption,” premature birth with complications that led the infant to endure multiple surgeries, court documents say.

In April, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that expert medical expert testimony supporting Franco-Perez’s arguments was inadmissible under Daubert standards. Last week, attorneys filed a brief for the woman that contends, in part, the 2013 law improperly infringes on the state Supreme Court’s power to approve court system rules.

“The district court (of appeal) simply has no authority to validate a procedural statute; it must find it unconstitutional and allow this court to exercise its exclusive authority over the issue,” according to the brief.

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It stands to be seen in Colorado whether the retail sale of marijuana will yield state revenues that equal the values predicted, or deliver on the promise of better funded public education. But in Florida, a far stricter law regarding the low-euphoria strain of medicinal cannabis, Charlotte’s Web, is likely to go well beyond covering costs of the policy’s implementation, and then some.

According to Florida’s Revenue Estimating Conference report on SB 1030 and its House companion by Rep. Matt Gaetz, low-TCH cannabis will generate sales tax revenues greater than $7 million per year on the low end, to greater than $47 million if medical cannabis becomes more widely utilized.

By 2015, it is projected that approximately 835,060 Floridians will be living with cancer, 394,945 with epilepsy, and based on evidence from other states, about 450,000 with some sort of debilitating muscle spasms. Even if small percents of people with these diseases choose to use Charlotte’s Web to treat their symptoms — as is the case in eight other states — total statewide sales could be greater than $790 million in 2015. And that’s just looking at subpopulations of people who would use medical cannabis from among an already narrow populations of people who meet stringent criteria.

In sum, Charlotte’s Web will benefit suffering Floridians and will puff up state coffers with some extra funding to cover greater programs and services, too.


A new Florida law permitting Charlotte’s Web, a low-euphoria a medically-beneficial strain of marijuana, has regulators and businesses figuring out how to make things work in this state of about 20 million.

For regulators, main logistic questions involve criteria for dispensing organizations and delivery methods. And in the first hearings on medical marijuana rules, it seems regulators are bracing for far broader laws that may be approved by Florida voters in November. To entrepreneurs, this prospect would mean an opportunity to strike gold — Acapulco Gold, that is. And Purple Haze. And White Rhino. And… You get the point.

But what if the roll-out of Charlotte’s Web doesn’t go down so smoothly? As seen in Washington State, even the widest open laws are complicated to bring live. Washington is seeing massive shortages of crop to go around, as only one grower has been approved and able to go live on the opening day for recreational use. Retailers are likely to run out of inventory within hours, and growers see a three to five year period ahead before they can begin to meet demand.

In large part, Washington’s roadblocks have been regulatory in origin — restrictions on would-be growers, screening requirements, and required lab-testing that means long delays to retail.

Washington and Colorado offer a tale of two states in weed regulation — with the latter experiencing a generally smooth implementation of retail sales in January.

For Florida’s part, stringent regulations are likely to result in a story that better resembles Washington — one where the demand is high but access to legal bud is limited. Particularly for those who have been waiting in pain for legal use of Charlotte’s Web, regulators could ‘protect’ patients to the point of limiting access at all — which was certainly not the intent of the law.

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The Florida Police Chiefs Association is endorsing Attorney General Pam Bondi in her re-election bid.

In a statement announcing the FPCA endorsement, leadership cited Bondi’s support for the state’s law enforcement and public safety and specifically her efforts to combat human trafficking and illegal drugs.

Bondi was also recognized for her work on funding the Prescription Drugs Monitoring Database, which collects controlled prescription medication information as a tool to reduce drug diversion and abuse. She has also aggressively targeted pill mills and prescription drug abuse, working with Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature to close legal loopholes allowing illegitimate doctors and pharmacies to overprescribe and dispense prescription

“Thanks to her efforts,” said the release, “Florida’s pill mill epidemic is lessening and lives are undoubtedly being saved.”

“Attorney General Pam Bondi has always demonstrated her commitment to law enforcement and the safety of our citizens,” said FPCA President Frank Kitzerow,“We look forward to her continued leadership and support.”


Every election year in Florida usually brings its share of litigation (although presidential election years usually have a longer list of lawsuits.)

There’s a curious lawsuit now pending in a Leon County circuit court that has prompted a strategic alliance between two normal foes: the Florida Democratic Party and the administration of Gov. Rick Scott.

The lawsuit centers around a write-in candidate, Ronald Bray, who qualified in what is expected to be a contentious state House race between Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs and former Rep. Steve Perman.

The entry of Bray into the race effectively closed the Aug. 26 primary, which for all purposes will determine the outcome of the election since a write-in has never won in Florida.

Florida voters in 1998 approved an amendment that was supposed to open up primary races to all voters regardless of party affiliation if candidates of other parties do not qualify. But a controversial Division of Elections opinion penned by the administration of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris back in 2000 said that when a write-in candidate qualifies for the general election the primary must remain closed. That means many races in Florida  are routinely closed by the sudden appearance at the end of qualifying of write-in candidates.

Robert Adams, who describes himself as an independent voter in Broward County, filed a lawsuit to remove Bray on the grounds that Bray does not live in House District 96. His lawsuit cites a current state law that requires write-in candidates to live in their district at the time of qualifying.

And the Democrats are already making an interesting argument: That the law requiring write-in candidates to live in their districts is unconstitutional. The Democrats request to intervene contends this requirement is at odds with the state constitution, which has generally been interpreted to mean that legislators don’t have to live in their districts until Election Day. (This argument is also being made by lawyers representing the write-in candidate.)


Laura Rivero Levey, the Republican hopeful dropped from the race after her qualifying check bounced, has sent a letter to the state demanding her reinstatement on the House District 113 ballot. With it comes an apology from the bank for its error in dishonoring the check.

In a letter dated July 3 to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, attorney Richard E. Coates maintains that Levey was the innocent victim of bank error, something out of the candidate’s control.

SunTrust Bank, where Levey holds her campaign account, put the improper hold on a $2,000 check written June 12 from the Republican Party of Florida, although records show the check actually cleared on June 16. The inappropriate hold caused the return of Levey’s check to the Department of State on June 17 for the $1,781.82 filing fee.

Levey was not notified her campaign check was dishonored until Tuesday, July 1.

With Levey’s disqualification, Democrat Richardson became the unopposed winner in the district representing parts of Miami Beach, downtown Miami, and Little Havana.

But that may not be the case, at least for now.

Along with the hand-delivered letter was a cashier’s check from Levey’s campaign account for the filing fee.

“On behalf Ms. Levey,” Coates continues, “demand is made that the Department of State accept the tendered cashier’s check and update its records to reflect Ms. Levey as the qualified Republican candidate for House District 113.”

HOUSE CANDIDATE: SOMEONE’S PEEKING IN MY WINDOWS via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

While one Republican accuses his rival of being a “carpetbagger” who is lying about his residence, the other charges his opponent’s campaign has become so desperate it resorted to peeping through his windows — and has the pictures to prove it.

The accusations are part of an increasingly bitter Republican Party primary campaign to determine who will represent much of Sarasota County in the Florida Legislature.

With few policy issues dividing Venice Republicans Julio Gonzalez and Richard DeNapoli, their Florida House race has quickly devolved into a battle over personalities, backgrounds and campaign tactics.

DeNapoli, an attorney, said he knows Gonzalez wants to make his residence an issue, but contends a line was crossed to make that case. Pictures of the inside of his home taken through his living room window were posted on a conservative blogger’s website in a bid to prove DeNapoli doesn’t really live in the house he bought for $335,000 in 2013.

The photo shows little furniture. DeNapoli said the photo was likely taken when he was having new flooring installed in the spring.

Gonzalez said he has passed DeNapoli’s home on the island in Venice before but did not take the photos. Javier Manjarres, the Broward County blogger who posted the photos, would only say the shots came from a “source” and not Gonzalez, who advertises on Manjarres’ website.

DeNapoli said that, more than for his own safety, he’s worried about his wife and baby coming face to face with a stranger pointing a camera lens at their living room window.


The Florida Medical Association PAC, Florida’s leading advocate for electing pro-medicine candidates to office, today endorsed incumbent State Sen. Joe Negron in Florida Senate District 32, candidate Terri Seefeldt for House District 31 and Bryan Avila for House District 111.

“Senator Joe Negron has been an ally of FMA since first entering the Florida Legislature, earning him respect and the title ‘Freshman Legislator of the Year’ from  the association in 2001,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo. “The senator’s in-depth knowledge of the state budget is important as we determine how to improve Florida’s health care system in a way that taxpayers can afford, and we are proud to endorse him for another term in the Florida Senate.”

“Terri Seefeldt is the best candidate to represent District 31’s physicians and their patients,” Nobo said. “We are proud to endorse Terri and believe she will stand with us in our fight to provide all Floridians with the highest quality of affordable health care.”

“Bryan (Avila) is a strong advocate for conservative principles and will be a champion for Florida’s physicians as we strive to protect patient access to health care,” Nobo continued.

Negron’s Senate District 32 includes parts of Indian River, Martin, Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties.  Seefeldt is looking to succeed term-limited State Rep. Bryan Nelson in HD 31, which includes parts of Orange County. Avila is running for the open HD 111 seat, which includes part of Miami-Dade County, currently  held State Rep. Eduardo “Eddy” Gonzalez.

THREE STATE HOUSE DEMOCRATS FILE FOR re-election Full blog post here

After failing to draw opposition for re-election in November, three House Democrats filed campaign accounts this week to run in 2016, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

Reps. Victor Torres, Katie Edwards, and David Richardson joined 9 additional House and 19 Senate candidates who opened campaign accounts for 2016 runs.

Torres represents Orange County in House District 48; Edwards represents Broward County in House District 98, and Richardson represents Miami-Dade County in House District 113.

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On Context FloridaEd Moore notes a passage of the Federalist Papers that aptly describes the current situation in our country: “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” Although Marc Yacht had his share of surgeries, he still has a vision of his teenage self. Yacht reflects on some of the more interesting aspects of getting older, such as doctor’s appointments and medications, but says he will still work at improving his tennis game and flying around in his Beemer – top down, of course. Florida’s Great Northwest, according to Shannon Nickinson, is a regional economic development marketing entity that pitches a 16-county area of the Panhandle to potential businesses, despite the shortage of skilled trade workers. Democrats appear to have been clueless — and (some even) complicit in the radical shift to the right of the U.S. Supreme Court, says Stephen Goldstein. So, blame Democrats for the recent, absurd “Hobby Lobby” decision, which ruled that a for-profit chain of stores is a “person” and its exercise of religion is protected under the Constitution.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to PR maven April Salter. 

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.