Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 8.04.16 – A welcome respite

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Joe Henderson, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


It may have seemed for the past few weeks/months that the only news was bad, political or both.

But now, a welcome distraction is on the immediate horizon, along with a return to the regular rhythm of everyday living.

The arrival of sales tax-free weekend heralds the start of a new school year, much earlier than usual in some places.

And the Olympic Games begin in Rio, offering two weeks where TV viewers are expected to immerse themselves in gymnastics, swimming, beach volleyball, track, soccer, basketball … oh, I know I’m forgetting a lot.

Man, do we need this, and I am more ready for it. How about you? We need a break.

We certainly need to be reminded that there are more things worth paying attention to than Trump’s tweets, Hillary’s fibs and … oh, forget it. The Donald’s mouth will still be open two weeks from now. Right now, it’s more important that the malls are open.

So go shopping. Stock on bargains.

Then go home and grab a cool beverage. Turn on the TV. Let your eyes get misty when they play the Star Spangled Banner while awarding another piece of gold to the U-S-A, U-S-A!!

Life is calling.

It wants you back.

HERE’S WHAT’S TAX FREE via Florida Politics – During the three-day period, purchases of specified school supplies and clothing are exempt from sales tax. Tax-exempt clothing and accessories are defined as any article of clothing, wallet or bag, including handbags, backpacks, fanny packs and diaper bags, but excluding briefcases, suitcases and other garment bags, with a selling price of $60 or less per item. “Clothing” means any article of wearing apparel, including all footwear (except skis, swim fins, roller blades and skates) intended to be worn on or about the human body. Clothing does not include watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas or handkerchiefs. This exemption does not apply to sales of clothing, wallets or bags in theme parks, entertainment complexes, public lodging establishments or airports. Among the tax-exempt products: Clothing, garments and accessories up to $60 each. Shoes up to $60 per pair. Sales tax will not be charged on items such as pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and glue. The state set a price limit of $15 per item for this category, but not on items such as staplers and computer paper. Personal computers and computer accessories are no longer included on the Florida Sales Tax Holiday.

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS — A FLORIDA TRADITION AND BOON TO TAXPAYERS, BUSINESSES via Dominic Calabro for Florida Politics – Few tax breaks generate such excitement among taxpayers while stimulating business activity with increased advertising and competition. Some back-to-school holidays were as long as 10 days, spanning two weekends. That has led to some perception that this year’s version is somehow less valuable. There also are claims the tax break does nothing to stimulate the economy and only shifts spending to different time periods. This is a unique chance for taxpayers to choose whether to take advantage of a tax break. And the benefits for businesses are evident by the incredible promotion and hoopla surrounding the event … Economic arguments aside, few tax breaks resonate more with Floridians while providing a brief lesson in how we pay our taxes. Few Floridians noticed a hike, and then a cut, in their vehicle registration fees over the past few years. Nor is it likely consumers noticed last year’s modest cut in taxes on services like cell phones and cable TV. But the sales tax holiday provides savings Floridians actually consider and discuss. Appropriately for the kick-off of the school year, it’s a teachable moment about how the sales tax affects us in our everyday purchases.

Florida sales tax holiday is this weekend” via Roger Bull of the Florida Times-Union

Shoppers brace for shorter, less generous tax-free holiday” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald

Shortened tax-holiday squeezes shopping into 3-day weekend” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel

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HILLARY CLINTON SURGEST TO BIG LEAD IN MCCLATCHY-MARIST POLL via David Lightman and Lesley Clark of McClatchy Washington Bureau — Clinton has surged to a 15-point lead over reeling, gaffe-plagued Republican Donald Trump, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll. Clinton made strong gains with two constituencies crucial to a Republican victory – whites and men – while scoring important gains among fellow Democrats, the poll found. Clinton not only went up, but Trump also went down. Clinton now has a 48-33 percent lead, a huge turnaround from her narrow 42-39 advantage last month. The findings are particularly significant because the poll was taken after both political conventions ended and as Trump engaged in a war of words with the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in an explosion in Iraq 12 years ago while trying to rescue other soldiers.

POLL: CLINTON LEADS TRUMP BY 6 IN FLORIDA via Nick Gass of POLITICO – … according to the latest Suffolk University survey of likely voters in the state … Matched head-to-head, Clinton took 48 percent, while Trump earned 42 percent. In a four-way matchup, Clinton grabbed 43 percent, followed by 39 percent for Trump, 4 percent for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnsonand 3 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The poll was conducted Aug. 1-3 via landlines and cellphones, surveying 500 likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

EXCLUSIVE — ADD WILL WEATHERFORD TO THE #NEVERTRUMP CAMP? via Florida Politics – The former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, a Wesley Chapel Republican, suggested in a text message that the real estate tycoon-turned-reality TV star won’t get his vote. “Sadly, I find both candidates to be unworthy of the office of president,” he wrote, also referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. When asked to clarify his position on the GOP’s presidential pick, Weatherford responded: “Would I vote for someone who is unworthy and unfit for the office?”

NEW POLL SHOWS TRUMP HAS A BIG HISPANIC PROBLEM IN FLORIDA via Federica Narancio of Univision – Trump appears to be facing an insurmountable wall among Latino voters in the key swing state of Florida: only 12.9 percent support among Hispanic voters, according to a new survey. It is a “historical low for a Republican candidate,” said Eduardo Gamarra, co-author of New Latino Voice, an online poll conducted by Florida International University and Adsmovil, which is surveying the Latino vote nationally over the course of 16 weeks. … While Trump can afford to give up the Hispanic vote in battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania where Hispanics make up less than 5 percent of eligible voters, he can’t afford to run that risk in Florida where the Latino electorate has greater weight, making up 18 percent of voters.

NEW WEB ADS BY PRO-CLINTON SUPER PAC SEEK TO FURTHER DISCREDIT TRUMP AMONG HISPANICS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – New ads from Priorities USA Action – called “Our Country” – seek to further undermine Trump among Hispanics in Florida and other battlegrounds. “I will never forget the day my sons came home wearing their uniforms,” says a woman named Careliz of Homestead on the video. “They were so proud to be serving their country. To hear the things Donald Trump says, it just disgusts me … When Donald Trump says we don’t to serve to live here, it’s just a slap in the face.”

AMERICAN BRIDGE HITS MARCO RUBIO OVER SUPPORT FOR TRUMP — The progressive group released a digital ad this week hitting Rubio over what it calls his “unwavering support” of Trump. The advertisement features clips of Trump lashing out against the Khans, a Gold Star family that spoke during the DNC, and a clip of Rubio saying he would support the Republican nominee.  “If Sen. Rubio won’t cut ties with Trump now, will he ever,” an announcer asks in the 30-second digital ad. In a statement, Jessica Mackler, the president of American Bridge, said Rubio can’t have it both ways: supporting Donald Trump for the presidency means backing his offensive and un-American attacks on the Khan family. Rubio is a political opportunist through and through — he will always desert common decency if he thinks it will protect his political capital.

POLL: MARCO RUBIO 46, PATRICK MURPHY 33 via Kevin Robillard of POLITICO – Rubio leads Democratic Rep. Murphy, 46 percent to 33 percent, with 19 percent of voters undecided. And he tops Rep. Alan Grayson 45 percent to 30 percent, with 22 percent undecided. Rubio is outperforming Donald Trump, who beat him in the state’s March GOP presidential primary. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads Trump 48 percent to 42 percent in Florida in the survey. In the Democratic primary, Murphy has a substantial lead over Grayson, 36 percent to 17 percent. But 40 percent of voters remain undecided. And despite heavy spending by challenger Carlos Beruff, Rubio has a massive lead in the Republican primary, 62 percent to 12 percent.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Rubio will address the Bay County of Chamber of Commerce at 8 a.m. at Florida State University’s Panama City Campus, 4750 Collegiate Drive in Panama City. Media interested in attending the event should RSVP to At 10 a.m., Rubio is scheduled to attend the opening of the Republican Party of Florida’s Panama City Victory Office, 1714 West 23rd Street in Panama City. Media must register for credentials here.

PERSONNEL NOTE: The American Petroleum Institute hired Brooke Sammon as one of its new spokespersons. Sammon was national spokeswoman for Rubio ‘s presidential campaign and press secretary in his U.S. Senate office. H/t Isaac Arnsdorf.

DESPITE ABUSE CLAIMS, ALAN GRAYSON STAYING IN FLORIDA SENATE RACE via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – Grayson is counting on the party’s most faithful to ignore the negative headlines and look at his record of being a champion of liberal values, as opposed to [PatrickMurphy, a former Republican who has voted against President Obama on a number of key issues. “He’s a nobody. Any kind of direct comparison between me and him, he losses,” Grayson said during a telephone interview this week. “There’s no way you can look at Patrick and think that he is anything but a sock puppet for lobbyists and special interests” …  Grayson is more consistent in voting with his party, but some Democrats worry he’s become unelectable. “Grayson has stepped on his foot here a few times and I don’t think he has any way to get elected. Murphy has a better chance of winning,” said Joe Wells, 84, of Cape Coral. “He’s a little steadier and a little less bombastic and still favorable to my issues.” Last week, the mother of Grayson’s five children shared four police reports with POLITICO. In them, Lolita Carson-Grayson told police that Grayson abused her, but none of the claims led to any charges over the years. Grayson countered that he never hit her, and accused her of abusing him and their children. Grayson has aired television and radio ads since November, but in limited buys. Murphy began airing an ad two weeks ago featuring Obama, but hasn’t saturated the state. Both have sought free media coverage.

JOE BIDEN TO FUNDRAISE IN FLORIDA FOR PATRICK MURPHY, DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Mark Hensch of The Hill – Biden is first traveling to Miami and participating in the Coconut Creek fundraiser for Wasserman Schultz’s House re-election campaign. Biden originally planned on fundraising for Wasserman Schultz in June but scrapped the idea after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Biden’s fundraiser for Murphy is scheduled for around midday at the Tallahassee home of Don Hinkle, a personal injury attorney and major Democratic donor. Both Biden and President Obama have endorsed Murphy as the best hope for Democrats to beat incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio. Murphy has said he will not debate his rival for the Democratic nomination, Rep. Alan Grayson, after allegations of domestic abuse emerged against him.

NEW SURVEY SHOWS AMENDMENT 4 SOLAR INITIATIVE GETTING 56 PERCENT SUPPORT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – An initiative that would give a property tax break for renewable energy to residents and businesses, is getting strong support … 56 percent in support to 16 percent against, with 27 percent undecided. Amendment 4 is supported by both Republicans and Democrats. It comes directly from the Legislature, where St. Petersburg Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes sponsored it in the Senate. Pensacola Republican Ray Rodrigues was the prime sponsor in the House, and South Florida Democratic Rep. Lori Berman was a co-sponsor. The poll also asked voters if they would support an open primary system, where independents could participate in primary elections like the one coming up later this month. The result showed there is strong support for such a system, with 59 percent in support and 28 percent opposed, with another 13 percent undecided.

AMENDMENT 4 BACKERS WANT VOTERS TO SEE THE LIGHT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Florida for Solar, Inc., the committee behind Amendment 4, is doing a final publicity push for the initiative that’s on the Aug. 30 primary ballot … The amendment would amount to a tax break: It would exempt solar power equipment on homes from being counted toward a house’s value for property tax purposes. “It’s great for the economy, and the environment is our economy in Florida,” said Aliki Moncrief of Florida Conservation Voters. “Voters really do want this, and we just want to make sure they’re aware. We’re pretty confident that if they have the opportunity to support solar and clean air, they will, in fact, do that.” According to a recent statewide Florida poll by Saint Leo University’s Polling Institute, Amendment 4 is supported by 68 percent of the public, opposed by 7 percent, with 25 percent unsure. Nonetheless, an opposition group has formed to oppose the measure, saying the ballot question is a “rejection of free market principles” … “Voters are tired of big government cronyism where legislators and lobbyists play favorites by manipulating the tax code for their friends,” conservative activist Jason Hoyt said this week.

BOB POE TAKES ATTACK ON VAL DEMINGS’ POLICE LEADERSHIP TO RADIO AD IN CD 10 RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In the ad, a narrator discusses two incidents that occurred in Orlando under Demings’ watch, which led to little punishment for the officers involved. The ad targets the largely minority and working class population of Florida’s 10th Congressional District, which covers Orlando’s west side and west Orange County. The ad follows a television commercial that covers much the same topic that began airing last week in Orlando. Poe uses a black, female narrator to talk about Demings record. Demings is black; Poe is white. “Picture this: a police officer, out of control, throws an elderly 84-year-old man down onto the hard pavement on his head,” the narrator says. “The elderly man lies in a heap on the cold pavement, unable to move. His neck? Broken! And what did police chief Val Demings do? Nothing.” The narrator tells of a second incident in which a police officer pushed a woman down a flight of stairs and walked away. “Democrat Bob Poe has taken a stand for better training, higher standards, and body cameras to protect the reputation of good cops from those who would commit violence,” the narrator concludes. “It’s that important.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Former Gov. Charlie Crist will meet with seniors at 11 a.m. at the Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Avenue South in Gulfport. Crist, the Democratic nominee in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, will talk with seniors about Social Security, Medicare, and other issues. Media interested in attending should RSVP

TIM CANOVA TAKES SWIPE AT DWS IN NEW AD — In the 30-second spot, Canova promises to fight to protect Social Security if he’s elected to Congress. “My father died when I was 10, and my mom worked full time to raise us. With my mom’s hard work and the help of Social Security we managed to keep our home, so I’m committed to protect social security and Medicare, and increase aid to our neediest seniors and disabled. My opponent refuses to support and increase in benefits. In fact, she’s missed the most votes of any Florida Democrat.” Canova faces Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

TWEET, TWEET: @ec_schneider: Patriot Majority PAC, which spent $100K on mailers backing @DWStweets, released a poll showing her up 33 points over Tim Canova in primary.

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PERSONNEL NOTE: MAYRA MACIAS BACK AT FDP via Florida Politics — The 28-year-old rejoins the Florida Democratic Party as Political Director, party Chair Allison Tant said Thursday. “Mayra’s talent and ability have played a crucial role in helping us win races across the state,” Tant said in a statement. Macias previously was the party’s Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for South Florida, then the Deputy Political Director “where she helped flip the Sarasota City Council,” according to a press release. She “left Florida as part of the Capitol Hill Fellowship where she transitioned from politics to policy, working for Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro, the ranking member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee,” the release said. She started July 19.

BOB HEALY DENOUNCES VICTOR TORRES MAILER AS ‘A LIE’ IN SD 15 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Healy’s ire is aimed at a mailer the Victor “Vic” Torres for State Senate District 15 campaign sent out claiming Healy “sides with Republicans and doesn’t pay his fair share.” That portion of the mailer claims Healy gives money to Republicans and right-wing PACs, raised highway tolls while a member of the Osceola County Expressway Authority, and that his company, San Juan Funeral Homes, “hasn’t paid his property taxes for two consecutive years and also stiffed workers for over $74,000 for construction.” In his rebuttal, Healy acknowledges having contributed to only two Republicans — $100 each time, to personal friends, in 2001 and 2006, and nothing to right-wing PACs. He said that does not make him “Republican Bob.” He insisted he has never voted to raise tolls on the expressway authority. And he deflected criticisms of the company he works for, contending he is just an employee himself, not someone calling fiduciary decisions, so anything the company has done is not his responsibility. “I am a funeral home director. My job is to help families at their hardest moments, to ease the pain of loss, and to help people remember the joy of family. And for that, I get a paycheck. If he has an issue with the company that pays me, he should take it up with them. As a longtime labor activist, Vic should know you don’t attack the workers for the decisions made by ownership,” Healy stated.

FLORIDIANS FOR PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP UNVEILS NEW AD SUPPORTING ED NARAIN — The committee, which is affiliated with the Tampa Democrat, released a new advertisement featuring Narain. In the 30-second spot, called “All About,” Narain talks about his beliefs when it comes to public education, gun laws and Medicaid expansion. “I’m all about public school, and I oppose private school vouchers that take funds away from public education,” Narain says in the ad. “I oppose stand your ground gun laws, and I’m against Rick Scott’s hate filled agenda. I strongly support Medicaid expansion and I want to increase the minimum wage.”

NRA SENDS OUT MAILER CALLING ON VOTERS TO SUPPORT DARRYL ROUSON IN SD 19 RACE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The powerful gun lobbying group gives the St. Petersburg House Democrat a “C” grade in the primary election. That’s obviously better than the “F” grades it gives two of Rouson’s opponent in the race … Ed Narain and Betty Reed. The NRA lists a question mark next to the fourth Democrat in the primary, civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro. The Florida NRA strongly opposed Rouson’s initial attempt to pass a bill in the 2015 session that would have made it illegal to discharge a firearm for recreational purposes in residential neighborhoods. He proposed it in response to news reports about a St. Petersburg man’s firing range of sand and wooden pallets, which was taken down from his yard in Lakewood Estates before he could fire a shot. It ultimately was killed in its first committee stop in the Florida House. However, during the summer of 2015, both the NRA and the Florida Police Chiefs agreed on revised language for the proposal, and it passed easily during the 2016 session. Rouson’s opponents seized on the NRA support. “Rep. Rouson truly earned the NRA endorsement by caving to the gun lobby and voting in favor of Stand Your Ground, one of the single worst pieces of legislation that Florida has seen in the last 20 years. They noted in their endorsement that he is someone they can work with,” said Narain. “I strongly oppose Stand Your Ground, support common sense gun control, and stood up to the NRA in every single gunfight of the last two years. I have absolutely no interest in working with the NRA, and for this, they gave me an F rating.”

EMAIL INSIGHTS: JEFF CLEMENS CALLS IRV SLOSBERG’S RESIDENCY INTO QUESTION via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Clemens welcomed Irv Slosberg to his Senate District 31, and pondered how Slosberg’s constituents in House 91 felt about losing their state representative. “I’m sure it was a tough decision to abandon the people who voted him in office,” said Clemens. “I’m sure Irv factored in how upset voters in House District 91 would be, since his move has left them without a legal state representative.” Slosberg decided to run in Senate District 31 in the final hours of the one-week qualifying period, challenging Clemens … Clemens said Slosberg told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial staff he moved to eastern Boynton Beach, which is in Senate District 31, from Boca Raton, which isn’t. Clemens said Slosberg showed off his new driver’s license during the meeting, which Clemens also attended. According to the joint rules of the Florida Legislature, members must be a legal resident of their district for the “duration of his or her term of office.” Members are allowed to have multiple residences, but only one legal residence. The rules say the “legal residence of a member at designated location is demonstrated by a totality of circumstances.”

CHUCK CLEMONS ATTACKS WENDA LEWIS IN NEW AD — The Newberry Republican released a new advertisement highlights investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Environmental Protection involving Lewis, his House District 21 opponent. “I firmly believe that holding elected office is both a privilege and a sacred trust with the public,” said Clemons in a statement. “Voters have a right to be fully informed about their choices in this primary election. I have always been committed to the highest ethical standards, and I always will be. My opponent’s record speaks for itself.”


Mary Thomas, running for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, has been endorsed by the American Conservative Union.

Rebecca Negron, running for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, has been endorsed by the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police.

Kathleen Passidomo, running for Senate District 28, has been endorsed by the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Beth Tuura, running for House District 47, has been endorsed by Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie.

Rena Frazier, running for House District 59, has been endorsed by the National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida and Ruth’s List.

Sean Shaw, running for House District 61, has been endorsed by the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, running for House District 103, has been endorsed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees of Florida.

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CORPS MAINTAINS REDUCED LAKE O FLOWS, BUT CAUTIONS MAY NOT HOLD via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO – The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers … plans to maintain reduced discharges from Lake Okeechobee for another week, but agency officials cautioned that flows may have to be increased with more rain. The discharges are a political lightning rod as environmentalists and political leaders say they threaten estuaries and the economies of coastal communities. Gov. Scott June 29 declared a state of emergency for four coastal communities because of algae blooms. Lake Okeechobee dropped an inch during the past week, but remains a foot higher than it was in May. The Corps said it has been sending water south into the Everglades, but may need to discharge to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers if there is more rain. “The dry weather in July allowed us to move additional water south of the lake,” said Candida Bronson, acting Operations Division chief for the Jacksonville District. “We anticipate we won’t have that capacity available over the coming days as a result of the rain this week. We need to use our other options to continue managing the water level in the lake.” … reported reduced levels of toxic algae at a marina on the St. Lucie River as reported by the state, but noted a wide discrepancy in results from Martin County testing.

ALGAE BLOOMS COULD START CHOKING FLORIDA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – A joint study by Black Hills State University and the University of Florida’s Tourism Crisis Management Initiative shows more than half of potential visitors are concerned about the blue-green algae blooms in parts of South Florida. The study found more than 70 percent of people who planned to visit the Sunshine State in the next three months said they would avoid traveling to an area that has been declared a state of emergency. Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency for Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June. The executive order allowed state and local governments to take action to slow the spread of algae blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The blooms have largely been blamed on increased discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water earlier this year, after a wetter-than-normal January. The study … found half of the visitors who indicated they were changing plans postponed their trip. The study found 32 percent went elsewhere in Florida where there was a lower chance of a harmful algae bloom. According to the study, more than half of potential visitors said they thought the Treasure Coast would be a bad choice for a family vacation because of the blooms, while 45 percent said it was a bad time to visit Southwest Florida.

WHY THE OLYMPICS PROBABLY WON’T SPREAD ZIKA via Anna Maria Barry-Jester of – The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games pose little additional risk of causing new outbreaks of the Zika virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently wrote. The report came on the tails of a letter signed by 2401 international experts, including physicians, academics and bioethicists, asking that the Olympics be postponed or moved, as well as the news that numerous athletes, many of them golfers, have decided to sit these games out because they’re concerned about the mosquito-borne virus. So how did the CDC land on this conclusion? … officials wanted to determine whether holding the games risked causing an outbreak in countries that don’t currently have one. By the agency’s estimations, most countries’ risk of developing an outbreak as a result of travel to the Olympics by delegations and spectators is slight, either because Zika is already circulating or because so many people already arrive there from Zika-affected countries as part of normal travel. But of all the variables included in the CDC model, the determination that most countries weren’t at risk essentially came down to a simple equation: (People traveling from Rio for the Olympics)/(People traveling from all countries experiencing an outbreak if there were no Olympics) In other words, a 30-person Olympic delegation and 100 spectators don’t present much additional risk to a country that’s already seeing 50,000 visitors a year from areas with Zika.

MILITARY MEMBERS TEST POSITIVE FOR ZIKA via Carol Rosenberg of The Washington Post – At least 33 U.S. troops, including a pregnant woman, have tested positive for the Zika virus, U.S. military spokesmen said … Ten of those troops are men who answer to the Southern Command, the Pentagon subsidiary with oversight of troops in Latin America and the Caribbean … The 10 “are all asymptomatic now,” meaning they are not sick. Southcom has liaison troops in four of the five nations. They generally work out of U.S. embassies as part of cooperation agreements such as military exercises or providing humanitarian relief. In the instance of Martinique … a Coast Guard cutter docked there as part of its anti-trafficking work with Southcom’s Joint Interagency Task Force, and someone got sick. One of the other 23 troops is a pregnant female service member, said Air Force Maj. Benjamin Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman. He declined to divulge where the troops are based or got sick. “At the moment it’s protected health information,” he said.

FLORIDA’S HIV/AIDS CHIEF RESIGNS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The head of the Florida Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS section is stepping down. Marlene LaLota, who has been with DOH for more than 25 years resigned July 26 “to pursue new challenges” … “I will always treasure the amazing HIV staff here and in the field,” she wrote. “I feel so privileged to have served Floridians living with or at risk for HIV and I believe that I have made a difference in their lives.” LaLota’s resignation comes on the heels of controversy regarding the state’s HIV numbers. After reporting a staggering number of new HIV infections for several years, DOH altered the data, decreasing the number of cases in 2014 from 6,147 to 4,613. Under congressional pressure and following reporting by the Times/Herald about the HIV data, DOH in May released more details about its process for removing duplicate cases from the data and said the altered numbers reflected a more accurate count. South Florida remains one of the epicenters of the disease in the United States. LaLota’s last day in the office is Sept. 1, and she will be on state payroll through Dec. 2, according to her resignation letter.

ENTERPRISE FLORIDA LOOKING FOR NEW CHIEF BY NEXT MONTH via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Discussing the job ad soon to go out, committee member Carol Craig suggested it make clear they need a candidate “strong on legislative experience” … “That’s a really big deal, especially with everything that’s gone on the past,” said Craig, CEO of Cape Canaveral’s Craig Technologies. Bill Johnson, EFI’s immediate past CEO, had taken hits over his people skills as the agency’s proposed $250 million incentives fund crashed and burned during the 2016 Legislative Session. Johnson also was questioned over his hiring and expenses. He left the organization in late June. Now, “our job very simply is to find the most qualified person to lead this organization,” Stan Connally, head of Gulf Power Company in Pensacola, told fellow search committee members. Alan Becker, EFI board vice chair, questioned whether the position’s salary range of $175,000-$200,000 a year was low compared to other economic development organizations in the state. He’s the co-founder of South Florida’s Becker & Poliakoff law firm. “If we get concerned, we can revisit that, but, for now, I think we just need to test the market,” Connally said. He added he hoped to forward recommendations to the full board at its September meeting.

CHARLES VAN ZANT, WIFE ORDERED TO PAY THOUSANDS FOR FALSE CLAIM ON TAX EXEMPTION SINCE 2008 via Jenna Bourne of Action News Jax – Charles Van Zant and his wife Katherine Van Zant were ordered by the Bradford County Property Appraiser’s Office to pay nearly $9,000 for falsely claiming a homestead exemption since 2008. Katherine Van Zant is currently running to fill her husband’s seat in the state House … an anonymous tipster alerted The Property Appraiser’s Office in June that the Van Zants had been receiving a homestead exemption on a property in Keystone Heights since 2008, but no one had lived there for years. The Property Appraiser’s Office’s review concluded that the Van Zants had improperly received the exemption since 2008. After several meetings between the property appraiser’s office … the Van Zants paid $8,716.28 to the tax collector, which was the full amount due for the unpaid taxes, plus interest. “We are convinced and believe that we do qualify for a homestead exemption.” said Katherine Van Zant. “Just to take care of any indication of impropriety, we’re paying the homestead exemption, but we’re also – my husband is also appealing the decision.” She said the home has been getting remodeled for the past eight years. “We’ve been going back and forth from that house to a house that’s 2 miles away that belongs to our son,” said Katherine Van Zant. Charles Van Zant is on the Florida House Finance and Tax Committee.

FORMER STATE GOP, NEWT GINGRICH CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN TO SERVE AS HOUSE CLERK via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – Portia Palmer was hired last month as the House clerk, a constitutionally required position that entails enforcing rules and procedures during floor sessions … she worked as chief of staff from 1998-1999 to former Republican Miami City Commissioner Arthur “Art” Teele Jr., a powerful black politician in South Florida who committed suicide in 2005. Then, from 1999 to 2002, she was a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida and lead the party’s outreach to black voters. Later, she was Gingrich‘s Florida spokeswoman during his 2012 campaign. More recently, Palmer has run her own communications consulting firm and worked for the U.S. Department of State. Palmer replaces Bob Ward, who served as clerk since 2008.

HBO, NETFLIX TO FILM IN FLORIDA WITHOUT TAX INCENTIVES via William Patrick of – Florida’s six-year, $296 million entertainment incentive program expired June 30, and already two major productions have committed to filming without new tax giveaways. The projects defy warnings from state legislators and film industry advocates who for several years pushed for an expanded tax credit program. HBO announced it would produce a third season of its hit series Ballers, which takes place in “sun-soaked Miami” … A Ballers advertisement featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson appears atop the home page of the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment, the state’s economic development agency for the entertainment industry. It helped finance the first season of Ballers – 64 production days – to the tune of $6.8 million in tax credits … Netflix announced it would produce a third season of its Florida Keys-based original series Bloodline. Netflix received $8 million in tax incentives for the 122 production days of Bloodline’s first season. Incentive totals for the second seasons of Ballers and Bloodline were not listed in Office of Film and Entertainment annual reports … Both projects received state financial commitments before the six-year incentive program, established in 2010, blew through its entire $296 million credit allowance in its first three years. HBO and Netflix’s production announcements run contrary to such concerns that large film and television companies would avoid the Sunshine State without government assistance.

PERSONNEL NOTE: TAMELA PERDUE TO SUNSHINE HEALTH via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Perdue is leaving the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) for Sunshine Health, one of the “largest health care plans in Florida.” Perdue was AIF’s general counsel for 10 years … and is an expert on workers’ compensation law. Gov. Scott in April appointed her to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Panel. At Sunshine Health, Perdue will be senior vice president of legislative and government affairs, handling its lobbying. She also has been corporate counsel at McConnaughhay, Coonrod, Pope, Weaver & Stern, “a statewide law firm specializing in insurance defense, administrative law and government consulting,” according to the news release and her Florida Bar listing.

PERSONNEL NOTE: PERSONAL INSURANCE FEDERATION OF FLORIDA NAMES SAMANTHA SEXTON AS VP OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS via Florida Politics – Sexton, named one of the ‘30 under 30’ Rising Stars of Florida Politics, started at the Federation Aug. 1, and will serve as lead lobbyist on property and casualty insurance issues and will oversee political strategy for an affiliated political committee. “I am very excited to have someone of Samantha’s caliber joining the trade,” said PIFF President Michael Carlson in a statement. “Samantha is a first-rate and well-connected lobbyist, but her leadership skill sets her apart,” he said. “She will dramatically increase PIFF’s ability to advocate for good policy outcomes before the Legislature and state agencies.” Before joining PIFF, Sexton served as Director of Legislative Affairs for the PACE Center for Girls, Inc. Sexton has also worked with Pew Charitable Trusts and on several nationally recognized campaigns … Sexton has been recognized as a Bob Graham Civic Schola and 2016 Golden A.C.E. by the Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals. She serves on the Connect Florida Board of Governors, Leadership Florida Leadership Team, Junior League of Florida Statewide Public Affairs Committee, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend board of directors, and Tallahassee New Leaders Council board of directors.


Taylor Patrick Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Florida Assn for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas

Derek Bruce, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Treadwell Nursery

Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: The Vestcor Companies

Eileen Del Carmen Fernandez: Orange County Public Schools

Tom Gallagher, Claude Mueller, Nate Strickland, Katie Webb, Colodny Fass: United Automobile Insurance Group

Jim Horne, Strategos Public Affairs, The Horne Group: Pinnacle Education

Jessica Janasiewicz, Corinne Mixon, Mixon & Associates: Prints

Demian Pasquarelli: Florida Assn. for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas

EX-WIFE OF SLAIN FLORIDA LAW PROFESSOR DENIES ROLE IN DEATH via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press – Attorneys for Wendi Adelson and several family members said in the statement that speculation they had a role in Dan Markel‘s killing is “categorically false.” Authorities have previously said there may be a link between Markel’s July 2014 slaying and the couple’s contentious divorce. “To be clear, none of the Adelsons – Wendi, her brother Charlie, or their parents Donna and Harvey – had anything to do with Dan’s murder,” said the statement emailed to The Associated Press by attorney David Markus, who represents Charlie Adelson. Police say Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera traveled from South Florida to Tallahassee to kill Markel, who was shot in the head in broad daylight in his garage. Both men are awaiting a November trial on murder charges and prosecutors say they are seeking the death penalty. Garcia has pleaded not guilty; Rivera has yet to enter a plea. Since the killing, Rivera was convicted of unrelated federal racketeering charges stemming from his leadership role in the Latin Kings street gang and was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison. A Tallahassee Police Department affidavit said Markel’s death was the result of the 2013 contentious divorce from Wendi Adelson, a lawyer who now lives in Miami Beach and works for a federal judge. Harvey and Charlie Adelson run a well-established dental practice in South Florida.

SEAWORLD SHARES PUMMELED ON WEAK EARNINGS, ATTENDANCE DROP, WEAKER ORLANDO TOURISM via the Tampa Bay Times – SeaWorld Entertainment’s stock fell by more than 13 percent after the Orlando-based operator of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks reported poor attendance numbers for the first half of 2016. Second quarter attendance was down 494,000 visitors due to a decline in attendance at the company’s Florida park locations along with a shift in the timing of holidays in 2016, which impacted nearly all of its park locations, … Florida attendance decreased primarily due to a decline in Latin American attendance, softness in the Orlando market, and the adverse impact of Tropical Storm Colin. “Latin American attendance is down approximately 40 percent, or 235,000 guests year-to-date,” said SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby. SeaWorld Entertainment revenues in the quarter ended June 30 were $371.1 million, down from $391.6 million in the same period of 2015. Net income rose in the latest quarter to $17.8 million from $5.8 million a year earlier when the impact of the Blackfish documentary critical of SeaWorld’s treatment of its captive killer whales was most pronounced. For the first six months of 2016, however, SeaWorld has suffered a $66.3 million loss. Manby expressed disappointment in the company’s performance in the first half of 2016 but hinted things at its Orlando park and at Tampa’s Busch Gardens might soon improve.

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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