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Sunburn for 8.4.17 – Happy Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday Weekend

in Peter by

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

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

Attention, Florida shoppers: Be prepared for a busy weekend at mall.

The 2017 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday kicks off today and runs through Sunday. The sales tax holiday — which was included as part of a $180 million tax cut package signed into law earlier this year — is expected to save Florida shoppers more than $33 million in taxes this weekend, according to the Governor’s Office.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for families to save money while purchasing the supplies their students will need for school,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart in a statement. “The start of a new school year is always an exciting time for Florida students and the back-to-school sales tax holiday makes it easier for parents and students to prepare for a successful year.”

And the sales tax holiday couldn’t be coming at a better time. The National Retail Federation estimates families with children in elementary through high school about $29.5 billion in 2017, up from $27.3 billion in 2016.

According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, parents said they will spend an average of $238.89 on clothing and $130.38 on shoes. They’ll also spend an average of $204.33 on electronics, like computers or calculators, and an average of $114.12 on school supplies, like notebooks, folders, pencils and backpacks.

“We are looking forward to another successful Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday, and applaud Governor Scott and the Legislature for recognizing the significance it has on our hard-working families and the 270,000 retailers throughout the State of Florida,” said R. Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Each year, shoppers show up in record numbers and provide a tremendous economic boost overall to retailers’ sales numbers while they are able to afford more of the supplies they need.”

If you’re shopping in Florida this weekend, many of those items will be covered by the sales tax holiday.

The tax holiday covers clothing, footwear and certain accessories that sell for $60 or less; certain school supplies — such as binders, notebooks, lunch boxes, and pens — that sell for $15 or less; and personal computers and computer-related accessories — like flash drives, memory cards and web cameras — that sell for $750 or less.

Want to cash in on the holiday? Better hurry, it ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

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Save the date:

Gwen Graham grabs four Democratic women leaders’ endorsements” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – She picked up the endorsements of former state Reps. Karen Castor Dentel and Kelly Skidmore, Democratic National Committee member Alma Gonzalez, and former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan … Gonzalez also is a former treasurer of the Florida Democratic Party. “Gwen Graham understands building an economy that works for every Floridian starts in our public schools and colleges,” she stated. “Gwen will fight to increase public school funding by ending the lottery shell game, expand technical education starting in our middle schools, and expand access to our colleges and universities. To move forward, we must build a 21st-century economy and ensure our children and grandchildren have the skills they need to fill those new jobs.” Hanrahan, of Boca Raton, said: “Gwen Graham understands building an economy that works for every Floridian starts in our public schools and colleges. Gwen will fight to increase public school funding by ending the lottery shell game, expand technical education starting in our middle schools, and expand access to our colleges and universities.”

Adam Putnam campaign banks another $1.3M in July” via Florida PoliticsPutnam’s gubernatorial bid is now approaching $17 million in total fundraising … The two-term Agriculture Commissioner ended June with just under $15.7 million in total fundraising, and about $11.6 million on hand between his committee, “Florida Grown,” and his campaign. Bevis said Putnam added $1.299 million between the two accounts in July to finish the month with $16.98 million in total fundraising and $12.3 million in the bank. Also noted was the fact that more than 5,000 donors had chipped in since the campaign started, with about 4,000 of those being small-dollar donors, defined as giving $500 or less.

NRCC targets potential swing Miami voters in mobile ads about health care” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – National Republicans are wading into the 2018 race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, launching a mobile ad campaign targeting potential swing voters in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The new National Republican Congressional Committee ad, which will also go out in seven other states, is intended to grab users’ attention. The narrator adopts a frightening tone in warning voters Democrats might want to pursue single-payer health care system. One of the Democrats who has filed for Ros-Lehtinen’s Democratic-leaning seat, state Rep. David Richardson … has said in a fundraising email that he backs a single-payer system. When the latest candidate, Matt Haggman, declared his candidacy, the NRCC quickly called on him to take a position on the issue, which the GOP wants to use to paint Democrats as radical.

David Richardson responds: “Damn right I’m supporting the creation of a single-payer healthcare system.  The only healthcare plan Republicans have is to throw millions off of their insurance, then lie about people like me who actually do have a plan to expand access to healthcare to more Americans.”

Save the date:

Miami’s special Senate election getting national attention” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –Florida Senate District 40 is grabbing national attention … Along with the Republican State Leadership Committee last week promising to give $100,000 to the Republican state Rep. José Félix Díaz … the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee named the campaign one of its “spotlight races” and pledged $150,000 to Democrat Annette Taddeo. Because it’s a relatively quiet off-election year, both parties are pouring resources into the race to do things like test messages headed into 2018. A committee led by incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens found Taddeo up by 4 percentage points, but he would not release the polling questions, which include insights on messaging and how the party frames issues.

North Escambia native Rebekah Bydlak running for HD 1” via — Republican Rebekah Bydlak of Cantonment has filed to run for the seat currently held by Clay Ingram. Ingram can’t run again due to term limits. During the 2016 primary, Bydlak ran for Congress, taking fourth place in an eight-candidate race. “I have dedicated my life and professional career to fighting for conservative principles as a private citizen,” said Bydlak upon announcing her run for the Florida House. “For too long we have witnessed the same politicians saying one thing at home and doing another when elected, all the while getting nothing done. I’m running to fight for our conservative values and deliver for Northwest Florida.” Bydlak is currently the executive director of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, an advocacy organization dedicated to reducing federal spending and debt.

Bruno Portigliatti up with new TV ad in HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando RisingPortigliatti’s commercial picks up on the theme of his first, which aired two weeks ago, introducing the small-business man to voters who watch Fox News channel on cable or satellite TV, only this time seeking to characterize his main opponents as a politician and a political insider. He doesn’t name them, but presumably, former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski is the politician, and Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce President John Newstreet is the political insider. Ignored is the fourth Republican in the race, Dr. Usha Jain. “All right, now that you know me, let me tell you why I am running,” Portigliatti says in the spot. “There are too many politicians in Tallahassee. And we won’t solve our problems by sending another one.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Save the date: Rep. Bryan Avila is hosting a joint fundraiser at 7 p.m. at Hialeah Park, 2200 East 4th Avenue in Hialeah. The fundraiser will benefit Avila, who is running for re-election; Manny Diaz, who is running for Senate District 36; and Frank Mingo, who is running for House District 103.


Feds sign off on Medicaid managed care, ‘lip’ money” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – Federal officials approved a five-year extension of a statewide Medicaid managed care program and finalized a $1.5 billion pot of funding to help with charity care … State and federal officials have negotiated for months on issues such as details of the $1.5 billion for the “Low Income Pool” program … it means that millions of Medicaid beneficiaries will continue receiving care through HMOs and other types of managed-care plans through at least June 30, 2022. Also, it means that hospitals and providers such as federally qualified health centers will be able to tap into a larger amount of so-called LIP money to defray costs of caring for uninsured people. The money can go to hospitals, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and medical-school physician practices, according to details of the LIP money posted online by the federal agency. It can only go to help pay for what is considered charity care provided to uninsured low-income people — not for care of low-income people who have insurance.

An old tuxedo, wine and cigars” via Gary Fineout of the Fine Print – While legislators and other top state officials are not allowed to take gifts directly from lobbyists or the principals who hire lobbyists, state officials can accept gifts from others that are worth more than $100 if they report them. A look through some forms shows that only Pam Bondi and Richard Corcoran are the only top officials to regularly file them. Scott, former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have maintained that they have received zero gifts worth $100 or more in recent years. One top public official, however, who has disclosed gifts on a routine basis is Corcoran. A review of his forms for this year shows that Corcoran accepted a “old tuxedo” from fellow representative and House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo at the time of the presidential inauguration. Sen. Keith Perry gave Corcoran a box of cigars worth $100 in late January. But Negron – whose relationship with Corcoran seemed strained at times during the legislative session and subsequent special session – gave Corcoran a “humidor, crystal, wine, lighter and cutter” worth approximately $1,000 during the first week of the 2017 session.

Lizbeth Benacquisto appointed to RLCC executive committee — Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is one of several state lawmakers appointed to the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee’s 2017 Executive Committee, the RLCC announced this week. The announcement came on the heels of the annual national meeting in Atlanta. The RLCC is one of the leading campaign organizations for Republican legislative leaders, and has played a major role in returning legislative power to Republicans since 2010. In 2016, it helped Republicans gain control in state legislative chambers in Iowa, Kentucky, and Minnesota. “The members of our 2017 Executive Committee will be instrumental in ensuring continued Republican victories in legislative races throughout the country,” said Linda Upmeyer, the RLCC vice-chairwoman.

Bill seeks payment for injured sunbather” via the News Service of Florida – A  Central Florida senator filed a bill that would direct payment of nearly $1.9 million to a woman who suffered severe injuries when she was hit by a Volusia County Beach Patrol truck. Sen. David Simmons filed the “claim” bill, which would lead to Volusia County paying $1.895 million to Erin Joynt. The bill (SB 38) would help carry out a $2 million judgment in a lawsuit filed by Joynt, a Kansas woman who was injured in July 2011. Joynt was hit by the truck while sunbathing on Daytona Beach. Simmons’ bill … said she suffered injuries such as cranial fractures, facial fractures and rib fractures. A similar bill was approved by one Senate committee during the 2017 session but then stalled.


Citing ‘political games,’ tourism executive quits VISIT FLORIDA” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times Bill Lupfer, president and CEO of the Florida Attractions Association, told fellow board members he was resigning effective immediately. He cited the Sunshine Law as a factor, noting that he’s prevented by law from discussing his reasons with them in private. “I am now free,” Lupfer told board members, “to work with VISIT FLORIDA board members, other tourism industry leaders, and especially our FAA members to develop a new vision for how our state’s DMO (direct marketing organization) can best serve our industry, free of government restrictions, bureaucratic governance and political games.”

Tampa, Miami, Orlando tourism boards cut ties with VISIT FLORIDA” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Concerned about possible liability under a sweeping new disclosure law, a dozen county tourism groups, including Visit Tampa Bay and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, have broken off co-op advertising partnerships with VISIT FLORIDA. “We have not renewed our partnership as we often would do,” said Visit Tampa Bay spokesman Patrick Harrison. “We still don’t have a clear idea as to quite what the new regulations mean. We’re kind of in a wait-and-see pattern. Harrison said Visit Tampa Bay interprets a new law to require local tourism board members, who serve without pay but who also have full-time jobs in the private sector, to disclose their income. The new law requires disclosure of “employee and board member salary and benefit details from public and private funds.”… “That is one of the concerns,” Harrison said.

Bullied girl is third Florida foster child to hang herself in year” via Carol Marbin Miller and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – On her last night, Giulianna Ramos Bermudezrepeatedly refused to take her prescribed medication and bickered with the mother of her Orlando foster care group home. Sometime in the small of the night, she tied a belt around her neck and pulled until it squeezed the breath out of her. The 16-year-old became the third Florida foster child to hang herself in less than a year, and the second for whom medication may have played a role. She left behind a child of her own, a 2-year-old girl who was born shortly after Giulianna was taken into state care. Mazzelyn Marsh, a 17-year-old who took Giulianna under her wing when she entered foster care, said her best friend was desperate to get out of the group home and reunite with her daughter. In the home, called Eva House, Mazzelyn said Giulianna was bullied by the other girls for her weight, her thick Hispanic accent and her status as a young mother.Like most foster kids she knows, Mazzelyn said, Giulianna was in therapy. And like her peers, Mazzelyn said, her friend didn’t like it. She was prescribed a powerful antipsychotic drug that is also used to treat depression.

Firefighter pay raise fight goes to Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida –The International Association of Firefighters Local S-20 filed a notice this week as a first step in asking the Supreme Court to take up the case … The notice stems from a June ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal that rejected arguments that Scott’s veto of $2,000 pay raises for firefighters violated collective-bargaining rights. In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court said Scott acted within his authority to veto spending items in the state budget — and that lawmakers could have overridden the veto but did not. The veto, which was controversial at the time, followed a series of events that included a bargaining impasse on a union request for $1,500 pay raises for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, according to the June 6 appeals-court decision. The Legislature resolved the impasse by including $2,000 raises for firefighters in budget fine print known as “proviso” language. A state law gives the Legislature responsibility for resolving impasses in collective bargaining, but the appeals-court majority focused heavily in the June ruling on Scott’s constitutional authority to veto spending items in the budget.

“Dania casino shut out in gambling permit case” via Florida Politics – State gambling regulators this week shot down a request by a South Florida gambling permitholder who wanted sell the permit and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday said both sales of permits and any relocation of gambling—both time-consuming processes—have to be OK’d by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling in the state. Dania Entertainment Center, the company that owns The Casino @ Dania Beach, asked for a declaratory judgment on its “converted” summer jai alai permit. The decision further cements the state’s control over where and how gambling is offered, particularly after a permit is granted. The department’s “final order” also is a win for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which asked to intervene in the case. The Seminoles, who operate the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, had said allowing gambling licenses to be moved within a county “would provide out-of-state companies (with) an incentive to (buy) a license, possibly resulting in increased business competition for the Tribe.”

Post-Pulse push for gun reforms hits a wall” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando SentinelOne year later, calls for tougher gun laws have gone nowhere in Washington or Tallahassee. The reasons behind that include the election of strongly pro-gun President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress as well as the rise of a progressive movement looking to reach out to working-class voters, many of whom are inclined to support gun rights as they are. “For a lot of progressive candidates, they still care about gun-control issues, but there are so many other issues important in the age of Donald Trump,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. As the 2018 races approach, many Democratic candidates and officeholders in Florida still back a ban on assault weapons — a key part of Hillary Clinton’s platform in 2016 and supported by 52 percent of Central Floridians in a Mason-Dixon poll six months after Pulse.

Duke Energy seeks to recoup higher fuel costs” via the News Service of Florida – Duke Energy Florida has filed a proposal that could lead to recouping about $200 million from customers … because of unanticipated fuel costs. Fuel such as natural gas and coal makes up a large portion of electric bills, with utilities typically going before the Public Service Commission each fall to get approval for fuel costs, which are then passed through to customers. In denying the midyear increase for Duke, the Public Service Commission effectively put off a decision about whether the utility should be able to recoup the higher-than-anticipated costs. The filing seeks what is known as a “true-up” of $195.5 million in fuel costs and $5.1 million in other costs, the document said. A hearing is scheduled in October.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “back-to-school “legal basics” with attorney Shelli Freeland Eddie of the Freeland Eddie Law Group.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include Tampa Bay Times reporter Kathleen McGrory, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith and Democratic political consultant Victor DiMaio.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Topic is teacher retention, with state Rep. Rene Plasencia and Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Topic is the House District 44 special Republican primary with business executive Bruno Portigliatti and Dr. Usha Jain, medical director for the Emergi Care Medical Center. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter examines Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham’s claim about people being more prone to death while covered by Medicaid as opposed to being uninsured.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will speak with attorney and lobbyist Sean Pittman and Joanne McCall of the Florida Education Association.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Justice talks with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Congressman John Rutherford of Florida’s 4th Congressional District and Chris Hand, former Chief of Staff for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Caption: Marco Rubio will be the special guest on This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice.

— ALOE —

What Jeff Brandes is reading –Humans cause most self-driving car accidents” via Kia Kokalitcheva of Axios – Since 2014, there have only been 34 reported accidents involving self-driving cars on California roads, according to state incident reports — and most happened when a human-driven car rear-ended or bumped into a self-driving car stopped at a red light or stop sign, or driving at low speed … A major benefit to self-driving cars is the potential to reduce traffic accidents caused by human error. While it’s a small set of data, the low rate of accidents caused by self-driving cars underscores the technology’s enhanced safety. But humans will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. A closer look at those accident reports reveals stark differences between how self-driving cars interpret the rules of the road and how humans behave behind the wheel. For example, human drivers make sudden lane changes or run red lights — not the way self-driving cars are taught to behave on the road. These awkward interactions between self-driving and human-driven cars will probably result in more fender-benders as more autonomous vehicles arrive on the roads.

Happy birthday to Rep. Tom Leek and our friends, Ryan Anderson, Marty Fiorentino, and Herbie Thiele. 

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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